Thursday, October 10, 2019



Pull your hat down tight next Monday, October 14, and keep it there all week!  The Ultimate Cowboy Showdown, a competition like none before it (that I’ve seen, anyway), begins on INSP, and runs for six days. A dozen professional cowboys will be going head-to-head in a series of challenges to test their overall cowboying skills, while Trace Adkins and his experts whittle down the field. There’s no show Saturday, but on Sunday night, the last cowpoke standing will win a shiny new belt-buckle – and a fifty-thousand-dollar herd of cattle, not coincidentally, the herd they’ve been working with all week.

The competitors come from all over the country – three from Texas, two from California, and one each from Florida, Utah, Oklahoma, Tennessee, North Dakota, Iowa, and even Washington D.C. – that last fellow describes himself as an urban cowboy. Some are rodeo cowboys, one is a movie stuntman, more are ranchers, more than one wants to win in order to save the family ranch. While the movies have mostly portrayed cowboying as a white man’s activity, the first cowboys were Mexican vaqueros, and after the Civil War there were many black cowboys, and both groups are represented here, as are women.   

Contestant J. Storme

Some challenges are group, and some are individual.  Some are typical, like calf roping, and some are not, like a relay race: the first person saddles and rides a horse, and passes the baton to the next, who has to load 21 bales of hay into a hayloft as fast as he can. The baton passes to the next, who has to change a flat tire on a trailer. The next person has to open the trailer, let out a horse and a calf, climb on the horse, and rope the calf. The final cowboy has to pick up that 200-pound calf and put it back in the trailer!

Although he’s grateful for the various experts’ input, the ultimate judge is three-time CMA Award-winning singer and actor Trace Adkins. I had the opportunity to talk to Trace about the show, and about his Western movies, when he took a brief break from his judging duties.


Henry Parke:   I'm very happy to finally meet you, because I'd been on three of your Western sets -- Hickock, Wyatt Earp’s Revenge, and Traded -- but never on days where you were working.

Trace Adkins: Well, let's see. Two of those I got killed in. That director, Timothy Woodward, I worked with on Hickok and Traded, and I just finished doing another western with him too, The Outsider. He kills me in every movie that he puts me in.  (laugh) I don't know what the deal is.

Henry Parke: Well, he must like you though. He kills you, but he keeps bringing you back. What kind of character do you play in it?

Trace Adkins: Well, I was a bad guy, but now I'm seeking redemption and trying to finish my life, doing hopefully something that'll get me into heaven. But my son is a lost cause. (My character’s) seed is bad, and there's just nothing he can to do about it. It's a really interesting role.

Henry Parke:   Well, with the Ultimate Cowboy Showdown, I hear you’re just coming back from an immunity challenge. What's been the most interesting of the challenges that they’ve done so far?
Trace Adkins: I think the team challenges. The immunity challenges are individual things. I tend to like the ones where they team up, and they have to work together and strategize. It's a little more nuanced, as opposed to just the mano a mano of roping or running a horse or something.

Henry Parke:   How did you get involved with the Ultimate Cowboy Showdown?

Trace Adkins: I've known (Producer) Andrew Glassman for a few years, and we talked years ago about trying to do something together. Andrew told me about this project and I just jumped right on it. It just sounded like it'd be something fun to do. I am at that beautiful place in my life and my career where I can make decisions on what I want to do based on the answer to the question, would that be something I would enjoy doing? I was involved from the very beginning, talking about who were the experts he was going to bring in to work with.  It's been a really, really interesting process and a lot of fun.

Henry Parke:   What experts has he brought in that you've enjoyed working with?

Trace Adkins: There’s a guy named Buddy Shnaufer, who owns a huge cattle company. It was interesting to hang out with Buddy and hear his insights on the cattle business. Fred Whitfield came, seven-time World Champion Calf Roper. He's a legend, and I got to spend a day riding next to Fred. I just had a blast, probably my favorite day so far. And then Chuck Tice, who’s former president of the Alabama Cattlemen's Association. I've learned from every expert that’s been on the show so far.

