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August 08, 2006

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My Moment of Glory

This is only marginally about guns, but I like it, so I’ll pass it along. On July 4, 1976, the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody, Wyoming dedicated the arrival of the Winchester Firearms Collection to the center, and it was a Great Big Deal. The governor of Wyoming was there, and various astronauts, professional athletes, captains of industry, etc. And as a sop to the lower classes, Winchester flew up a bunch of writers, including myself, from Denver, to report on the goings-on.

At the time, Cody airport was extremely small, and most of the town’s people were assembled in two lines at the entrance. So as each of us stepped through the door, our name would be announced, and our home town, and there would be a polite spattering of applause.

As I stepped through the door, I heard the loudspeaker say: “And from New York City, Field & Stream’s managing editor Dave Petzal…”

And the people went ape. Strong men wept. Women fainted. Babies puked. I started to swell up like a toad. “Hot damn,” I remember thinking, “I’m  home.”

And then I happened to look behind me. John Wayne had stepped through the door a little ahead of cue, just as they announced me. I deflated plenty damn quick. But I’m still a John Wayne fan. He was bigger in real life than he was on screen. And if you haven’t been to the Buffalo Bill Historical Center, you are culturally deprived; it’s a marvel. Or you can simply wander the streets of Cody, watching insanely rich people try to pass themselves off as just plain ranch hands.


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JA Demko

I enjoyed your story. John Wayne has never been a particular favorite of mine; other than True Grit and The Quiet Man his movies tend to leave me cold and I won't even go into his "military record." Still, I guess you should be happy it was someone with John Wayne's public persona that upstaged you rather than, say, Rip Taylor or Charles Nelson Reilly.
Other than not having to be around the poor, what attracts the rich to Cody?


Mr. Petzal,

You are still glorious to some of us :) Seriously though, the museum there in Cody IS glorious!!! I'm sure that the janitor was not pleased that he had to mop up multiple puddles of drool that I left behind in the firearms wing.

JA Demko,
Can't speak for the financially rich, but maybe they like the beauty of the area along with the hunting and fishing opportunities that abound up there.

Dave Petzal

To JA Demko: Conventional wisdom has it that the billionaires in Jackson Hole have driven the multi-millionaires to Cody, who have driven the millionaires to Sheridan and Bozeman. Not bad for a state with only 600,000 people or so.

JA Demko

Well, if I were rich (note the use of the subjunctive tense, indicating an event or state of being unlikely to occur)I would probably want some space in which to enjoy my wealth, too. I was about to add something stupid about it being too cold in Wyoming during the winter, but it betrays my plebian status that I didn't automatically think about my winter home in Aruba first. If I should happen to be found as the only heir to the Romanov fortune, or something like that, I'll probably buy a little spread out there. You guys are welcome to come out to hunt and fish, but make sure you knock around back at the tradesman's entrance.

Richard A. Smith

John Wayne wasn't you would call a great actor or anything, but he did what he did VERY well, and that was to be John Wayne: larger than life tough guy, man's man, and icon. I really like John Wayne.

Petzal is almost the same, but, as an outdoors writer, doesn't rate the fame and status of a Hollywood actor. And he's too ugly. Good thing he writes so well. He's the first thing I look for in every issue of Field and Stream. So I guess I really like Dave Petzal, too.

(Dave; You can send the check to...)

Dave Petzal

To Richard A. Smith: I will forget your hurtful comments about my lack of looks, and point out that anyone who thinks John Wayne couldn't act should get the 50th Anniversary re-issue disc of The Searchers, which is now regarded as not only one of our greatest westerns, but one of the great American movies.
In addition to the movie itself, there is a second disc with an appreciation of the film by directors Curtis Hanson, Martin Scorcese, and John Milius, and the consensus of these three is that Wayne was a great actor, not just a movie star.
I've had this same argument with Dave Hurteau, who, being from upstate New York, is a person of very little taste and culture.

JA Demko

The Searchers was a movie that played to John Wayne's strengths, such as they were, as an actor. He did the strong, not-to-talkative loner very well. It's when he was required to convey a feeling of something beyond stalwart manliness that his performances typically fell apart. His romantic scenes with his female co-stars tend towards the ridiculous, for example. I will give the man full credit, though, that he did an absolutely capital job of portraying John Wayne. He came to fame in an era when movie stars had carefully manufactured public personas_thanks to the studio system_and he did extremely well at playing John Wayne for the remainder of his life. The studios never had to do damage control for him the way they had to for Errol Flynn, Rock Hudson, et. al. It can't have been easy not breaking character for all those years.


How can you say anything bad about John Wayne?


how can you let them post such terrible remarks about the MAN!!

Please ban them from commenting ever again. Oh my eyes, What Heresy!!

All men should have a "WWJWD" (What Would John Wayne DO) bumber sticker on their TRUCK!!

Great stuff Dave, keep it up!

JA Demko

What would John Wayne do? Feh.

What would Audie Murphy do?

That is the question.


Anyone here see Wayne in Hatari? That was him doing his own stunts which takes a bit of balls. You'll know what I mean if you see the movie. Anyone who doesn't like John Wayne should be rode out of town on a rail and forced to live in Turkmenistan, France, or some similar savage place.

JA Demko

I understand Ned Beatty did his own stunts in Deliverance, too.

