Hi, people! Thought you were rid of me, didn’t ya?
Well, I’m returning for a review of the TV series “1883”, concerning two particular parts – the cowboys’ herding, and the wagon train.
As some of you might recall, I was a cowboy myself for quite a few years on my Dad’s hobby farm (InTexas, anything less that 500 acres is a hobby farm).
I’ve also seen a LOT of movies and TV shows about cowboying and wagon trains. I took them for what they were – entertainment. But that didn’t keep me from being seriously annoyed at the bullshit way they all depicted the subject matter.
Now, I’m not going to expound on the acting, scripting, costuming, and story progress of “1883” – lots of people have already done that. It’s all superb.
Nope – I’m here to tell you that the herding and wagon train parts of the series were the most authentic I have ever seen in my life.
My fraternal grandparents had a lot to tell me about how that life really was – especially the crossing of the Brazos and Red rivers.
In the movies, the wagons are drawn over a smooth surface planted/poured 4 feet or so under the water. In real life (and 1883), it was rocks and mud. Wagons got stuck. Wheels broke. Sometimes they turned over, and everyone on the driver’s bench and inside the wagon drowned.
In 1883, Sam Elliot’s harsh words and orders to the German/Slavic immigrants (See the clip below) taking the long haul to Oregon were right on the money. Those not doing what he told them to (such as unloading most of their precious posessions and leaving them behind to lessen the wagons’ weights) – died.
Simple as that. It’s no surprise that the Oregon Trail was known as “the nation’s longest graveyard”. Deaths on river crossings exceeded “deaths from Indians” (statistics show only around 400 settlers were killed by natives between 1840 and 1860) , gangs of thieves, and anything else (with the exception of cholera).
The other thing I want to give the series accolades for is the cattle herding. Usually in the movies or TV, you get a bunch of hornless Herfords. Herfords were a relatively new (to Texas, anyway) import from England. So – cattle drives were mixtures of the valuable Herfords and native longhorns.
The longhorns bred with them, and eventually disappeared except for a few hundred on ranches. They were wild, mean, and had no compunction about using those incredibly long horns.
BUT – they had one redeeming feature that outweighed all the dangers.
They led the herd. Keep the longhorns going, and there’s no need for cowboys to ride on both sides of the entire herd. This is depicted correctly in the series, because guess what? They got longhorns and let them lead all the others.