Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Watching "American Cowboy" on cable and remembering

Doc thoughtfully recorded several of the series "American Cowboy" that covers the ranching life of three different ranching families in Montana. The all around yearly activities in Montana ranch life greatly resembled the ranching life my family experienced in southern Utah in the rough canyon country just east of Bryce Canyon. The above photo is one taken back before the native ranchers started to sell to outsiders and Boulder, Utah, my home town, changed in so many ways while still remaining the beautiful country that it will always be.
There were no sons in the King family who wanted to take over the ranches as in the ranching families in Montana. My cousin Richard who was my father's sister's son took over the King ranch when she retired and ran it very efficiently for 8 years. He had after all been a Lt. Colonel in the Air Force so he knew how to organize and work. I was very impressed with him because like my dad he worked even harder than his hired men, in fact, he improved the ranch with sprinklers, etc. He fired one long time hired man because he refused to have anything to do with the sprinklers. He said it was ridiculous for this hired man to expect him to change the sprinklers before he would do it, so he fired him for insubordination. Ha. But he had no children, so when he wanted to retire and work less hard, he had to sell out.
My dad had no sons. He tried a son-in-law out as a possibility to take over the ranch, but my sister who was married to him was a graduate nurse who would not be able to pursue her nursing career on the ranch, so my dad decided it was in her best interests for him to sell out. Besides that she was allergic to hay, grain, horse hair, etc. She really needed to get away from the ranching life! She went on to have an impressive nursing career, so that was the right decision for her.
It really takes a strong capable man to do the heavy work on a ranch. A woman just cannot do it. My aunt ran the main King ranch for a while but she was at the mercy of hired men which did not always work out too well, since they were not involved in the ownership.
I never wanted to go into ranching, so I started saying good-bye to that country quite soon. My first husband did not like the work and I did not think he was cut out for it when he did try a year or two of being employed by my dad. For one thing, he was not comfortable on a horse, he was a singing cowboy!
My son Raymond, his son, is certainly a great singing cowboy. He could have done the ranch work, but he was too much of the showman. I majored in theater in college, and he also took theater classes and showed right way he was a natural born actor as well as a good director, and quite soon he was writing plays.
He has pursued the same dream he saw me chasing all my life, the life of a playwright. I was always having play readings and trying to get somebody to do one of my plays. I became partially disabled, so I became handicapped acting in theater which involves considerable stress, especially before an opening. I gave up acting in plays just so I would not get too ill to continue which can be one heck of a downer for the other people. I had also directed but that involved stress as well in a city setting. I could not command the authority for that. I did not have the stamina.
Last night I watched the two plays of six I have put up on Youtube, Daughters of the Shadow Men, and Happy Hello, Sad Goodbye. I think they both have in them material that would interest more people once they are discovered. There is quite a sound defect in Happy Hello, Sad Goodbye as we had not yet learned to turn off the air conditioning when we filmed! It was a very hot summer. But at least in these videos I was able to partially fulfill my dream of acting, since Doc and I do all the roles between us. I thought well, if I don't do it this way, I will never be able to show that I can write plays and act--while I am alive to enjoy it. We improvised! The videos, although flawed, have substance which I think is the most important quality that a play needs and is lacking in many old movies. I put everything I had experienced in life into these plays. The strength of the material gives them value.
I think Raymond is going to create another theater event this month in Boulder with his play "Into the Desert" which he has produced three times, improving it and revising it. So it is a well polished play that he plans to do on the top of a ledge out away from the house a man named Anselm has built up there in a real desert setting! The actors will be close to the sage brush and rocks that have been there hundreds of years! They are really going to get a feel for this wild country up on that ledge, and so will the audience that treks up there to view it! He has worked a number of years with the actress he plans to cast in the female role, Tracee Rhode. The actor playing the male role has come clear from Los Angeles because he fell in love with the play. So this acting duo has considerable promise. Raymond will direct. He has directed many many plays, his own and others, so he will be able to add much experience and expertise. He has always been a master at building creative sets practically out of nothing.
He has created many great theatrical events in Phoenix and now he will attempt to create another theater event once more in the wilderness his ancestors made home in the act called 'homesteading.' That really appeals to my imagination. He has taken my kind of dreams and with his health and strength made his own way as a master showman.
I always wanted kids and put a lot into them. They were to be part of what I thought I could still do well even though disabled, I could raise and teach my kids what I knew. I worked with Raymond for ten years as much as possible in his theater company, attending the workshops, seeing every production, writing plays continually, and fighting battles with the critics with letters to the newspapers, etc. My play, Happy Hello, Sad Goodbye was one of the first full length productions Raymond directed as he was creating his company. Prince from Saturn, another play I read on YouTube, was another of his productions. I wrote Daughters of the Shadow Men before he wrote one of his most successful plays, "Blue Baby: a memoir", which I encouraged him very strongly to write. America has yet to see this play. It is his job now to see that they do because it deals with issues America needs to see illuminated, substance abuse, child molestation, sexual assault in jail, and suicidal tendencies.
Raymond is a major playwright who never shrank at writing about any issue however difficult nor in producing another writer's play about the most complex of issues. That is what it takes to be a major player. Now the big job lies in getting the work discovered. With that goal I will help him all I can.

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