John Wayne ver­sus Wood­stock

Hon­or­ing the 50th an­niver­sary of ‘True Grit’

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - By Robert Knight

FRIDGWAY, COLORADO ifty years ago, a lot of big things hap­pened. Man reached the moon for the first time. Wood­stock was staged, and it’s still with us in many ways. Also, 50 years ago, a re­mark­able film was re­leased star­ring John Wayne. Based on the novel by Charles Por­tis, “True Grit” has be­come one of the best loved Westerns of all time and the one for which the Duke fi­nally got his Os­car as best ac­tor.

In Ridg­way, Colorado, where much of the movie was filmed, the com­mu­nity is go­ing all out dur­ing the sec­ond week­end in Oc­to­ber to honor the 50th an­niver­sary of “True Grit.” The Old Town por­tion of Ridg­way stood in for Fort Smith, Arkansas, and many sites are still there, in­clud­ing the park where hang­ings were held, the court­house fa­cade, the rail­road de­pot and the saloon where the vil­lain Tom Chaney (Jeff Corey) shoots the fa­ther of teenager Mat­tie Ross (Kim Darby) in the street.

That event trig­gers the film’s theme, which is Mat­tie’s coura­geous and re­lent­less pur­suit of jus­tice. She’s aided by Wayne and Texas Ranger LeBoeuf (Glen Camp­bell), who have baser mo­tives (re­ward money) but, like Han Solo in “Star Wars,” come through in the clinch. By the way, just as Ridg­way has no “e,” LeBouef has no first name.

The story is so good that the Coen Brothers made a more ac­cu­rate al­beit far-less scenic re­make in 2010 star­ring Jeff Bridges, Matt Da­mon and Hailee Ste­in­feld.

Ridg­way’s True Grit Cafe is a ver­i­ta­ble shrine to Wayne, who died in 1979 at the age of 72 from can­cer. He had al­ready lost a lung be­fore the film­ing, but went on to make “Rooster Cog­burn” (1975) and his last movie, “The Shoo­tist” (1976).

When peo­ple do some­thing big, it of­ten leaves a le­gacy of good or ill. Wood­stock, which cul­ture critic Rabbi Daniel Lapin de­scribes as a “fin­ger in the eye of God,” gave us some mem­o­rable pop mu­sic.

But the dark side of Wood­stock left its mark. All too many baby boomers be­lieved the lies of the sex­ual revolution and drug-themed mu­sic and be­came char­ter mem­bers of the Me Gen­er­a­tion. The re­sult­ing wreck­age — abor­tion, sex­ual anar­chy, bro­ken fam­i­lies, recre­ational drug use and per­pet­u­ally ado­les­cent cit­i­zens look­ing for hand­outs and some­one else to blame — is Wood­stock’s en­dur­ing curse.

Colorado, blessed with stun­ning Rocky Moun­tain beauty, is a po­tent cul­tural mix of John Wayne and Wood­stock.

The Duke’s im­print is seen in the proud, in­de­pen­dent Western cul­ture all over the state. In a gun shop in Val­lecito Lake in south­west Colorado, a woman shop­keeper hap­pily showed me a light­weight AK-47-type ri­fle im­printed with “Snowflake” and “Beto,” af­ter the Texas Demo­crat who is openly call­ing for the gov­ern­ment to con­fis­cate these types of ri­fles. Amer­i­can flags are ev­ery­where. Wash­ing­ton, D.C., seems far, far away.

But you also see the state veer­ing po­lit­i­cally from pur­ple to blue. Mar­i­juana dis­pen­saries and head shops are all over Den­ver and Colorado Springs. They’re spring­ing up even in re­mote moun­tain towns, along with Bernie stick­ers, which makes per­fect sense. Bernie is sell­ing a free ride; stoned peo­ple are not in the best frame of mind to de­fend their free­dom against a sugar daddy gov­ern­ment bent on cre­at­ing a de­pen­dent pop­u­la­tion.

Sure, plenty of pot­heads dis­trust The Man and have fig­ured out that big gov­ern­ment is not their friend. But those folks lean lib­er­tar­ian, suck­ing away votes from con­ser­va­tives and al­low­ing Democrats to con­tinue to build to­ward a God­less, so­cial­ist Amer­ica.

The Democrats are now Wood­stock on steroids. Get free stuff; smoke all the pot you want; watch all the porn you want; kill all the ba­bies you want; change your God-given sex if you want. We’ll even rig the law to force oth­ers to pre­tend with you. Just don’t com­plain when we run the rest of your lives.

Back in John Wayne coun­try, you see his wit­ti­cisms on plaques and mugs: “Courage is be­ing scared to death but sad­dling up any­way.” “Life is tough, but it’s tougher when you’re stupid.” And: “Never apol­o­gize and never ex­plain; it’s a sign of weak­ness.”

Few peo­ple in Ridg­way to­day were around when the movie was made. Vis­i­tors cen­ter vol­un­teer Rick Gre­gory, 73, has spo­ken to sev­eral. He said they found the Duke far friend­lier in per­son than his flawed, on-screen per­sona, fed­eral Mar­shal Reuben J. “Rooster” Cog­burn. “He was very hu­man, very pop­u­lar, he made time for peo­ple,” Mr. Gre­gory said, not­ing that when a pro­duc­tion crew mem­ber’s car broke down, Wayne bought him a new one.

Ridg­way and nearby Ou­ray, where the court­room scene was filmed, seem more Wayne than Wood­stock. Near Owl Creek Pass (al­ti­tude 10,114 feet), you can eas­ily find Deb’s Meadow, the aspen-ringed field where Wayne as Rooster Cog­burn charges his horse at four armed out­laws while fir­ing a shot­gun in each hand.

It takes faith and courage — true grit — to dare big and do great things. John Wayne did it su­perbly on screen.

The Amer­i­can as­tro­nauts who thrilled the en­tire world on July 20, 1969, risked their very lives. Neil Arm­strong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins were un­doubt­edly scared to death.

But they sad­dled up any­way.

The Democrats are now Wood­stock on steroids. Get free stuff; smoke all the pot you want; watch all the porn you want; kill all the ba­bies you want; change your God-given sex if you want.

Robert Knight is a con­trib­u­tor to The Wash­ing­ton Times.

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