post History Makers:  The High Chaparral and Buffalo Soldiers

June 13th, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 10:26 am

by Marianne Rittner-Holmes

All High Chaparral fans know that one of John Cannon’s unspoken prime directives (a’ la Star Trek Federation) was that all people were to be treated equally, regardless of color, race or ethnicity.  Only one thing set men apart to Big John:  they were either shooting at him or they weren’t, they either wanted peace or they waged war.

That ’s how the characters judged a person on the set.  However, behind the scenes, the decision makers on the show were the ones who cemented The High Chaparral as an important and realistic series by insisting on casting and portraying ethnicities with ethnic actors and actresses.  People like David Dortort, Kent McCray, William F. Claxton, Buck Houghton, James Schmerer, Don Balluck, Walter Black and, yes, the entire cast as well, made it happen, embraced it, and left their mark in history for it.

So, the second season episode called “The Buffalo Soldiers” should not have been a surprise.  Touting Yaphet Kotto as the stoic and more-than-capable Sgt Maj Creason, leader of the 10th Cavalry unit, the renowned Buffalo soldiers rode into Tucson.  They came at the request of the townsfolk to establish martial law until the local town boss McCoy Hilliard (Morgan Woodward) was corralled.  The show’s climax is a cinematic spectacular display in which the Buffalo soldiers perform some outstanding horsemanship maneuvers and literally round up the henchmen and return the town’s control back to the residents.

The episode aired on Nov. 22, 1968, the fifth anniversary of JFK’s assassination, and two years after the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1966.  It featured members from the 10th Cavalry Regiment from Los Angeles, which was formed in 1966.

Flash ahead 45 years later.  Those of you who attended the Old Tucson visit on the Saturday of our recent High Chaparral Reunion were probably thrilled to see a contingent of Buffalo soldiers on hand.  However, instead of declaring martial law, they were there to greet you at the Soundstage 2 door as you arrived for lunch.  And what a treat it was.

The men are part of the Territory of Arizona Buffalo Soldiers, one of several Buffalo soldier groups in the state.  Spokesman Charles Young said there are a total of 25 to 30 men in the various units who are proud to represent the Buffalo soldiers and who also eager to educate all who will listen.

“I enjoy sharing with the public,” said Young.  “Did you know there are a number of Buffalo soldier Medal of Honor winners?  Did you know that Gen. Black Jack Pershing got his nickname because he was the commander of the 10th Cavalry at one time?” he asks.  “History doesn’t always tell things the way they happened. Teddy Roosevelt took San Juan Hill,” Young continues, “but the 9th Cav gave cover to allow him to go up the hill.”

According to Young, after the Civil War, most of the soldiers returned home and the military was depleted.  Congress reorganized the Armed Forces by creating two black mounted units, known as the 9th and 10th (Colored) Cavalry, and four ground units that were eventually combined into the 24th and 25th (Colored) Infantry.  Many of the units were sent out West to deal with bandits and Indian uprisings.

“If it weren’t for the Buffalo soldiers,” Young continues, “we may never have settled New Mexico and Arizona.”  Indeed, history shows that the 9th and 10th Cavalries were stationed in Kansas, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and Montana (and many more places) and fought battles against Geronimo, Tularosa, Victorio and other Apache chiefs, as well as the Cheyenne.

According to Young, three different theories all point to the Indians as the originators of the Buffalo soldiers’ nickname.  “The first is that their hair reminded the Native Americans of the buffalo,” said Young.  “The second is that in Montana, the Native Americans saw the soldiers wearing buffalo coats.  The third version is that the Native Americans knew the soldiers fought tenaciously like the revered buffalos that were central to their survival.  After all, these soldiers were former slaves,” said Young, “and would go toe-to-toe with anyone.”

In addition to staving off hostile attacks, Buffalo soldiers helped protect travelers and mail deliveries, and were touted as some of the earliest park rangers.  They are also credited with opening hundreds of miles of new roads as well as stringing hundreds of miles of telegraph wire.  The 9th and 10th Cavalries were decommissioned in the mid-1940’s and 50’s and re-commissioned later as racially integrated units.

One thing is for sure, The High Chaparral cast and crew recognized how special a place the Buffalo soldiers had in history.  Of its 98 episodes, “The Buffalo Soldiers” is the only one which included a tribute to those depicted in the story.  While actors salute and otherwise show respect on camera, Cameron Mitchell’s voice speaks the following words as the mounted men in blue leave town:

The Buffalo Soldiers of yesterday were the stuff of which legends are made and hope rekindled. That hope has been translated into action by these men, the Buffalo Soldiers of today, who carry on in the tradition of the famed 10th Cavalry, determined that the patriotic spirit of that great troop must live and must flourish so that all of us can recall and cherish the historic and continuing contribution of the Black American to the life and progress of our Nation.

The vision of those who made The High Chaparral will likewise be remembered for their bravery to do the right thing at a time when it was not necessarily popular.  Ready and Forward! Is the motto of the 10th Cav.  Let’s see how far we can go…

For more information about the Territory of Arizona Buffalo Soldiers, contact Charles Young, or visit an affiliated group at

For more information about The High Chaparral, you’re already in the right place.

post A Remembrance of Ron Janoff from Susan McCray 

June 13th, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 10:25 am

>Our heart’s are broken today. Our dear friend Ron Janoff has passed away. After a gallant fight over the past year his body and mind couldn’t fight any longer. Kent has known Ron for over 45 years and I for almost 40. Kent first met Ron when he was working at Old Tucson in public relations. We were filming The High Chaparral series at the time. During the years, we have had more fun together than anyone can imagine. There were cruises, train trips, parties and of course those annual gin rummy games. The stories and experiences we shared were filled with laughter, and yes, there were some tears.

