post Another Recognizable Face of the Old West

October 26th, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 6:34 pm

by W. St.Germain

rattlesnakeThe Old West was full of danger and excitement. One of the most recognisable dangers of the time (still existing today) was the threat of the rattlesnake. You can’t watch too many episodes of any western, including High Chaparral, without encountering one. The observant viewer might have noticed that almost every time a rattler features, it’s the same snake we see coiled in the strike position. It doesn’t matter what position it was in a second earlier, the scene cuts and in goes the same shot. This animal nearly always ends up having its head shot off but it returns again when another coiled rattlesnake is required. When this happens, in our house someone always announces, ‘Leonard’s back!’ We’ve grown so used to this snake being resurrected that it somehow deserved a name. He’s like an old friend – or special guest. Since it looks sort of Leonardy to me, Leonard it is.*

Of course running footage of a coiled snake is a smart move. It’s much safer to cut to a pre-filmed animal than to put cast, crew or stock at risk by facing a live one whenever it was required. There were enough dangers that a snake might make an appearance during filming than to go around introducing more. According to Kent McCray, among the many animal wranglers who worked on the show, there included a rattlesnake wrangler! His job was to go out into the brush behind and around the Chaparral buildings where he would kill any rattlesnakes he encountered – every day before shooting could begin! Now there’s a job that deserved danger pay!

So what do we actually know about this beautiful but dangerous marvel of evolution? There are about 30 species of rattlesnake (excluding subspecies) and every one of them lives in the Northern Hemisphere. Given that nearly all of the world’s most venomous snake species are found in Australia, those of us in the Southern Hemisphere are quite happy to let the rattlers stay up there. The largest species is the Eastern Diamondback. It generally doesn’t grow much longer than 8 feet in the wild, often less. The Western Diamondback is common to Arizona and the one we see in High Chaparral. It is the largest of Arizona’s snakes and responsible for the greatest number of bites each year. There are more species of rattler (about 11) found in the Sonoran Desert than anywhere else.

rattlesnakeRattlesnakes belong to the Pit Viper family. There are two groups of vipers; Old World Vipers (Viperidae) and New World Vipers (Crotalus). The name pit viper comes from a ‘pit’ that is a bit below the nostrils. It is actually a sunken scale. Old World Vipers, (commonly called pitless vipers, true vipers or true adders) also have the sunken scale but lack the heat sensing ‘pit’ of the New World Vipers. This heat sensing pit lets them hunt in total darkness.

Rattlesnakes are New World Vipers therefore possess the heat detecting pit. With it, the snake can sense temperature differences in their surroundings down to a fraction of a degree. When they detect an increase in temperature, called a temperature ‘image’, it tells them that warm blooded prey is nearby. If the temperature image is too great the snake is warned that it may be in danger of becoming prey to a larger animal. The size of the image is a good indicator of the size of the animal emitting it.

Approximately 8,000 people are bitten by snakes in the US every year. About 75% of bites are attributed to rattlesnakes. Of those bitten by rattlesnakes, 72% are males. That should our give male readers something to think about. Could it be because males put themselves in positions where they are more likely to encounter a rattlesnake than females or are they less cautious than the ladies? Although the rattle is used as a warning device, not all rattlesnakes bother to sound this warning before attacking so care must always be taken if you see one. Even tightly coiled, a snake can strike about 2/3 of its body length. It’s understood that if you can see the rattle clearly, you are far too close.

The rattle is made of keratin. This is the same substance as our hair and nails. Baby snakes are born with a pre-button where the rattle will grow. The pre-button is lost with the first shed. After that, the first segment, or button, of the rattle will form. It is worth noting that the venom of baby rattlers is more concentrated than adult venom and that babies are far more aggressive. So don’t be fooled into thinking a juvenile poses less of a threat to you.

The rattle is empty. Each saucer shaped button sits nested in the next one, forming a rattling sound when shaken. The buttons are modified skin cells from the tail. Many people believe that you can tell the age of a snake by the number of buttons on the rattle. This is not so. Snakes often shed more than once a year and the brittle keratin buttons can break and fall off.

