August 30th, 2010
by W. St.Germain
Just before The High Chaparral comes on television, I am lucky enough to have The Virginian air as well. In a recent episode there was a scene where The Virginian (do we ever find out this guy’s name?) shoots and kills a man and would himself have been killed were it not for two federal agents who shoot the other men who are after him. Lots of shooting! When it’s over, the agents introduce themselves and tell The Virginian to inform the sheriff that they said it was an act of self defense. The agents don’t even escort him to the sheriff’s office. They simply send him with the message, trusting he will do it. I thought wow, have times ever changed. Nowadays he’d be taken into custody, paperwork would be completed in triplicate, forensic teams would be photographing the body, seizing The Virginian’s gun for testing… the lot. Yes, times have changed.
Then High Chaparral comes on and I am reminded that some things never change. It’s remarkable. This and other westerns lay quietly in our memories for years. After decades in the dark, they have traveled through the corridors of time and caught up with us in the 21st Century where I find myself nodding and thinking, ‘Oh yes, been there, done that.’ We are reminded that love and struggle, faced by families are one of the constants of the universe.
Blue and Manolito discuss responsibility, consequences and fathers in this
video clip from To Stand for Something More
Pretty much every HC episode has something I can relate to as I’m sure you can, too. Consider To Stand for Something More. How timeless is that one! Blue finally gets the chance to run the Chaparral for a day while Big John, Buck and Mano leave to deliver horses to the army. Fired with enthusiasm, he learns the hard way that leadership isn’t just about giving orders, one must lead by example. Blue realizes, after trying to express his regrets about being hard on Pedro, Joe and Felipe, that with the right to approve privileges come the consequences of what might happen when you do. John’s prize stallion is stolen.
We see our own children rising to new challenges in Blue’s struggles. We are also reminded that one can love and be loved by step-parents as much as by our biological parents. We see this when Victoria tries to help Blue with his struggles that day. Indeed, we see Victoria’s devotion to her husband and his family every week, shattering the myth of the wicked step-parent. We feel John’s pain and regret when he humiliates Blue in front of others after he learns that his stallion is missing and that Victoria and the ranch were endangered by having no staff present. How often have we embarrassed or lost patience with our children then regretted it? John reminded us that even the best of parents sometimes gets it wrong. We are only human and so are our children.
The Reluctant Deputy has Blue facing responsibility again. Unlike the previous episode, this time he didn’t want the job. Watching Blue’s efforts to deal with his unwanted duties in the most mature way possible, we again see our own children struggle with new responsibilities. When Buck and Mano sneak out of jail to help Blue without his knowledge, we smile at the things we’ve quietly done to help our children. How often have we secretly tried to ease some of the burdens they carry? Only we know we did it but it made a difference. This often helped to build their confidence as well.
In A Good Sound Profit, John comes across as the villain when he offers to supply Mexican rebels with guns, ammunition, horses and saddles. The whole town turns against him and to his heartbreak, so do Victoria, Buck and Mano. Most of the bunkhouse boys also suspect his motives. Naturally Victoria and Mano are hurt to think John would put profit before morals. Only Wind and Sam trust John’s judgment, never losing faith that there must be method to his madness. When we discover that John was assisting the Mexican government in revealing who funded the rebels, another lesson is learned. If we have always trusted a person’s judgment, they deserve the benefit of the doubt when we question them.
There’s hardly an episode of High Chaparral where I don’t identify an issue my family has faced, with a problem being faced by the Cannons. Oh, I don’t mean concerns like dealing with horse thieves or Indian raids but things like trying to guide and nurture without pushing. What about the sadness we feel when our children didn’t listen to our advice and suffer for it. Like Mano’s comment that one can’t put a cow’s head on a dog’s body, we as parents must learn that we can’t put an old head on young shoulders. Sometimes we must let children learn the hard way and I often wonder which of us suffers more.
Another noteworthy feature of with this show is how Mano evolves. He starts out as someone who isn’t entirely likeable. Through Don Sebastian we learn that he is what might be called a bit of a layabout. He really doesn’t do much besides drink, chase pretty women and hang around waiting to inherit his father’s estate. Then he is sent to the Chaparral to ensure Victoria is treated appropriately. Once there he is dealing with new people who haven’t labeled him. Here we are taken back to the expression I think, therefore I am.
Prior to arriving at the Cannon Ranch, Mano was treated like a lazy nuisance but in his father’s defense, he behaved like one. However, I suspect Don Sebastian’s opinion of his son troubled Mano. Then he is placed in a new situation where people start to count on him, expect him to work like the rest of them and trust that he will. Over time, he does. He makes new friends and the transformation is wonderful. The people at the Cannon ranch believed in Mano so he started believing in himself. We are reminded that showing a bit of faith in them can make a difference to how our loved ones see themselves.
High Chaparral had wonderful writers. They never preached yet managed to drive home timeless messages. I take comfort in knowing that in this age of globalization, high-speed technology (that is obsolete before I’ve even worked out how it operates) and the other difficulties that come with modern life, the problems faced at the Cannon ranch are still relevant and we can still learn from them. This is why we think of the characters as our friends. Yes time flies, yet some things remain the same.