Maybe it started one summer morning in my youth when a pony magically appeared outside the kitchen window. And I hadn’t imagined it. It was there, calmly nibbling at the branches of a mulberry tree, swishing its tail to keep the flies at bay. I wondered what it would be like to really ride it on the open plains, instead of being led around in circles at a local carnival.

Or perhaps it was it was all those adventures I watched on my family’s first color TV, the Cartwrights or Marshal Dillon on horseback leaving dust, sagebrush and bad guys in their wake.

I wrote a short story that begins with the protagonist fantasizing about being "The Man With No Name," the Clint Eastwood character of spaghetti western fame who lets his single action army revolver do all the talking.

There’s something about the Wild West that speaks to me.

Four of my 10 favorite movies are westerns. “Unforgiven” is the anti-western western in that Eastwood’s William Munny only reluctantly goes back to gunslinging, that later confirms his belief in the senselessness of violence. “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” the best buddy movie ever made, despite that silly musical interlude in which Paul Newman does some acrobatics on a bicycle. “Tombstone,” the 1993 version that starred Kurt Russell as Wyatt Earp. Val Kilmer as Doc Holliday was an Oscar-caliber performance if there ever was one.

My favorite western, “Once Upon a Time in the West,” is a Sergio Leon masterpiece. Charles Bronson, Jason Robards, and even Jack Elam, who gets a lengthy scene with a pesky fly. There are lots of scenes with spectacular vistas in which apparently nothing happens until everything happens. And how many times did Henry Fonda play the bad guy? And boy, is he bad.

It’s my third winter in El Mirage, Arizona, and I’ve yet to tire of the desert. Some say the drive from Phoenix to Las Vegas along U.S. Highway 93 is boring. Not me. I can’t get enough of the Sonoran Desert with its wild rock formations, towering saguaros and prickly pear. Drive long enough and sooner or later you’ll have to slow down to give the tumble weeds the right of way.

Several years ago during a visit to Santa Fe I bought some ostrich skin boots because, well, my inner cowboy demanded it. I still wear them, and they still turn heads, even here in the desert southwest. That was the most egregiously decadent purchase I’d ever made.

Until last week.

I came across some sweet-looking caiman belly cowboy boots on a reputable company’s website. A caiman is a close relative to the alligator, but smaller, and they inhabit Central and South America. I can hear all of you animal rights activists already. And I don’t blame you. But honest, they fit like a glove.

But please understand, it wasn’t me who clicked the “purchase” button. It was my alter ego, Stony, another hired gun in “Once Upon a Time in the West,” as portrayed by the late great Woody Strode. I lost focus, just like Stony when he heard the whine of Charles Bronson’s harmonica.

I guess you’ll just have to watch the movie.


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