Have you ever wondered why you only see a rattlesnake’s long fangs when it strikes? Where are they the rest of the time, you might ask. The hollow fangs are connected to muscles that allow them to fold back when not in use. They lie parallel to the jaw line. Opening the mouth causes an instant muscle reaction that flips them forward. The fact that ‘dry strikes’ (strikes that do not release venom) occur suggests that the animal has control over the venom glands. These glands are at the base of the fang and when venom is released, it travels through the hollow fang with a syringe effect. Rattlesnakes can eat animals that weigh more than themselves. Their diet tends to be small mammals such as rats, mice, gophers and chipmunks. They also eat birds and amphibians. Hunting tends to occur at night since much of their prey is nocturnal. They too are hunted, often by owls, hawks, eagles and other snakes.

rattlesnakeWhen John accidentally steps on a rattlesnake in The Brothers Cannon episode, everyone’s fear for him is justified. Without anti venoms, or indeed nearby hospitals, the risk of John’s death was great. Rattlesnake venom is scary stuff. It is a potent blend of toxins that affect blood, enzymes – which break down and digest cells – and assorted other substances that cause muscles such as the heart and lungs to seize up or lose control and others that cause the blood pressure to drop. All rattlesnake bites should be taken seriously and attended to by a doctor as soon as possible. While many people survive the bites, numerous are left with lasting tissue damage, scarring and/or permanent disability. Even handling dead snakes can be dangerous since the fangs can release venom.

However, like all misunderstood predators, the rattlesnake plays an important role in nature. They provide a vital service. Without them, populations of vermin, like rats and mice would increase. With that, more spread of disease. Their prey eats valuable crops as well. Unless threatened, most rattlesnakes avoid humans. Many bite victims approached too close for the animal’s comfort so if you see one, give it plenty of room to escape. Many bites result from accidentally stepping on a snake so take care watching where you walk in snake territory. It is an easy enough mistake to make. Like John did, I once stepped on a large venomous brown snake, failing to see it basking on the sandy ground where I walked. It was easily over six feet long and I walked right over it. Snakes can be right under your nose and you can miss them. Fortunately for me, it was a dry strike so I lived to write this article where I hope I have helped you to better understand this beautiful creature.

*For any Leonards out there, please note that this is not intended as an insult. I think rattlesnakes are amazing and beautiful creatures so it is more in the line of a compliment.

Did You Know? A rattlesnake can shake its rattle up to 60 times per second!

Rattlesnake Anyone?

Although rattlesnakes were and still are a danger to people, they also provided a meal to many an Old Wester. Lots of the snakes were simply skinned and fried while more adventuresome chefs tended to prefer them in a chili. Since the people of the Old West often ate these snakes, we thought it might be fun to include a recipe.

Thanks to our own Rusty LaGrange, we have some information about cooking rattlesnake to share with you.
However, be warned! This recipe is included more as a curiosity than as something for you to try. Handling and preparing rattlesnake poses very real dangers. The dead snakes can continue to writhe and/or bite for as much as several hours after they are killed. The head, once removed, can also still bite. This is caused by reflex actions in the muscles. The snake is not consciously attacking but that doesn’t make the bite any less dangerous.

We recommend that you visit the site below for a full list of warnings and rules regarding the handling of rattlesnake for a meal.
According to Rusty, any seasoning will do though she prefers Cajun spice. My research also suggested that hot spices are popular with this meat.

  • Rusty’s General Tips
    • Don’t overcook it and make it too tough to eat.
    • Rinse the snake meat and cut it into 4 inch lengths, simmer it in butter and lemon to soften the meat. Simmering in milk doesn’t seem to matter. Butter tastes better. Like sautéing fish.
    • Dredge the pieces in flour, egg and light mix of spices.
    • Mix with Cajun spice, parsley and a bit of garlic powder. Toss the pieces back into the frying pan on medium heat. You have to watch it closely so you don’t crisp it too much. There’s so little meat on the body that it gets stringy.
    • Remember that it’s full of spiky little spine bones all the way through, so you’ll have to pull the meat away from the bones with a fork.