Contestant Hadley Hunting

Henry Parke:   And you're a rancher yourself?

Trace Adkins: No, I'm not a rancher. I mean, I grew up with horses, and I live on an old farm south of Nashville. I'm just never home; I feel guilty enough leaving my dogs. So, I'm looking forward to that day when I start to slow it down and not travel as much, and get back into having some livestock; right now, I don't have any.

Henry Parke:   Did you develop many cowboy skills when you were growing up?

Trace Adkins: You know, somebody asked me how I thought I would do in this competition. I said well, if you'd have caught me 35 years ago, maybe I'd have given you a run for your money, but at 57, no.  I'm in the perfect spot, standing on the sideline, cheering them on and judging. My participating days are over.

Henry Parke:   What do you think are the qualities and characteristics that add up to being the ultimate cowboy?

Trace Adkins: You know, every one of these contestants are experts at something. But this competition requires them to have some level of proficiency in a lot of different areas. It's the cowboy or cowgirl that has the most experience overall, a cowboying capacity, that's going to win this thing. Because they're being asked to do all kinds of different stuff, so they can't just rely on whatever their forte may be.

Henry Parke:  In your autobiography, TRACE ADKINS: A PERSONAL STAND, you talk about your roughneck work in the petroleum industry. How does that kind of work compare with cowboying?

Trace Adkins: I think the mentality was probably pretty similar. You're going to work 12 hours a day, and you're going to reach and get it all day long. And that's how these cowboys have to work. When it's time to work, you've got to work until the job's done. There's no calling time out, and taking a break. Just going to get it done. That's the way it was working oil fields, you know, we had a saying: it never rains, it never gets hot. And there are no holidays.

Henry Parke:   It's funny, I was just talking to my wife's two brothers who, like you, worked on oil rigs for Global Marine.

Trace Adkins: Oh wow!

Henry Parke:   And they told me that there were three things all successful men in that field have: a diamond pinky ring, a Rolex, and divorce papers. Is that true?

Trace Adkins: Well, I've got a pinky that I got cut off working on the drilling rig. That accounts for the pinky ring. I don't hardly ever wear a watch, but I have a couple of nice ones. And I've got three sets of divorce papers. So I guess I got that going for me.

Henry Parke:   Ever since the days of the singing cowboys like Gene Autry and Roy Rogers, there's been a connection between country music and Western movies. Do you feel a personal connection with Western film?

Trace Adkins: Well, I never would have even allowed myself to dream that I would ever be in a Western. And now I've had the opportunity to live that dream. I absolutely love it. As a kid I watched those movies and just idolized those people. Gary Cooper, John Wayne, the list goes on and on, and I thought, wow, that's the best job in the world. To get paid to pretend to be a cowboy and ride a horse all day. That must be fun. And now I've found out it is, it absolutely is. It's just like stealing money. It's just too much fun to get paid for doing it.

Henry Parke:   Which is your favorite of the movies you've done so far?

Trace Adkins: My favorite was not a western. The Lincoln Lawyer, the movie than I did with Matthew McConaughey. But I was a biker, which is just a cowboy on two wheels.

Henry Parke:   I liked your work in The Virginian very much.

Trace Adkins: Thank you. I enjoyed that. That was my first lead. The very first day I was on set, I made the announcement to the entire crew that the director had no idea what he was doing because he hired me as the lead in the movie, which unsettled everybody just a little bit.

Henry Parke:   Besides Matthew McConaughey, any other actors you're particularly pleased to work with?

Trace Adkins: Well, the biggest ones that I've had a chance to work with, Mark Wahlberg and Dennis Quaid, a few others. Without exception, they've been so gracious and kind and giving, and willing to rehearse when they don't have to. Those guys have been really, really kind. And Kris Kristofferson. I did Hickok with him, and what a treat that was.  I'd done a couple of shows with Kris, but I've never had a chance to do a movie with him until then.

