Why The American West Is Worth Visiting

american westAll roads point West. I’m rewriting the American Western mythology. No I’m not that cocky–I’m just bringing it up to date.

Songs like Hank Snow’s, “I’ve Been Everywhere,” Waylon Jennings’ “Luckenback, Texas” and Marty Robbins’ “El Paso,” greatly enhance and contribute to the images in our collective unconscious of the American West. By which I mean Wyatt Earp’s Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, Billy the Kid, and the wars and scalpings that occurred between cowboys and Indians.

What I’m getting at is the plethora of films, T.V. shows, (books, think classic literature such as Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian) and songs created during the twentieth century that have solidified the ethos of the American West as a desolate and lawless expanse. To this day, such notions contribute to the American paradigm. The values of small government and gun laws are forceful manifestations of this independent spirit, harrumph, Republicanparty. Sorry. I would argue that the American West in the late 19th century was the apogee of the American Independent spirit–it being country where you can have as much land as you please, as long as you are man enough to keep it.

Some may lament that in the twenty-first century the West has disappeared. I would argue it still exists; perhaps not in the gun-slinging, but instead in the cattle-ranching; the fact that they don’t smoke marijuana in their stogies in Muskogee, Oklahoma, and there ain’t hardly any long-haired West Texan wearing sandals.

Next month when I travel West, I’m going to write home all about it.

By Daniel Ryan Adler

Daniel Adler writes fiction and nonfiction and is finishing his MFA at University of South Carolina.

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