By Darlene Franklin
I am a New Englander by birth and proud of it. I didn’t make it west of the Mississippi River until I was twenty-two. Nor did I watch many Westerns on television. My heroes were the Minutemen and the leaders of the civil rights movement. Mythology belonged to the Ancient Greeks and Romans; with a healthy dose of the Norse gods.
Then I went to graduate school in Texas, moved to Oklahoma with my husband, and later made it to Colorado. When I began writing, the heroine in my first book followed a similar path: she left Maine to go to medical school in Denver.
Along the way of falling in love with living in the West, I learned that the legend of the Wild West forms the basis of American mythology. Consider the following stock characters:
o Saloon girl: forced into prostitution against her will but with a heart of gold
o Mountain man: loner, fiercely independent, explorer
o Miner: always looking for the next strike
o Gambler: charming cad, willing to risk it all on the turn of a card
o Cowboy: Rough on the outside but a gentleman and a protector
o Texas Ranger: committed to justice. One Ranger is equal to a hundred of the enemy
Buffalo Bill introduced the Wild West to the world through his show; and artists such as Remington and Russell captured it with paint. It lives on in small mining and ranching towns. When we watch or read a western, we expect certain things. Think about it. Could How different would J.R. and Bobby Ewing be if they lived in Boston instead of Dallas? Of course a team called “Cowboys” became known as America’s team! No wonder Olympic uniforms often include Stetsons.
When Janette Oke wrote her first prairie romance, she opened the door for all of us. Christians, in particular, seem to have an insatiable desire for those larger-than-life characters. I have dipped into that fascination for several of my books, including my latest, A Ranger’s Trail in the Texas Trails series.
As writers, we may want to write about an earlier time (shout out to all of our colonial writers!) or a later time (anyone else there want to write about the 1950s?) We’d like to choose a different setting than Montana or Texas (or whatever state is the current flavor of the year).
But our readers hunger for the Wild West for good reason: They want faith-based stories during a time that brought out the best-and worst-of Americans.
Let us applaud and enjoy our heritage as we write about that most American of all heroes: the cowboy.
Darlene Franklin is a Christian, mother, grandmother, and oh, yes, makes her living by writing books. She recently moved to Oklahoma City to be near her grandbabies. Her lynx point Siamese proudly claims Darlene as her human. She has written twenty books and had short articles published in twenty others.