    Rusty’s Fried Rattlesnake
    1 egg, beaten
    salt to taste
    ½ tsp. powdered garlic
    3/4 cup milk
    1 tsp. pepper
    flour to dredge
    1 rattlesnake cut into 4-inch pieces
    ½ tsp. Cajun seasoning

  • Cut snake meat into 4-inch lengths. Beat egg and milk. Mix spices, except Cajun spice, with flour in a separate bowl. Preheat cast iron pan with cooking oil. Dip snake into egg mixture and then in flour/ spices mixture, then sprinkle lightly with Cajun spice and place it in medium hot oil. Cook until the white-ish meat changes color to a gray-brown and begins to crisp on the edges. Place fried snake pieces on a paper towel to drain. The snake will cool down quickly so eat as soon as you talk yourself into it!

post Shared Photos

October 26th, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 6:33 pm

Shared Photos

Dwayne Sharp contacted us to generously share some of his family photos collected from his grandfather, Bob Sharp. Bob worked on the Tucson set.

High Chaparral was the last show he worked on before passing away with cancer, and Dwayne shared a family story. “Grandpa Sharp was always about work, and all the sets he worked on. On a shoot on High Chaparral, the Boom Truck, or some type of Rig, lost its brakes, and my Grandfather, Bob Sharp was at the wheel, and drove it down a hill, backwards, with out BRAKES to safety. I hope this helps out on who my Grandpa was on the HC. set. We, the Sharp family are very happy to remember HC , the actors, and the crew will remember my grandpa.”

Look closely at the signed photo by Mark Slade, and you’ll see a reference to this story about driving a truck backwards, down a hill with no brakes.

Thank you to the Sharp family for generously sharing their grandfather’s photos.

Cm Mitchell

Leif Erickson

Linda Cristal

Mark Slade

Bob Hoy

Bob Sharp

Devoted HC fan Woody Irvine writes:

Don sebastian and victoria“I hope you are well and that everything is going good for you. Thank you for the recent HC newsletter. I always look forward to receiving it!!!!!

I just wanted to send you a vintage photo that I have in my TV western album from famous TV westerns. What is so special about this photo is that it is the one that local TV stations across the country received for their advertising of their respective affiliate stations (ABC, NBC, and CBS.) Wow, this is way before ALL the TV stations and channels we have today!!! I believe that it could have been used in TV Guide also, as well as the other local TV magazines that were produced all across the country.

One of my favorite happens to be from “The High Chaparral!” It is of both Frank Silvera and Linda Cristal as their respective characters, Don Sebastian and Victoria.

I love this photo and it is my favorite of Frank and Linda. There is so much affection between them and it makes me miss Mr. Silvera even more to this day! ”

Thank you Woody, for generoulsy sharing from your private collection with everyone!

post Nightfall by Susan McCray

October 26th, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 6:32 pm

SUSAN’S FAVORITE FRAGRANCE…NIGHTFALL the first breath of springtime, Nightfall by Susan McCray speaks to life’s sweetest possibilities. Made from the highest quality, all natural ingredients, Nightfall by Susan McCray is the alluring new fragrance that captivates the senses.

Reminiscent of the musical composition for which it is named, Nightfall by Susan McCray is a delightful melody of white florals, accompanied by notes of fresh citrus.

Its French crystal bottle capped by a Rhinestone-trimmed cap evokes the elegance and style of the fragrance within. Packaged in a customized perfume box with patterns of nature that address its purity, the scent is simple but classically elegant, fresh yet complex. Nightfall by Susan McCray enhances a woman’s individual style, her very presence and sophistication.


Susan McCray“Does the world need another fragrance?” a good friend asked Susan McCray, the woman who was Michael Landon’s long-time casting director for his iconic shows.

“No,” she said with a smile. “But it needs this one.”

Susan McCray was just 8 years old when she began experimenting with perfumes. Her mother, Francesca from whom Susan inherited her keen sense of style and appreciation of scents, would smile about how her daughter would one day launch a fragrance line.That however, would have to come later … since her daughter’s successful Hollywood career, for which she was very proud, would come first.

Susan worked closely with Michael Landon, serving as the casting director on his shows, including Little House on the Prairie, and Highway to Heaven, as well as other audience favorites: Hawaii 5-0, The High Chaparral, Father Murphy and numerous movies for television including The Diary of Anne Frank. McCray is now getting back to a childhood dream: Producing a fabulous fragrance line. And that she has done, with Nightfall by Susan McCray.

