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post The High Chaparral: Keep the Ranch Going

November 17th, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 9:21 am

The High Chaparral: Keep the Ranch Going
by Jane Rodgers

I thought my obsession was singular—what the UK’s Vicki Smith calls “Manomania.”

 “Not hardly,” as the Duke would put it. After navigating the High Chaparral website and Facebook pages for over a year, I must admit: I am not the only woman in Manolito’s life. I think my husband, Mike, is probably glad about this. But hey, I knew Mano long before I met Mike.

I was an awkward 10-year-old fifth grader freshly arrived in San Antonio, Texas, when The High Chaparral premiered in 1967. My older brother and sister had long since left home for college and marriage; I was the proverbial surprise baby over a decade younger than my siblings. My parents seemed ancient compared to the thirty-something moms and dads of my friends. No matter. We all loved westerns.

Mother never missed an episode of Gunsmoke or Bonanza; consequently, neither did I. We eagerly anticipated David Dortort’s long awaited second series, but none of us expected the gritty, realistic, culturally-mixed western featuring Cannons, Montoyas, and bunkhouse boys. And I certainly never expected to fall hard for Manolito, my first crush, so elegantly and charmingly portrayed by Mr. Henry Darrow.

I read his interviews, clipped his photos, and pasted them on my bulletin board. It did not matter that I was the age of Darrow’s daughter.

Those first fall shows hooked me for life. I winced when Victoria slapped Mano in “The Ghost of Chaparral,” laughed when Perlita flounced down the street in Victoria’s stylish Parisian hat in “Champion of the Western World,” peeked through my eyes when the Apaches whipped my hero in “Ride the Savage Land.” And even at the ripe old age of 11, I wondered why Mano fell for that cute little nun-to-be in “A Joyful Noise,” and why in the world she ever refused him. Only the Lord could beat out Mano, I guessed

We tuned in the first three seasons faithfully…and stuck with season four as much as we could. By then I was a worldly 13-year-old becoming interested in the real boys who were discovering girls did not have cooties. And NBC kept pre-empting the show inexplicably.  I remember being saddened by the death of Frank Silvera, Don Sebastian, and intrigued by the addition of Gilbert Roland in “The New Lion of Sonora,” arguably the best episode of the fourth season and certainly Mano’s finest hour.

Then NBC dropped the axe. Cancellation.

I wrote the network twice, only to receive the standard postcards thanking me for my interest. Fans had resurrected Star Trek; perhaps we could do the same for Chaparral. But it was not to be. We were left with reruns…and those aplenty in San Antonio, where the Montoyas were fan favorites with the city’s Hispanic majority. In that I was lucky. It seems “Ride the Savage Land” was on every other Saturday…although I am sure it simply assumed its slot in the rotation.

And then there were none.

No High Chaparral. Anywhere. Still, I never forgot. How could I?  Our brother and sister chihuahuas were named Manolito and Victoria. And although I discarded the pin-up photos of Henry as Manolito, I never forgot.

I knew I’d never die of thirst in the desert. I’d find a barrel cactus as John and Blue do in “Survival.” I knew I’d try to be as good an aunt to my nieces as Uncle Buck is to Blue. And I knew that my brother and I would always be as close as Victoria and Mano, even if he could occasionally pull a few Manolito-esque fast ones.

And I knew I’d never forget my first crush. Besides, Henry kept popping up in guest spots, series, and soaps…somehow his presence was comforting, a reminder of times gone by and a testament to the fact that you can’t keep a good man or actor down.

In 2011, I finally found the High Chaparral website online. Henry and Jan Pippins’s Lightning in the Bottlecame out in 2012. I downloaded it to my Kindle, devouring it on a Texas to Florida flight and rereading it on the return. The section on the end of Chaparral is painful. I skipped that on the way back. But the rest is a testimony to Henry’s resilience and desire to just keep working. We need more like Henry.

And then, wonder of wonders, INSP actually brought the series back to TV…at least most of the episodes. Yep, the cable network folks cut some parts we’d prefer they didn’t…but mostly the episodes are intact…and since decades had passed with High Chaparral inaccessible, I didn’t mind. Much. Then Penny McQueen and the reunion made the DVDs available…four Paypal purchases later, and like Scarlet O’Hara, I will never be hungry for High Chaparral again.   (ed. note: DVDs of The High Chaparral are available at http://thehighchaparralreunion.com/merchandise.shtml)

One thing remains: to attend a reunion. I don’t know if I’ll make it this year, but I know time’s a wasting and I better hop a flight to Arizona sooner rather than later. Meanwhile, the least I can do is to be a sponsor, so I’ve sent in my hundred bucks and am awaiting that coffee cup…unless I am able to pick it up in person.
(ed note: become a Reunion sponsor at: http://thehighchaparralreunion.com/register.shtml or join the Reunion Buckhouse at https://www.regonline.com/Register/Checkin.aspx?EventID=1646258 )

Back at the ranch, the High Chaparral Facebook pages and fan pages remain a joy to peruse…with the making of virtual and even real friends an added benefit. Not surprisingly, many fans are writers. And we’ve realized that what we loved as 10-year-olds has more than stood the test of time. Other western reruns now look phony, the stunt doubles obvious and the backgrounds staged.

High Chaparral remains gritty, realistic, and just plain great…even in high definition. Actually, Mano looks even better in high definition on a big screen TV rather than on our old 19-inch RCA, my family’s first color set. Not that I was complaining….

I’d like to think that David Dortort is pleased that his creation still evokes such emotion and interest around the world. His gift to us was The High Chaparral. Our gift is to keep the ranch going for all the Cannon, Montoya, and bunkhouse lovers to come. We should all consider coming home to the High Chaparral

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