Cliff B

Dave's right about the 'Searchers'...just got the 50th anniversary DVD and the special features are great. [Especially the one narrated by the gun and western lovin' director John Milius].
What Wayne and director John Ford made was a great tribute America; it's land and people.

Walt Chapman

While I don't mean to disparage the dead, John Wayne was not a military hero; quite the opposite. He was the beneficiary of a great public relations campaign. Please keep it real and save the term "hero" for war veterans so really put it on the line! Walt Chapman

Ralph the Rifleman

I have never been to the Historical Center in Cody,but others have told me it is a grand collection of firearms, indeed. As for John Wayne the actor, I like most of his movies, and I agree other actors may have done a better job playing some of the roles he played, but that's movie history now!As for John Wayne the man, he had never considered himself a hero, and always paid respect to those who deserved that title. By the way, ask any soldier that survived battle, and they will call their fallen friends the true heros. But WWJWD does have a unique ring to it! "Now boys, have a beer chill out!" That sounds like something JW would say!

O Garcia

John Wayne stars in "They Were Expendable" (with Robert Montgomery, I think) and that just happens to be one of my favorite movies. I have several of his Westerns and war movies (Stagecoach, the Searchers, Red River, Rio Bravo, The Cowboys, The Green Berets, True Grit, The Flying Tigers, Sands of Iwo Jima).

I'm more partial to Gary Cooper and Clint Eastwood myself, but I have more John Wayne movies than Gary Cooper movies. I also give JW his due praise for being - as a few posters have already mentioned - good at being John Wayne, movie hero.

I will no longer comment on his hero credentials outside the movies, because I already said much in an earlier thread (the "brokeback" one).

As for the thespic abilities of our movie heroes, I'm a fan of Charlton Heston, too. I don't think JW was a bad actor, he was just boxed in by his own image or stereotype. But he died in "The Cowboys" (killed by Bruce Dern), so he was at least capable of taking risks with his chosen characters (some big stars won't accept roles where they get killed). And he was good in "The Searchers" and "True Grit", although I must add that the best member of the True Grit crew was the horse wrangler. That was the only Western I've seen where the stamina of horses is accounted for in the story.

Orson Welles once said that when you shoot a scene with Gary Cooper, either as his co-actor or director, you're never impressed with him much because he was quiet and ordinary, until you see the rushes, and then he dominates the screen. Well, John Wayne already dominates the screen. If he was a bigger man in real life than he was on screen, Dave, then I can't imagine how big that is.


John Wayne forever. Few JW are loved for there impression on the movie industry. They are just good, entertaining movies. I won't hit ya. No, I won't hit ya. The hell I won't.

Tim Morris

I am a JW fan as well,so are my sons (ages 8 & 9).I have to say in this day and time with all the crap on T.V.,it pleases me they (my sons) had rather watch a JW movie than the moral lacking crud that airs daily.JW did dominate the screen and his scenes,he stood for what was right and didn't back down.When he told Liberty Valance(Lee Marvin) to pick up his steak off the floor,I laughed so hard thinking, man this guy is larger than life.

Richard A. Smith

I'm not saying John Wayne *couldn't* act, I'm just saying that he didn't have the adaptability and range as actor that many of the truly great actors had. (Notice the use of past tense; Hollywood today consists mainly of spoiled primadonnas who can barely act all, Mel Gibson and Tom Selleck are two notable exceptions.) John Wayne truly is one of my heroes and was a great man.

The Searchers really is a great movie; certainly one the best of all time (in a similar category as The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and High Noon, with Gary Cooper). Those and many other films with John Wayne are part of my DVD collection.

I will consider your comment implying a lack of taste and culture as a "touche" for my comment about your looks.

JA Demko

I'll modify my earlier comments about John Wayne. In addition to portraying stalwart, manly characters he was also reasonably funny in comedic roles. McClintock! comes to mind, for example. In a way, he was the Arnold Schwarzenegger of his era. Arnold also has very limited range as an actor, but is entertaining in action and action/comedy roles.

Richard A. Smith

Well-put, Demko. I agree 100%

darren in deposit ny

In the hot barrels blog I said I liked D.P.'s material, but that all might change after the upstate NY remark in this blog!! What is your take on upstate NY,Dave? Just looking back through some old issues for rut tactics and read about the deer rifles in the august 2001 deer gear issue.And on page 52 there he was "the original death in long grass" drawing a fine steady bead in the deer woods of NY!!! Where was that Dave? Just curious..

Lora Finnegan

Hi Dave-I remember you and the Duke well from the July 4, 1976 trip. As a junior writer from Sunset, on my first press event, I sat next to you on the very bumpy flight into Cody. I was airsick most of the trip, but you were kindness itself as you helped me off the plane. And I thought they were cheering for you, too! It was wonderful to see John Wayne there, and great to read about your memories of the opening of the Firearms Museum. The BBHC is a treasure.

Jim in Mo.

I didn't have a computer back when this blog was created but I too have a story about John Wayne, but Ms. Lora F. you must divert your eyes.
Back when I was working full time everbody complained about the toilet paper in the reastrooms. Us workers complained and asked what was the name of the paper they bought. Some smart ass (my kinda guy) personnel guy said thats John Wayne toilet paper. We said, what! He said yea, its rough and tough and don't take no sh#t off nobody.

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