April 13th, 2014
By Joyce Rice
I am part of the “younger generation,” as some of y’all call it. Born in the 80’s, I grew up watching the old movies, westerns, musicals, comedy—The Classics! Thanks to my parents, Ken and Jeanette Rice. They knew that if their children were going to be entertained by television, it was going to be with good honest gunfighting! Plus, these old westerns were not only entertaining, but also had a moral to their stories. (Gunsmoke, Have Gun Will Travel, The Big Valley, Hopalong Cassidy, Gene Autry, Roy Rogers were some of the shows I watched—and, of course, The High Chaparral.)
I didn’t know about The High Chaparral until a few years ago. It was not on prime time TV but was like the other western reruns on other channels. My Dad was watching it one night when I asked him what this show was. He told me the name and said it was made in the 1960’s. Cool!
Uncle Buck became my very favorite Uncle on the show. I also liked Manolito and Blue Boy. I was a love-struck girl in her 30’s, having fallen in love with some actors who, unfortunately, had already passed away. How sad to find that out—but it made me do some research on the internet. That’s when I found out there was a High Chaparral Reunion.
I needed a vacation, right? Really! Yes, I needed time off to travel to this Reunion. I signed myself and my parents up to attend. After all, they would want to go—they’re the ones who introduced me to it!
So, I planned and scheduled the events we wanted to attend: White Stallion Dinner, Q&A sessions, autographs, meet the stars, Old Tucson Studios! This was too good to be true, but it was almost a year away. What was I to do in the meantime? Watch reruns of the show, of course! I watched those reruns over and over. Then I found the Facebook groups with other High Chaparral Fans and a group of fans called The Buffalo Girls.
There were also sites for Cameron Mitchell, Henry Darrow, Mark Slade, and Linda Cristal. These groups of people also loved westerns in general, but especially The High Chaparral. I finally found people who held the same interests as I had! Throughout this time, I made a lot of friends that would soon be attending the Reunion!
Don Collier also interacted on these sites. I was impressed that a famous actor would take time to speak with us guys and gals online! Way cool! Way cool! To have someone that well-known take time to spend with individuals was fascinating to me.
As the Reunion got closer and became more of a reality, I got more excited and told everyone at work where I was going and who I was going to see. LOL. I was finally going to meet the famous stars of The High Chaparral and friends I had made on Facebook!
March 2014 finally arrived. My parents and I drove up to Tucson and arrived after about three days of traveling. I thought we’d never arrive at the hotel. Then, we saw Casino de Sol standing in the desert by itself. We had arrived! As soon as we walked into the hotel, I was looking around for the stars of the show: Henry, Don, Rudy and the McCrays. I didn’t see anyone at that time, but we had just arrived, so I was okay for the moment.
Later that night, I went walking around the hotel and saw Marianne Rittner-Holmes sitting with a group of people. (I had never met her in person but knew who she was right off from Facebook.) Then, I realized she was sitting with Don Collier, Penny McQueen, Stan Ivar and the McCray’s! OMG! I found them! What do I do next? Do I just walk up and interrupt their conversation and introduce myself as a love-struck fan? Not gonna happen.
It took me two to three times of walking back and forth before I got my nerve up. Finally, I walked toward Marianne and introduced myself. She then introduced me to Don. I was excited, all smiles and nervous, so of course my hands were ice cold. LOL. The first thing Don Collier said was, “Wow, your hands are cold.” I could have died—in a good way, though! I was then introduced to Rudy Ramos who just about melted my cold hands. He was so gracious and kind. I hugged Penny McQueen who was just as sweet as she can be!
I didn’t see Henry Darrow and wife Lauren until the next morning. I found him sitting in a chair in the lobby area. I walked up to him. He smiled. Then he did something I didn’t expect: He hugged me and gently kissed me on the cheek and hand. Ok, I melted right then and there, blushing—oh, yes! Mr Darrow is such a kind, gentle man with a big heart! His wife Lauren was very kind and loved meeting people. I would have loved to spend more time speaking with her.
That night we went to the White Stallion dinner. We rode on a school bus—boy, that brought back memories. The ranch was filled with tall cactus and shrubs. It was like we were already on the set of the show! The food was delicious! Good times with friends! The people were wonderful—as if I already knew them. The lady taking pictures was so friendly and she took very good photos.
The next day was the opening of the Reunion. As the Reunion team was putting finishing touches on the meeting room, I was put in charge of “guard duty” to ask the fans to wait a few moments until all was ready for them. Holding Buffalo Gals at bay was a tough job, though (smile), because everyone was gung-ho and ready to go in!
The Reunion was finally here. Friends, family, stars, and stuntmen all in one big room! Wow! It even got more surreal when we went to Old Tucson Studios and actually walked where Uncle Buck, Blue Boy, Manolito, Sam, Joe and the rest of the Bunkhouse Boys walked, survived and lived. Taking a picture under the High Chaparral sign was proof that it was all very real!
While I was getting a photo autographed, Don Collier had a shoot-out in front of the High Chaparral ranch house—too cool! All of the stars were so personable. Although I didn’t go on the trail ride, those who did said it was great fun.
The best memories were mine to cherish: the ones spent with family plus my new friends from Facebook and those I met while at the Reunion, meeting the stars of The High Chaparral and how they melted this girl’s heart!