Influenced by her Academy Award-winning composer father, Harry Sukman, her beautifully talented mother, Francesca Paley, and surrounded by the love of her friends, family and fans, Susan’s latest creation is the culmination of her sterling success story and a life-long dream come true.


Visit Nightfall and Susan on Facebook!

Nightfall by Susan McCray on Facebook

post Linda Cristal, Cary Grant, and Baseball

October 26th, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 6:15 pm

by Linda Cristal and Tina Sweet Linda Cristal

I’m sure just the title of this story got your attention. When you think about Linda Cristal and Cary Grant, your next thought doesn’t immediately turn to baseball! I checked in with Linda prior to the opening week of football season. And because my football team would be playing their arch rivals on Sunday Night football, I was very excited about it, and our discussion turned to sports. Linda is a big fan of soccer and basketball. She hates baseball – “because it is boring, too slow!” However, she has been to several baseball games. Why would she go to a baseball game when she doesn’t like baseball? That’s when she told me the most wonderful story about Cary Grant and baseball. For her fans in Argentina and South America, she graciously included a Spanish translation. Also for her fans in Argentina, Linda tells me she saw a member of the press from Buenos Aires last month in Beverly Hills. They were quite taken with her. They told her she looked incredibly young and beautiful with skin like a china doll! Spanish Translation from Linda Cary Grant. El hombre mas buen mozo y mas carismatico del mundo! Estabamos los dos trabajando en los estudios de la Universal. Yo, como una principiante recien “importada” de Mexico. El como toda su vida como un superstar. El departamento de publicidad del estudio decidio usar su figura publica alrededor del mundo para avanzar el lanzamiento de su nueva estrella. Resultado: una sesion de fotos en el “back lot” con Cary abrazandome, mirandome a los ojos como solo Cary Grant puede hacerlo. Nuestros labios casy rozandose. Inolvidable! Al dia siguiente me envio una nota a mi camerino para invitarme a ver un partido de baseball. “Baseball?” me pregunte. Ja ja… Odio el baseball estan aburrido, tan lento! Pero quien en su sana razon le dice “no” a Cary Grant? El hombre es un mago del romance. Ademas, cuando yo lo miraba durante el partido lo veia en mi imaginacion en cada una de sus peliculas enamorando a Grace Kelly, Ingrid Bergman, solo que yo tomaba el lugar de cada una de ellas. Un partido de baseball Dos partidos de baseball Tres partidos de baseball… Hasta que un dia Gracias a Dios tuvo que irse a locaciones y se acabaron los partidos. Pero empezaron las cartas los llamados por telefono… Y quien le dice que no A Cary Grant! English Translation for the rest of us, as told by Linda Cristal: “Cary Grant—the most handsome and charismatic man in the world! We were both working at Universal Studios. I was new in town, recently “imported” from Mexico, and he was a superstar!” The studio publicity department decided to use his public figure around the world to advance the launch of their new star. As a result, there was a photo shoot on the back lot with Cary embracing me, looking into my eyes as only Cary Grant can – our lips almost brushing easily. Unforgettable!” “The following day, he sent a note to my dressing room inviting me to a baseball game. Baseball? I asked myself. I hate baseball – it is boring, so slow! But who in their right mind says “no” to Cary Grant! The man is a magician at romance. When I looked at him during the game I saw in him in his movies making love to Grace Kelly, Ingrid Bergman, but instead of them, I put myself in their place.” “One baseball game, two baseball games, three baseball games… Until one day, thank God, I had to go on locations and the baseball games were over. Then the letters and phone calls started. I was travelling all over the country – 28 locations in 30 days. He sent letters all over the place trying to locate me.” She still has a letter from Cary Grant she framed asking “Where are you?” linda cristalNow… the rest of the story It sounds like it ended there. Cary went his way; Linda went her way. Until Linda’s daughter-in-law found this cool video from the Hollywood Foreign Film Awards. Her date at the award show was none other than guess who—Cary Grant! Click here to view the video: Linda at Hollywood Foreign Film Awards, from archives. You know what they say about inquiring minds. I saw the video clip and wanted to hear more – obviously there was more to this story! A dear fan of Linda’s from Argentina contacted her. Linda told her the baseball story, and that prompted more questions. How could she have resisted cooing from Cary Grant? What happened? So as Paul Harvey would say, “Here is the rest of the story!” Linda CristalLinda said, “One of my dear fans in Argentina sent me a letter with a dynamite question! The answer is in a Pandora’s Box… I think. She asked why the relationship with Cary Grant did not go on after he searched for me everywhere under the sun. She couldn’t understand how I could resist his cooing. I was travelling with one of my films doing 28 cities in one month and had left after his ‘introduction to baseball.’ I didn’t find the answer in Pandora’s elements. I didn’t have to open the box. I knew why.” “At the time, I was about to marry a very special man, Yale Wexler, who now is the father of my two sons. We had met at the same time, and Cary looked ominous to me with his passion for baseball. But now I ask myself, ‘If I had to decide it all over again, and my marriage to Yale had not been eminent (just a week away) or Cary’s baseball habit, what would my choice have been? Both men were so handsome, charismatic, wealthy and special.” Linda feels very blessed with choice she made. While Linda and husband, Yale Wexler, were only married for 6 years, they remained very close friends. What would it have taken for Linda to choose Cary Grant? “If I had chosen Cary he would have had to sign an iron tight prenup to extradite baseball out of his life forever!!!” Looks like Cary would have had to switch to soccer or basketball! Linda Cristal on Facebook FacebookLinda is now on Facebook! Send her a friend invitation and post a message on her wall. There are several other pages that pay tribute to Linda that are really great, but this is the only page where you can correspond directly with Linda Cristal!

