IT’S ONLY WESTERN BECAUSE IT’S SOUTHERN
It is no accident that the most famous Western novel, written by a Pennsylvanian, Owen Wister, and set in Wyoming, was called The Virginian; nor that the most memorable character in Robert Service’s Alaska poems was from Tennessee; nor that John Wayne’s best Western movie, The Searchers, begins in 1865 with the hero riding up to his prairie home in tattered gray.But the Southernness of the American West is not just in the realm of romance. The romance in this case merely reflects the facts. Boone, Crockett, Lewis and Clark, the heroes of the Alamo, Kit Carson, Jim Bridger, Jesse James, nearly all the epic heroes of the frontier were Southerners. The “cowboy humorist” Will Rogers was the son of a captain in the Confederacy’s Cherokee brigade. You will hear nothing except Southern accents today on America’s only remaining frontier, the NorthShore oil fields.We repeat: The West is only Western because it is Southern, because it bears the impress of the culture of the Old South rather than the Old North. That is why Oklahoma produces cowboys, oil wildcatters, country music singers, writers and scholars, evangelists and outlaws, and Kansas produces wheat and an occasional communist.