Coming Of Age With The Duke

SEE YOU AT THE MOVIES: Meridian Parks & Recreation presents John Wayne’s western classic The Cowboys for free outdoor movie night at the John A. Lomax Amphitheatre

MERIDIAN – Growing up, every boy dreams of what he will one day become, and he just wants a chance to become a man. But not every boy gets to be mentored by a man like The Duke and given a chance to be a man just like him.

With a life-sized cutout of the legendary Duke on hand for photo opportunities, the Meridian Parks and Recreation presents the 1972 John Wayne western classic “THE COWBOYS” for its monthly FREE OUTDOOR MOVIE NIGHT at the John A. Lomax Amphitheater on Sunday, November 14 at 6:30 p.m.

What better way to pass a cool October evening than watching a classic western, especially if it’s starring The Duke. Outdoor music in the amphitheater will begin at 5:30 p.m., followed by a classic Looney Tunes cartoon and previews of upcoming films before the feature film begins at 6:30 p.m. The Parks & Rec will offer free hot dogs, popcorn from Hico Popcorn Works, bottled water and other snacks while supplies last. Bring your blanket against the nip in the air and a camp chair for comfort.

Considered one of John Wayne’s heartwarmingly best films, Mark Rydell’s 1972 The Cowboys also stars Roscoe Lee Browne, Slim Pickens, Colleen Dewhurst and Bruce Dern. The photographically beautiful movie was filmed at various locations in New Mexico, Colorado, and at Warner Brothers Studio Burbank Studios in California.

When his ranch hands abandon him to join a gold rush, aging rancher William "Wil" Anderson – played by Wayne – finds himself forced to find replacement drovers for his upcoming 400-mile long cattle drive or face financial ruin. At the suggestion of his friend Anse Peterson (Slim Pickens), he considers hiring on school boys from a neighboring town. Andersen visits the school but departs unconvinced by the boys' immature behavior.

The next morning, the boys arrive at Andersen's ranch to volunteer for the drive. Andersen reluctantly tests the boys' ability to stay on a bucking horse. The results lead him to change his mind.

While Andersen and the boys prepare for the cattle drive, a group of mysterious men led by Asa "Long Hair" Watts (Bruce Dern) show up asking for work. Andersen catches Watts in a lie about his past and refuses to hire them. Jebediah "Jeb" Nightlinger (Roscoe Lee Browne), a Black camp cook arrives with a chuck wagon, making Anderson's trail crew complete.

Addressing the boys before taking off on the cattle drive, Wil explains to them “Now... this is the Double O, this is Belle Fourche. In between is four hundred miles of the meanest country in the West. And the only way we're gonna get through is if you take orders. Is that clear?”

The school boys simply answer, “Yes, sir.”

“Bring a bed roll, couple of good ropes, horse if ya got one,” Anderson continues.” You'll get the best food in the territory, no rest, damn little sleep. And 50 big silver dollars, IF we make it to Belle Fourche. Now, you'll show up at my place first Monday after schools out at 5:00 a.m. And come with grit teeth, 'cuz gentlemen, that's when school really begins.”

Under Andersen's continued training, the boys learn to rope as well as brand and herd the cattle and horses, and the group later officially sets off on the cattle drive.

This classic Western movie is a coming of age story, in which the inexperienced boys become men very quickly on a rough drive through “mean” country and with a gang of cattle rustlers on their heels. Interestingly, Robert Carradine debuts in this film with fellow child actor Stephen Hudis as two of the young cowboys. And as art imitates life, they set out as schoolboys, but return home as cowboys.


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