Henry Parke:   So I take it you watched a lot of westerns growing up?

Trace Adkins: Oh yeah, my daddy, that's all he loved. Gunsmoke was appointment TV. Whatever we were doing, we can't do that then: Gunsmoke is going to be on. Gunsmoke, Bonanza, all those Westerns we watched growing up, and all those movies. He had prints of John Wayne on the wall. My daddy rodeoed when I was kid. He steer-wrestled. He was a big, tough cowboy. When my second brother came along, my Momma made him quit. But he loved horses and he was a good rider. Good hand. He was good man. I think I really got my love of all things Western from him.

Henry Parke:   Did you go to Rodeos as a kid?

Trace Adkins: Yeah, we always went to the Rodeo. We had that hometown rodeo in Springhill, Louisiana every year. Then we'd go to Shreveport, to the Hirsch Memorial Coliseum when they'd have a big Rodeo during the State Fair. And we a couple of times we went to Houston to the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. So yeah, we traveled to go to the rodeo.

Henry Parke:   Does doing The Ultimate Cowboy Showdown bring back memories?

Trace Adkins: Absolutely. It just reminds me of so many of my friends back home, too. People that do team roping and cutting. It just feels very familiar to me to be hanging out with these guys and these ladies. Good people, and always a good day spending the day with them. It's been a great experience so far.


The 30th Annual Lone Pine Film Festival will be held from Thursday, October 10 through Sunday, October 13, headquartered at the Museum of Western Film History. About 800 movies have been filmed in the general area, 400 in the Alabama Hills just outside of Lone Pine. For three decades, folks who love the look of the area, and love movies, and Westerns in particular, have gathered around Columbus Day to celebrate the place’s unique history in filmmaking.

There are many tours and talks over the three days, highlighting topics such as the films that Randolph Scott and William “Hopalong Cassidy” Boyd made there. The locations of many shoots can be visited, including not just Westerns, but the biggest-budget film for its time shot there, Gunga Din.

Many films and TV shows that were filmed there will be screened, featuring stars like Tex Ritter, Roy Rogers, Sunset Carson, Allan “Rocky” Lane, Gene Autry, Bob Steele, Tim Holt, John Wayne, Joel McCrea, and Randolph Scott.

Western Historian Rob Word will be moderating a number of panel discussions, and guests taking part, and introducing films, will include Bill Wellman Jr.; Wyatt McCrea, grandson of Joel McCrea and Frances Dee; Jay Dee Whitney, son of Western director William Whitney; Patrick Wayne, actor and son of John Wayne; and Cheryl Rogers, daughter of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans.

Of particular interest, The Cowboys, the classic 1972 John Wayne film, will be presented with a Q&A featuring one of the picture’s stars, Robert Carradine, as well as Patrick Wayne and Richard Farnsworth’s son, Diamond Farnsworth.  Robert Carradine and Darby Hinton will do a Q&A with the brand-spanking-new Western that they co-star in, Bill Tilghman and The Outlaws.
Follow the link below to find out details and buy tickets. And don’t dawdle – many events are already sold out!


The Wild Bunch Film Festival has just wrapped up, and director Wayne Shipley and screenwriter Dan Searles are still doing their victory dance, and with good reason. I heard from one of the film’s stars, Darby Hinton, that they won seven awards: Best 1st Time Screen Writer – Dan Searles, Best Stunts – Ken Arnold, Best Child Actor - Noah Deavers, Best Ensemble Cast,  The Wild Bunch Award (for Best Screenplay That Exemplifies The Spirt Of The West) - Dan Searles, Best Western Songwriting Competition – Dan Searles and his mother, and Best Supporting Actor – Darby Hinton.  Dan Searles tells me the film is now available to rent from Amazon Prime.


On Friday, September 20th, the Reel Cowboys held their 22nd annual Silver Spur Awards. For a change, it was held not at the Sportmen’s Lodge, which was recently levelled, but the Equestrian Center in Burbank, which has an appropriately Western atmosphere. Julie Anne Ream once again ran the event with Reel Cowboys President Robert Lanthier, this year in part as a benefit for The Gary Sinise Foundation.