post Reunion at the Ranch in 2011 Lodge on the Desert Official Hotel Lodge on the desert

October 26th, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 6:14 pm

When celebrity guests and fans meet in Tucson for the 2011 High Chaparral Reunion, the official hotel will be Lodge on the Desert, a classic Tucson boutique hotel. Originally a family residence, Lodge on the Desert first opened for business in 1936. Following a $15M dollar renovation and expansion in 2008/2009, this 103-room hotel situated on five acres in mid-town Tucson will offer a special High Chaparral Reunion rate of $99 a night. (with all the required government taxes and fees the total cost will be $113.92). An Arizona landmark and Tucson tradition renowned for its intimate residential setting and genial hospitality, Reunion guests will discover pathways meandering among regal palms, native cacti and manicured lawns against the backdrop of the Santa Catalina Mountains. Lodge on the desertWith charming rooms and spacious suites (suites are $20 more per night) Reunion fans are sure to enjoy the authentic Southwestern feeling. Lodge’s mid-town location is convenient to Tucson International Airport and Old Tucson Studios. Fans who require airport transfers just need to request information when making a reservation, and Lodge will provide contact information. Rond trip per person airport transfers are typically around $45 per person with one of the professional transportation companies.

post The High Chaparral Reunion 2011 Reunion at the Ranch October 21-23, 2011

October 26th, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 6:13 pm

High Chaparral RanchMark your calendar and plan to attend the 2011 High Chaparral Reunion in Tucson, Arizona on October 21, 22, and 23.

Every two years fans host a unique event for the artists who brought the Cannons, Montoyas and Bunkhouse Boys to life. It’s a true reunion for the cast and crew, and a one of a kind chance for fans of the show to meet their heroes.

Past guests include Henry Darrow (Manolito Montoya), Don Collier (Sam Butler), Rudy Ramos (Wind), Ted Markland (Reno), and Kent McCray and Susan McCray (producer and casting) —along with a long list of guest stars, production and crew members.

The weekend is filled with one-on-one time with the stars, backstage stories, camaraderie and fun.

A highlight of the event is the Reunion at the Ranch, when we reunite The High Chaparral cast, crew and fans at the original Cannon ranch house, located at Old Tucson Studios. During the 2009 Reunion an unbelieveable number of former HC family came to meet fans, reminisce and marvel at the hundreds of people on the set. “It’s just like the old days,” was heard often.

Watch upcoming editions of The High Chaparral Newsletter and The High Chaparral Reunion website for details about registration costs and all the planned events.

See you in Tucson!