Nebraskans in film, TV
The phrase, “Go west, young man,” wasn't a California casting call, but several Nebraskans made the trek and struck Hollywood gold, sometimes exclusively as cowboys.
» Ward Bond, born in Benkelman (1903-1960): Most famous for his role as Major Seth Adams, wagon master in the “Wagon Train” TV series from 1957-60. He played in more than 200 films, including 23 with John Wayne. He made 25 films with director John Ford.
» Henry Fonda, born in Grand Island (1905-1982): During six decades in Hollywood, his Western films included “The Ox-Bow Incident,'' “How the West Was Won,'' “Once Upon a Time in the West,'' “The Return of Frank James,'' “My Darling Clementine,'' “Fort Apache,'' “The Tin Star,'' “Warlock'' and “The Cheyenne Social Club.'' He played a U.S. marshal in the NBC Western series, “The Deputy.''
» Hoot Gibson, born in Tekamah (1892-1962): Moved to California to work as a rodeo cowboy and found work in movies. Appeared in the silent Westerns “Pride of the Range'' and “His Only Son.'' He ranked second only to Tom Mix as a western film box office draw from the 1920s through the 1940s.
» Pierce Lyden, born in a sod house near Hildreth (1908-1998): Acted in hundreds of B westerns, usually as the villain, and specialized in screen fights. He had roles in 300 to 400 movies, including “Shadows on the Range'' and “Rustlers of Devil's Canyon.'' He appeared in about 150 episodes of television's “The Cisco Kid,'' “Wild Bill Hickok'' and “The Lone Ranger.''
» Robert Taylor, born in Filley (1911-1969): One of the most popular leading men of his time, his Western films included “Billy the Kid,'' “Many Rivers to Cross,'' “The Law and Jake Wade,'' “Ambush,'' “Westward the Woman,'' “Ride Vaquero!,'' “All the Brothers Were Valiant,'' “Saddle the Wind,'' “The Hangman'' and “Cattle King.'' He narrated television's “Death Valley Days'' after Ronald Reagan left acting for politics.
You, too, can be a cowpuncher
Cattle kings didn't require their hired hands to be champion horsemen, ropers or sharpshooters.
James Shaw, foreman of the sprawling Bay State Cattle Co. in the Panhandle, told the Nebraska State Journal in 1884:
“Any man who is not afraid of work and who can ride a horse and possesses good common sense can get along well enough. A man doesn't have to throw a lasso like a Mexican vaquero nor shoot a revolver like a ten cent-novel Texas ranger to be a good cowboy. But he must have good nerve, not be afraid of getting tired once in a while, and he must stick to his knitting, rain or shine.''
I see by your outfit that you are a cowboy
Cattlemen usually provided cowboys a horse, but not a saddle, bridle, lariat, firearms and clothing.
In 1879, Rolf Johnson of rural Holdrege, Neb., was traveling the West when he saw cowboys in Sidney, Neb. In his diary, he described their attire:
“The usual equipment of (a) herder or cowboy is a white, broad brimmed hat, a blue woolen shirt with wide collar and silk neck tie, leather leggings or buckskin breeches fringed at the seams, fine tight boots, an old army overcoat, a belt around the waist full of cartridges, one or two Colt's sixshooters, a bowie-knife, a Winchester rifle, a pair of big spurs, and last though most important, a small Indian pony with a big saddle.''
Johnson's diary was published by Bison Books in 2000 as “Happy As a Big Sunflower: Adventures in the West, 1876-1880.''