I spoke to a number of attendees on the red carpet. I’m working with a new, tiny digital recorder, which works very well but, with a fuzzy wind-cover over the mic, startled some of my subjects.

Julia Rogers Pomilia took this picture
of me with my fuzzy recorder

Granddaughter of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans

Julie Rogers:  Oh, I thought you were holding a hamster. What is that?

Henry Parke:   It’s my strange digital recorder. Well now, you're one of how many grandchildren of Roy and Dale?

Julie Rogers:   They had 16 and one passed away suddenly years ago. So we have 15. Lots of grandchildren and great grandchildren and great, greats.

Henry Parke:   What was Roy Rogers like as a grandfather?

Julie Rogers:   He was just so sweet and he loved kids. He would put us on Trigger. He would play with us in the pool. We'd play chicken and get up on his back. We'd watched The Roy Rogers Show with him on Saturday morning, and be crawling all over his back, and wrestling around on the floor, and he'd stop and say, "Go, Roy, go!" And we'd say, "Yeah, go get him!" And as far as I knew, every kid had a grandpa that had a TV show. I just thought that was normal because that's what was normal to me, you know? They were just so accessible and so loving. They never missed a birthday or a school play, even though they were so busy. They could be at the White House one night, and then at our house playing old maid with me on the floor the next night. They were wonderful.

Henry Parke:  And was Dale's personality really pretty much like the character she played?

Julie Rogers:   Oh my, you know, neither one of them were acting. When I see them on their shows, I don't mean this to sound negative, but I don't think they're very good actors, because they're just being themselves. So I don't ever see them act. And she was a hoot. She was so outgoing, she could never just fly under the radar when she came a room, and she didn't mean to. She just was. And grandpa was very quiet, just totally the opposite. So they were a cute couple.

Henry Parke:   Now, you said that he would put you on Trigger. Was this visiting on a set?

Julie Rogers:   No, no, no. After they were done with the show, he kept Trigger at the ranch where they lived in Chatsworth. So when we'd come over, we'd sometimes go down to the barn and pet him or feed him or sit on him and he'd ride us around. It was good memories.

Henry Parke:   How about Bullet?

Julie Rogers:   Bullet was one of their house dogs. They had six dogs, and they'd all come running out to greet us when we drove up. It was just magical. I didn't appreciate it as much growing up, until I look back on it and go, wow! I mean, I knew it was fun, but I really appreciate it now so much more.

Henry Parke:   Was Pat Brady around? Was he a friend?

Julie Rogers:   Yeah, he was around, but I was one of the last ones born, so he wasn't around a lot when I was. (Note: Pat Brady died in 1972) I didn't know him, but my sisters did. They said he was a really wonderful man. Funny, and just a really good friend of Grandpa's and Grandma's.

Henry Parke:   Now when you say that Roy and Dale weren't that great actors, or rather, that they didn’t get much of a chance to act, did you ever see Roy in Mackintosh and TJ (1975)? I thought he was wonderful in that.

Julie Rogers:   You know what? I need to see that. Somebody just sent me a copy of it, because you can't find it very easily, and I have never seen it, so I should look. But I mean back then, back in the 40s and 50s, he was just being himself and I bet that would be a whole different take on him.

Henry Parke:   Oh, it really is. It's a wonderful performance.  When I saw it I said, wow, I wish he'd been given more challenging roles more often. He really does so well.

Julie Rogers:   And he never aspired to be an actor. That was the last thing he probably thought he was going to be. But he was one of those that just sort of fell into it. Whereas grandma, she was born wanting to be an actress, and she would dance in front of the mirror, and think someday she was gonna marry Tom Mix and be an actress. And she did it.

Henry Parke:   She sure did. And she learned to ride very well.

