BACK IN TIME: McLintock, Beverly, others did not relish unwanted change

EDITOR’S NOTE: Information for this article came from the book “Men of Fiber” by J. Evetts Haley.
One of my favorite movies of all time — and, yes, I’m sure you are not surprised to learn that I, too, am a huge John Wayne fan — is that John Wayne standby “McLintock.” McLintock was about unwanted change taking place at the end of the 19th century. The world was changing and George Washington McLintock or “G.W.” as he was commonly called in the movie did not want the new world being ushered in.
To a great extent many western movies are about the changes that bring new ways of life and which necessarily put the old tried and true ways of doing things “out to pasture.” The old ways of doing things are comfortable while the new ways threaten what we’ve become accustomed to over time. And many times the changes that supposedly must come about are greeted with open hostility.
Another movie that was recently redone starring Tom Selleck was “Monte Walsh” and it focused directly on the changes taking place in the country at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th. Cowboying was disappearing as a way of life and ranges were being bought, fenced and taken out of the cattle business by the corporations that bought them. The change was being forced on cowboys who only wanted to keep riding the range as they always had. As Selleck said in the movie when it looked like he might have to change jobs, “I’m not doing nothing I can’t do from a horse.”
I admit that I have had to endure a number of unwanted changes in my almost 50 years in the newspaper industry, but I also must concede that if the changes were not forced on us there would be very little progress in the world. Most individuals would likely never make a change in the way they did their work if somebody else did not insist on it. When unwanted life changes occur, they rarely are concerned with how the people that they affect feel about those changes.
Yet another movie about unwanted change was portrayed in “The Shootist” with John Wayne in a role that may have been a little too close to reality for the aging actor since in the movie he played an aging cowboy who had earned a reputation as a gunman who was constantly being tested by “up-and-comers” but who was facing an even tougher battle with cancer.
That movie was set in the early 20th century when automobiles were threatening to end the day of the horse and streetcars were making western cities a bit more citified. So “The Shootist” also was in a sense about unwanted change.
In “McLintock” Wayne played a compassionate rancher who saw the Comanches being readied for a speedy trip to Fort Sill and the end of their way of life, but the old Indian named Running Buffalo was still his friend and so the Indians corralled Wayne to present their case to the white men at the court hearing. So much for justice.
Of course, the person who can adapt and embrace the change at least to some degree is usually better off. A good example of one man who grew up in the world of cowboys, but who was able to make the transition to modern society was Bob Beverly, who worked on various ranches in Texas, New Mexico and Oklahoma during the final years of the 19th century and later served as sheriff in Midland County and as a lawman in New Mexico in the early 20th century.
J. Evetts Haley, who detailed Beverly’s story as a cowboy-sheriff in his book “Men of Fiber,” wrote of him, “Men of untrammeled nature mounted on horses ranged far and fancy free in their unbridled brigandage. Naturally the logical men to curb, to chase and to bring them back were men of similar breed on horses, likewise lured by dalliance with danger. While reckless cowboys were chosen as sheriffs to bring them to justice, and there was no more important officer in every western county in its transition from a chunk of wilderness to a settled community. Bob Beverly, an outstanding cowboy of varied experience, was typical of the best of the cowboy sheriffs in this period.
“His story is not one of gunsmoke and gore but one of understanding and gumption. He knew the ways of cattle and horses, and better still he knew the feelings and the moods, the prejudices and the passions, the strength and the failings of the men who handled them,” Haley wrote. “In brief, he knew the nature of this exacting land and the psychology of its tough and resilient men. But knowledge alone in places of power is not enough — as history continually grinds out from its well-grooved record. Much more is necessary.”
Beverly, Haley noted, had grown up as an “orphan waif” of the range who observed life with the keen eyesight that taught him that power corrupts. He grew into “a man of quiet courage and impeccable character. Rough life had firmed his nature without hardening his soul.” As a lawman, Beverly exhibited a “keen sense of humor” that “kept his work and his world in perspective, while his own sound sense and judgment were bolstered by a life of sometimes sober and always exacting experience.”
Bob Beverly adapted and, as Haley wrote, “lived up to the traditions of his people and land, dying April 16, 1958, with little of this world’s goods, and is buried at Lubbock, Texas — an independent man of warmth, wisdom, and character clear down to the grass-roots.”
We all can learn some lessons from movies and men like Bob Beverly as we try to find our way through the unwanted changes in our lives.