In your quest to fulfill step number 8,002- Love Westerns, I am confident that you have (or should have) come across the Clint Eastwood classic, The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976). There might be better Westerns, and there are certainly worse Westerns, but personally, it’s my favorite, and that is a decision I’ve come to based mostly on it’s watchability. The Searchers (1956) is great, and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) is great, and She Wore A Yellow Ribbon (1949) and The Magnificent Seven (1960) are great, and The Wild Bunch (1969) certainly has one of the greatest walking to the big shootout scenes of all time(Suck it, Tombstone (1993))–the part that you’re remembering was the end credit sequence), and obviously The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly (1966) is great, and Once Upon A Time In The West (1968) probably has the best stare-down, then shoot out scene in any Western, ever, and- stop me, I’m rambling. (The the greatest line in any Western ever, for me, is ‘That’s what I got.’ In Rio Bravo (1959)).
Anyway, but we’re talking about step #1,244, not #8,002. So let me get to the point about why you should be just like Josey Wales, in five quick steps-
5. You should understand your opponent- and see that he might not be.
Westerns of the 70’s were all about humanizing Native Americans- not that they weren’t before that, but in the 70’s, that was mostly what it was about. After Josey and company settle on territory that Ten Bears’ (also, what a great name!) tribe hunts and lives on, Ten Bears takes a few of Josey’s friends captive.
Josey prepares his remaining friends to fend off the Native Americans should he fail, and then rides off to the Native’s encampment. Once he’s there, he offers Ten Bears a choice of words- Life or Death. Should Ten Bears choose life, the Native Americans will be free to come and go as they please, and slaughter Josey’s cattle to feed themselves before moving south for the winter, and to live in peace. And when Ten Bears asks about his words of death, he says, ‘It’s here in my pistols, and there in your rifles…I’m here for either one.’ Ten Bears recognizes that they are men of the same caliber, and of equal purpose, and says, ‘It is good that warriors such as we meet in the struggle of life… or death. It shall be life.’ Watch the whole thing here– it’s fantastic.
4. When you, know what’s coming down the pipe, why wait?
Being an Outlaw, it’s not ideal to get recognized by a group of soldiers on the opposite side of the war that you just lost. They know he’s a killer and a fugitive, and he knows they’re not coming to take him prisoner, and so he calls them out, with one of the all time great tough guy lines: ‘You gonna pull them pistols or whistle Dixie?’
I’m not a big fan of beating around the bush, and I try to not do it too often. I have been fired from one job in my life, working for a non-profit where you were required to raise a certain amount of ‘donation’ money every week. If you miss two weeks in a row, you’re done. Anyway, about halfway through the summer, I missed the mark twice, and the boss called me in to his office. He started meandering around to the point, and so finally I said, ‘Bill (that wasn’t his name but it doesn’t matter), if I’m getting fired, fire me- it’s okay.’ And he still couldn’t exactly say it. Hemming and hawing doesn’t do anyone any good. Get to the point, face what’s coming at ya.
3. Trust your instincts, trust your morals.
When the truce came down, and Anderson’s Raiders were the last to surrender- well, Josey wasn’t the kind to surrender, and it frankly just didn’t seem right. And he wasn’t wrong, but he also wasn’t going to let his boys go down without him.
An important corrolary to this, though, is that your morals should always be evolving, and your instincts should always be developing. Look at past bad judgements as an oppourtunity to a) test yourself in making up for those poor decisions and b) be more enlightened tomorrow than you were today.
2. Count on your friends.
After his shootout with the Union soldiers, Josey is questioned by his Native American companion, Lone Watie. It goes something like this:
Lone Watie: How did you know which one was goin’ to shoot first?
Josey Wales: Well, that one in the center: he had a flap holster and he was in no itchin’ hurry. And the one second from the left: he had scared eyes, he wasn’t gonna do nothin’. But that one on the far left: he had crazy eyes. Figured him to make the first move.
Lone Watie: How ’bout the one on the right?
Josey Wales: Never paid him no mind; you were there.
Lone Watie: I could have missed.
At some point, you’ve gotta roll the dice, and have a little faith in someone besides yourself.
1. Get Mean
Now remember, when things look bad and it looks like you’re not gonna make it, then you gotta get mean. I mean plumb, mad-dog mean. ‘Cause if you lose your head and you give up then you neither live nor win, and that’s just the way it is.
To sum up- The Outlaw Josey Wales is a phenomenal Western, and a Bonus:
Bonus: Have no patience for Charlatans or Carpet Baggers.