Julie Rogers:   Yes, yes. Roy said that the first time she rode, he'd never seen so much sky between a woman's rear-end and a horse in his life. So she kind of bluffed her way in there and said she knew how to ride when she didn't. So she basically learned from him, on-set.

Henry Parke:   I think it's remarkable how accessible The Roy Rogers Show is now. It's on TV three times a day.

Julie Rogers:  I know. That's kind of fun.

Henry Parke:   Do you know if are younger people are watching it?

Julie Rogers:   No, that's a tough one, because with all of that computerized stuff and all the electronics and the special effects, there's not a whole lot of interest in those old westerns anymore. We're working on a musical (about Roy and Dale) coming out next year, opening in Atlanta. We're gonna see how that goes, and we're hoping to get his name out there a little bit more to the next generation.  Because kids don't like watching black and white. My kids were the same way. They didn't even want to watch their great grandpa because it’s black and white.  I teach kindergarten in Castaic.  I've talked about my grandparents to all my classes and show them little clips. It helps a little bit. Every little bit helps.


Best remembered as Bo Duke on The Dukes of Hazzard, in1986, John Schneider co-starred in a remake of 1939’s Stagecoach, as the coach driver, co-starring with Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, and Kris Kristofferson.

Demonstrating how he held the reins
driving a six-up in Stagecoach

John Schneider:  Hi. What a nice dog.

Henry Parke:   Thank you for petting him. I've got to say, of all the men who played the stagecoach driver in the films of Stagecoach, you could not be less like Andy Devine or Slim Pickens.

John Schneider: (a screech-perfect imitation of Devine) "Not like Andy Devine?" Well you know, it was a great honor to be in that movie, especially considering Johnny (Cash) and I became best friends after that. I lived with John and June after we did Stagecoach because at that time, I had the number one album in the country. People don't necessarily remember that. My beard, they remember. That was my beard. But I so enjoyed Stagecoach, and working out there in Mescal (the Western movie town), and Old Tucson, before it burned down.  I've been there since. It's beautiful. It's actually, I think, much better for having burned down. Not the Hollywood way, where the Laramie Street burns down, so they build a parking lot. I'm glad that Old Tucson's back and thriving and beautiful. That was a great time for me and I actually drove the six-up. (Note: a stagecoach pulled by a team of six horses)

Henry Parke:   Really?

John Schneider:  Yeah. And I'm told that Ben Johnson and I were the only ones (who could). Ben was an amazing actor, but Ben was a cowboy. So I may be the only non-professional cowboy actor to actually drive a six-up on camera and I'm pretty damn proud of that.

Henry Parke:  Did you already know how to do that?

John Schneider:  I did not. I was taught.  There was a guy named Red, a red-haired cowboy that worked at Old Tucson.  I drove the stagecoach tours in Old Tucson for two days. It was a four-up. And then he would take me out after, and add the other team. You would have the lead team, and the wheel team. The swing team, the team in the middle, you would add.  Whenever I talk about Stagecoach, I do this – (he holds his hands up, separating his fingers) – because that's what you had to do. I mean, three sets of leather reins in your hands, with horses that would much rather run abreast. So, I loved it. I loved Dr. Quinn – Medicine Woman. I loved Guns of Paradise.

Henry Parke:   That's right. You've done all of the better TV westerns of the period.

John Schneider:  Thank you. And you know, in my heart and soul, I'm a seven-year-old who's watching the Sons of Katie Elder and McClintock and Cahill and wanting to be John Wayne. So one of these days, I guess by the time I get to be John Wayne, maybe I'll be playing him and that's okay.

Henry Parke:   That would be fine.

John Schneider:  I would love it. We share a name.

Henry Parke:   Now with Stagecoach, I was told that was originally going to be a full musical.

