Sunday, July 26, 2020

Perfecting the "Spin and Roll"

In the old movie and TV Westerns, the guns were always blazing.  One wonders how all of those .45 calibre bullets made the trek from the armories of Springfield to holsters in Wichita and Deadwood and Abilene, Texas.

You knew right away who was going to "get it."   The drunk who cheated at cards in the saloon.  The cattle rustler.    The two guys hiding behind a rock by the trail, ready to ambush the buckboard carrying our hero and his sweetheart out to a picnic church supper on the river bank.  Anyone who pistol-whipped our perennial sidekick Gabby Hayes.    And all of the desperadoes who rode into town together yesterday morning, grinning and spitting into the dusty street.

The six-gun was king, only on the rare occasion bested when raw fury and chivalry and ingenuity happened to coalesce, as in Woody Guthrie's all-but-forgotten tale of the rise of Pretty Boy Floyd,

.... On a Saturday afternoon
His wife beside him in a wagon
And into town they rode.
The deputy sheriff approached him
In a manner rather rude
Using vulgar words of language
And his wife she overheard!

Pretty Boy grabbed a log chain
And the deputy grabbed his gun
And in the fight that followed
He lay that deputy down!

But on the screen, not in the vinyl grooves of the dustbowl days, not one of the bad guys ever was shot in the face, nor ever were his intestines splayed all over the street.  Once in a while a bad or a good guy might get "winged" in the arm and have to wear a simple white sling until intermission, but no one, 20 years after the great battles of the Civil War, ever got gangrene; shot guns were sawed off but the wings never were!

And so the rise of the choreography of the stunt man and the body double, showing exactly how it was to take a bullet and get killed.   The bullet found its way to your vitals immediately.    You had only time to spin 270 degrees and roll to the ground, stone cold dead.  (If you were on a horse, you might tick tock a little in the saddle it's true before falling off and rolling to the ground, stone cold dead.)

Soon I will take my own bespoke slug in the torso, likewise off center as is fitting and just, and that final pirouette will be my last chance to show any elegance, any grace at all, before the posse puts me under.

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