Sunday, May 10, 2009

Just call me Lucas, ma'am

A post about "cowboy values" at The American Thinker inspires Pundette to muse at the Hot Air Green Room:
So mamas, go git yurself some Westerns fur yur young 'uns to watch this weekend. Ah'm right parshull to the television series The Rifleman. In addition to the qualities above, Lucas McCain and the folks in North Fork believe in personal responsibility, risk-taking, hard work, and no cussin' in front of the womenfolk.
Ah, The Rifleman! Arguably (and yes, I know this will inspire fierce arguments from fans of "Gunsmoke") the best television Western ever. It debuted the year before I was born, ran for five seasons, played in re-runs forever, and the delightful coincidence of the protagonist's surname meant that I spent years answering to, "Hey, Lucas!"

For those too young to remember, here is the famous opening sequence, followed by the closing credits:

Like other frontier icons of that era -- Fess Parker as Davy Crockett, for example -- Lucas McCain was an ideal role model, a paragon of virtue. His actions were always just. His words were always wise. And the Rifleman was utterly fearless.

Manly courage was the essence of Lucas McCain. It didn't matter how numerous the bad guys were, Lucas was never going to be intimidated. Why? Because he knew he was fighting on the side of right.

Lucas McCain was always the friend of the helpless, always a defender of the weak, always the righteous avenger of those done wrong by the selfish and vicious. And the series took pains to show that Lucas was, by nature, peaceful and amiable. He had a cheerful sense of humor, and could always smile at the mischief of his boy, Mark. There was a poignant nostalgia in his heart for his late wife.

That Lucas was a widower -- a key scriptwriter's convenience he shared with many another fatherly protagonist of the 1950s and '60s -- allowed for the development of romantic subplots. There frequently seemed to be some lovestruck schoolmarm in need of rescue, and you could be sure that in his conduct toward her, Lucas McCain would be impeccably honorable, the embodiment of medieval courtliness transposed to the rustic terms of the 19th-century American frontier.

He was loved by women because Lucas was a man's man. This aspect of the Rifleman's character expresses a great truth that I would advise any young man to contemplate: If you wish to be admired by women, conduct yourself in such a way as to win the respect of men.

You will always notice that the man who is genuinely popular with women is not a selfish, dishonest, cowardly loner, but is the sort of frank, generous and cheerful comrade who is always a welcome companion to his fellow man. He is a team player, always ready in the hour of crisis, and modest enough not to care whether he receives public credit for his good deeds. He does what is right because it is right, confident that his true merit will be known among those courageous souls who shared the burden of his labors.

Lucas McCain was not a show-off, not a braggart, not a bully. He never lied, he never quit. His quiet confidence inspired others to hope that humble virtue must ultimately triumph over arrogant evil. He never started a fight, and always sought to avert violence, so long as it could be averted without dishonor or injustice. But when it was time to fight, he was never afraid, and when the fight was over, the bad guys were always vanquished. The good, the true and the right were vindicated. And Lucas was standing tall.

Which is to say, he was not remotely like David Brooks.

Having just completed the celebration of National Offend A Feminist Week, I should point out that I often fall woefully short of the high mark set by Lucas McCain. Yet I alway know where the mark is set, you see.

Therefore, I agree wholeheartedly with Pundette. If you want your sons or grandsons to have a role model of old-fashioned manly virtue, The Rifleman is the man for the job.


  1. This is exactly why "Brokeback Mountain" was such a hit amongst the libbys. The Cowboy of the era of "The Rifleman" and "Shane" and "Highnoon" embodied traditional American values. Brokeback Mountain turns the manly cowboy into a homosexual and shows literally what most libs want to do to tradtional American values.

  2. Plainly, Brooks knows as much about Westerns as he does about conservatism.

    One wonders where he would fit such John Ford movies as The Informer, the Quiet Man and Donovan's Reef into his blinkered theory. Let alone his Westerns such as The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, Cheyenne Autumn,The Searchers or even Fort Apache, where the tightnit community of a frontier army post is both psychologically and physically destroyed by an arrogant authority figure who knows better. In all of these pictures, the society has failed or breaks down, either by exterior rapacity, internal cowardice, or, as above arrogance. In the case of Obama, far from being a stabilizing influence, he is in Western terms the traveling rainmaker who scams the town out of its savings and leaves them with dry wells... and David Brooks plays the gullible town banker who opens the safe for him.

    John Ford told stories about communities because that's where the people were. David Brooks tells conservatives to "move back" to the middle because that's where his paycheck is. It's the same lesson Scott McClellan learned, and it's still just as reprehensible.

  3. The Rifleman isn't only for the boys, either. Daughters need to watch it, too. Lucas is an antidote to the contemporary metrosexual girly-man of today. It doesn't matter that he's fictional. What's important is that children's imaginations include this archetype.

    Lucas McCain would never, ever showboat or brag.

    I posted about the Rifleman, and the pretty amazing Chuck Connors, here.
    Like I said, the first shot of the first episode is great.

    No way is Bonanza or Gunsmoke superior to The Rifleman. The half-hour format made it better - no filler.

    Another great movie is 3 Godfathers, another John Wayne/John Ford western.

    (So Stacy, is Lucas another distant cousin?)

  4. Great TV western. I also recommend Cheyenne (currently running on the Encore Westerns cable channel).

  5. I used to watch it too, and thought it was great when I was a kid, but as far as westerns go, I like movies like Unforgiven, The Outlaw Josie Wales, and Open Range better. Real life is a little more ambiguous than the black and white interpretation of pre-70's westerns, but I would agree there is something noble about aiming high as it were. As far as David Brooks goes, for an alleged conservative, he seems more bent on socialism and the greater good crowd. He should have starred in City Slickers as the ass wipe.

    PS. Kevin Joseph Aloysius Connors was the first and probably only guest host/commentator on Monday Night Baseball to use the F word. I love it.

  6. This post brought back some very happy memories. A long, slow sigh and a tank you.

  7. The first Gallic cowboy appeared not long after the inception of film itself. Starting in 1901, French actor Joe Hamman began a long line of "Arizona Bill" movies, and went on to inhabit such roles as "Rancho, un cow boy" and "Bornéo Bill". (You couldn't make this stuff up.)

    French and Indian War ring a bell, anyone?

  8. What a striking contrast between Lucas McCain and today's emasculated male... not only a gentleman yet willing to fight and protect, but had that lovely tough steel under the surface, yet firmly under control. What's not to love!

  9. As a youngster I also regarded Have Gun — Will Travel as another not-to-be-missed TV Western starring Richard Boone as Paladin.

  10. Okay, wait.

    So would that make Lucas the Other Other McCain, or the Other Other Other McCain? Or maybe the Other Other Other Other McCain? I've lost count.

  11. I've been worrying about that for some time and was hoping nogbody would publically mention the nested Other problem.

  12. Why would he be an 'Other" if he precedes the current collection? One might well call him the "Original McCain", the others then being but attempts at pale imitations.


  13. Enjoyed. Thank you.