There will be a celebration of his life at his favorite Restaurant in Tucson next week. It is exactly what he would have wanted, a get together so all can spend time telling stories and having some laughs and a toast or two or three or more to Ron’s life.

He was truly a special man and he was loved and enjoyed by everyone who knew him. Kent and I loved him as family and we will miss him very much.

Michael Landon wrote a special “Little House on the Prairie” script.. Within it is a poem that was read at Mike’s service by his daughter Leslie. It seems appropriate to share it, for we should all remember Ron with smiles and laughter.

Remember Me

Remember me with smiles and laughter,
For that’s the way I’ll remember you all.
If you can only remember me with tears,
Then don’t remember me at all.
~ Michael Landon


post The High Chaparral Reunion March 20-23, 2014!

June 13th, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 10:24 am

The High Chaparral Reunion

March 20-23, 2014!

Join us at the Cannon ranch house in Tucson, AZ on March 20-23 for The High Chaparral Reunion. You’ll meet cast members, talk with the people who made the best TV western, walk through the place where it was filmed, and hear backstage stories from cast and crew.

It’s a one of a kind experience that you have to experience yourself to truly understand.

This year’s Reunion is unlike any other with several special events like:

  • Rudy Ramos premiering Geronimo, Life on the Reservation, a play by Janelle Meraz-Hooper.
  • Producer Kent McCray‘s presentation on how a script gets broken down and arranged for daily shooting.
  • Casting Call with Susan McCray – selected fans will participate in a casting session with Susan, then some will be cast to appear in a reading of a scene with the stars.
  • Wild West Festival at Old Tucson, Sponsor’s Dinner, one on one time with the stars, and much more.

42 fans have already booked their dream trip to Tucson and The High Chaparral – don’t miss your seat!

Visit for info, and register today.

post Reunion Memories

June 13th, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 10:12 am

by Michele

How do I summarize what is the best part of the 2013 High Chaparral Reunion? As with other attendees stories, I too had a difficult year in 2012. The Reunion was the highlight and the reward for surviving a devastating medical problem. When I look at pictures of myself one year ago, I’m unrecognizable. When I look at pictures of me taken at the 2013 Reunion. I see the person that was hiding inside, wanting to come back out. I had an appointment with a doctor today. We are all amazed at the journey I took over the last 14 months. The report from my doctor was in part, very encouraging. But there was that stubborn fly in the proverbial ointment that she regretfully had to tell me more surgery is ahead. Supposedly minor, but as I’ve seen in past medical issues, I never do anything the “normal” way nor is anything “minor” when it comes to my history. So, another journey begins

As I mentally prepare for this next journey, the medical team might wonder.why I wear such a grin. A High Chaparral Reunion usually means laughing non stop, eating great food and embracing wonderful friends; long time friends, and new friends made at the 2011 Reunion. I’ll be remembering it all. My smile will be because I’m remembering the wonderful gentle hug from Rudy, the warmth he always greets people with. How his performance of “Geronimo” was so powerful, so moving it left everyone in the room spell bound. I’ll remember how wonderful Henry and Lauren looked, how great to see them again. I love Henry’s laugh! You just feel it all the way through. I’ll remember Kent & Susan McCray’s sincere thanks and appreciation for us, the fans! They are the ones we are so grateful for. And I’ll remember Don Collier. His endless, wonderful stories, his deep voice, his welcoming kiss, and his singing at the White Stallion Ranch. What a night that was to start our wonderful weekend. I don’t usually eat much beef, but I could have eaten a side of steer that night. Their food was outstanding, the beauty of the ranch magical, the company at my table were friends from all over the country. It was a night I’ll always remember. The best thing, the biggest smile was Sunday morning when I knew I had the highest bid on Bob Hoy’s hat at the silent auction. I’m now the current caretaker of this most wonderful piece of memorabilia. How I admire that man and all he stood for. His wonderful portrayal of Joe Butler was of a man who was loyal to family, friends and to the Boss. Usually the most quiet of the crew, always brave in battle, always the strongest in his horsemanship, his readiness to protect the brand and his fellow bunkhouse boys, and his resolve to never back off from what needs to be taken care of. No matter how hard it might seem. His portrayal of Joe Butler, and the way Bob lived his own life, continues to inspire me.

Right now, I face another medical issue to “take care of”. I’ll try to go through it with grace and with a smile, silently remembering all the wonderful hours of the 2013 Reunion. Remembering Joe Butler would never back off from what needs to be taken care of, no matter what. We didn’t know how the 2011 Reunion could be topped, but thanks to Penny, Ginny and the wonderful countless volunteers, they found a way. Thank you, thank you, thank you all. I love my fellow Chaparral family. Penny hit the nail on the head when she said this time together isn’t a conference or a convention. It’s a family Reunion. Times spent with all of you are the very best. There is never enough time to spend together with my High Chaparral family. I am already planning our trip to the 2014 Reunion and that is bringing another big smile.

Vaya con Dios to all,
Michele Simmons