MY PERSONAL WEST
GARY MARTIN DOBBSSix-Gun Justice asked a posse of contemporary western scribes why it is they write about The West. What qualities of history, culture, or geography inspire them to spin yarns set west of the 100th meridian?
Here is the answer from Western wordslinger Gary Martin Dobbs...
The West is as much a dream as a reality. It is a vast and mythic place—called a dream landscape by Kiowa poet, Scott Momaday—the West belongs to each and every one of us, regardless of where we were born. For the West, to my mind, is not so much about a geographical position but more about people—people like you and me—for it was ordinary people living in extraordinary times that populated the West.
The West has always played a big part in my life. It’s always there in the back of my mind, calling me, taunting me, seducing me with its promises. It is something that has always appealed to me. I wouldn’t give spit for New York or any of those big cities, but put me out in the wilderness beneath a star studded sky and I’m Heaven.
At first it was the movies that introduced me—snotty nosed British kid that I was—to the West and from there it was the novels of the likes of Louis L’amour and Max Brand. Later still, I became infatuated with the darkly surreal westerns of fellow Brit George G. Gilman. Throughout my youth I shared my love of westerns with my grandfather, the real Jack Martin, and we would pass books back and forth or watch the movies, particularly those of John Wayne, together.
These days I write western novels so the West has always been a big part of my life and will continue to be so until I’m dragged to Boot Hill myself. But it’s more than the West—it’s America itself. Now I know the country sometimes takes some flak, there are those who claim the US is nothing more than an aggressive giant, but I don’t swallow that at all. I love the ideals America was built upon and the way the constitution continues to protect Americans from the excesses of government. To me the word America is synonymous with the word freedom and the beating heart of the country is still the West—A romantic view maybe, but it’s my view, and I've always been an incurable romantic.
Those names—Arkansas, Dakota, Wyoming, Colorado, Bitter-Creek Gulch—they have a certain poetry about them. They roll off the tongue and to me, the mere mention of these places conjures up feelings of excitement. To me the West is magical and will always be as it was before the frontier was closed—the hills are still bursting full of gold, the rivers and streams run bright and clear, the plains stretch out unspoilt as far as the eye can see and you can have a fist fight without having your DNA taken, processed and then stored in the database of some shadowy governmental department.
The West—there’s a promise there. The West has always been full of promise. So, God bless America. God bless the West.