Cut ‘Em Off At The Pass!

Hey there, friends. Long before you got to know me as The Big Valley’s Nick Barkley, or even before that, as Black Saddle’s Clay Culhane, I was predominantly performing on the stage, and becoming a cowboy was the farthest thing from my mind.

I grew up in Rochester, New York. Sure, that’s the hometown of Western legend Buck Jones, too. But this one commonality didn’t make me a cowboy. Not by a long shot. After all, I had never really been around a horse before I came to Hollywood, nor had I ever owned a pair of cowboy boots. In fact, I wasn’t raised all that much on Westerns, although I did take a liking to singing cowboys when I was younger, such as Gene Autry and Roy Rogers who heroically cut the villains off at the pass. Later, I grew to enjoy the strong, silent type like Joel McCrea, Randolph Scott, and John Wayne whose mere presence was a threat to whomever was wearing the black hat; and even Glenn Ford and Ben Johnson who always impressed me with their riding ability. And one of the highest compliments this writer-rider has ever received, came from Ben Johnson who said, “There are three men in Hollywood that can sit a horse well — Glenn Ford, Peter Breck, and myself.”

Becoming a cowboy came about when I came to Hollywood in the late 1950s. I was a single, young actor, fresh out of theater. I had just performed in a play called Man of Destiny — a story about Napoleon Bonaparte — at the Washington Arena Stage in Washington D.C. I was getting ready to play the part of……………..