John Schneider:  I heard that too. I don't think that's true. What we were going to do is all of us had written songs. And the only one they wound up using was the "stagecoach, stagecoach, rolling on to glory, stagecoach," which was Willie's song. But they were going to put that music in there, and the music that we had written was going to be our individual themes. We weren't actually going to break out in "trouble in River City."  It wasn't going to be Paint Your Wagon, but there was gonna be a lot of music from all of us in it. Somehow that turned into just Willie's song. Well, I wrote this song, I don't remember what the song was, but I wrote, cause we all wrote. We had a lot of time there and we wrote.


Kathy Garver is best remembered as Cissy, the oldest child being raised by Uncle Bill (Brian Keith) on Family Affair.

Henry Parke:   I was surprised when I checked IMDB to realize how many westerns you've done.

Kathy Garver: I started out doing Westerns. One of my first roles was in Sheriff of Cochise, and then (slipping into a French accent) in The Adventures of Jim Bowie, I played a little French girl. Merci. It's interesting to look back at some of the DVDs that some fans have sent me and see. Oh my gosh, I was so little!  But I just did a presentation yesterday of Ex Child Stars on the Western Frontiers. It's about a 45 minute presentation I do with PowerPoint. So I have profiled Johnny Crawford, and Jimmy Hawkins from Annie Oakley and there was Lee Aaker from Rin Tin Tin, and Darby Hinton from Daniel Boone. So they're all my friends and I worked with them when I was little. And you know what, I'm still doing Westerns.

Henry Parke:  I’d love to see your presentation.

Kathy Garver: I'm doing it in Oklahoma if you want to go out there. But I was thinking it would be good to do with the Gene Autry Museum. I think that would be a wonderful place to present this. I have a retirement home where I'm going to present it.

Henry Parke: This morning I was watching your former co-star, Johnny Whitaker on an episode of Lancer. I didn't remember that he had done Westerns.

Kathy Garver: I didn't either. And I'm doing two adult westerns. One is Grace, which is a lovely Western, and the other one's Eli Elder. So we're getting those together. And here's a bit of news. I just finished filming my new series called Aunt Sissy, and that's kind of a wink and a nod to Family Affair. It's not a sequel.  It's a standalone kind of sitcom. So that went very, very well.


Producer Wyatt McCrea is the grandson of Joel McCrea and Frances Dee, and the son of Jody McCrea. He lives on the ranch that his grandparents built.  The Johnny Crawford that we discuss starred in the series The Rifleman as Chuck Connor’s son, Mark McCain.

Henry Parke:   I hear that you just had a wonderful event at your ranch for Johnny Crawford.

Wyatt McCrea:  We did. It was a lot of fun. We were trying to do what we could to help Johnny out. We screened the last movie he was in, Bill Tilghman and The Outlaws. We had a good crowd and hopefully we raised a little money for him.

Henry Parke:  That's terrific.

Wyatt McCrea:  Well, Johnny's a great guy, and he's done a lot for a lot of people over the course of his lifetime, so it was the least we can do to pay him back a little bit.

Henry Parke:   That's great. Tell me, are you getting an award or presenting one tonight?

Wyatt McCrea:  I'm presenting to Mariette Hartley, which will be a lot of fun. Her first movie was with my grandfather.

Henry Parke:   Of course, Ride the High Country.

Wyatt McCrea:  Yeah. So it was fitting that I was allowed to do it, and I’m so happy to do it. She's a great lady.

Henry Parke:   Yes, she is. I recently interviewed her for a True West article, and she was talking all about the good advice that your granddad gave her.  He said before he does a scene, he always read --

Wyatt McCrea:  -- read the scene before.

Henry Parke:   Exactly, which I thought was extremely smart, and should be obvious, but I've never heard anyone else say it.

Wyatt McCrea:  No, it's true. It should be obvious, but there are people that don't do it, you know.

Henry Parke:   As you can tell when you see their films.


In the next week or two I'll have a new Round-up, and look at the 70th birthday celebration of the Lone Ranger TV series, the travel series Travels with Darly, the new Western Soldiers' Heart, and much more. 

Happy Trails,


All Original Content Copyright October 2019 by Parke -- All Rights Reserved