Uncle Bardie’s Movie of the Week: How the west was won with grit and heart

Once a week on Monday, Uncle Bardie shares a movie with his Readers he gives a big two thumbs up. It will simply be a short excerpt or a trailer. From time to time, a reflection on the movie will appear below the video. So pop some popcorn and give yourself a treat. This week’s movie is

For some, it is “Roots”. For others, it is “The Thorn Birds”. For sitll others, it is “Jesus of Nazareth”. For me, the greatest mini-series is “Lonesome Dove”. It is television at its best. A great cast that includes Tommy Lee Jones, Robert Duvall and Anjelica Huston and a completely absorbing story. I have seen this mini-series several times and am always surprised how much I am moved by the characters and their stories. No other movie that I know of shows just how hard 19th century life could be. And it’s about men, and what men do though there are women who are as good, or better than the men in their lives.

Captain Woodrow Call, former Texas Ranger, decides he has to see Montana before he dies. Since they are partners and longtime friends, Captain Gus McCrae, also a former Texas Ranger, has to come along. Gus ain’t too keen on the notion but he goes. How could he refuse his friend? So it’s crossing the Rio Grande and into Mexico to steal horses and cattle for the trip ahead, then it’s north to Montana.

Along the way north, there’s rivers to cross. There’s Texas, Kansas, Nebraska, and finally, at the end of the rainbow, Montana. There’s water mocassins, Indians, gun fights, weather, stampedes, outlaws, gambling and romance. There’s days going without water, then there’s another river to cross and all the water you can drink. And there’s some hangings. Justice must be done. There’s the settling of old scores. There’s brutality but there’s persistence, kindness, justice and loyalty and love and there’s folks dreaming of a better future. And willing to stake everything on that dream. There’s birth and death and all the life in between, both the good and the bad. But mostly there is life to be lived. It’s about leaving and staying, and it’s about men and a cattle drive.

It is not about who has the fastest gun or who wears the whitest hat. It is the story of a wild country that won’t be tamed. It will bring out the best, and the worst, in a human being. It’s a world where choices really matter. Any decision could be a life and death one. It’s a world where you find out mighty quick who is true and who is not. It is a world where you see friends die and friends turn bad and friends standing up for friends.

It is the story of two men who argue and share the deepest part of themselves with each other, who see the best and the worst in each other and stand together, partners, friends. Woodrow mostly grunts and Gus talks and talks and talks. “He fell in with a bad bunch and we hung him.” “Not much. Shot a few Mexicans, drank a lot of whisky.” “I’d like to see one more place that ain’t settled before I take up the rocking chair.” “Nothing better than riding a fine horse into a new territory.” “Yes, I’m ready, Woodrow. Don’t I look ready.” “It’s been quite a party, ain’t it?” Like a great novel, by the end of it all I have lived a life with these characters and I miss them when they are gone.

Some call it an epic. Guess that will suffice but I would add that it is an epic with grit and heart. And for my money, that’s a mighty fine thing.

Do you have a favorite tv mini-series?