How to Survive a Western


Ah, westerns, a classic American movie genre set at a time and place when everyone had to do everything themselves, especially when it came to fighting Indians or regular law enforcement. A time of cowboys and Indians, outlaws and gunfighters, and a time when people from far and wide moved away from the east to start a life of their own and grow up with the country. Of course, knowing that most of these are set between 1865-1920 so you won’t have access to the convenient 21st century technology. Still, surviving in a western isn’t easy and if you find yourself in one, here are some steps you should follow. (Of course, don’t count on working out all the time.)

1. Be black or Asian. (Because as far as race goes, these two have among the lowest death rates since most westerns don’t have either of them. Sure being black or Asian in a western may mean being susceptible to demeaning stereotypes or terrible jobs for pittance but at least it’s better not having people who want to kill you. And even so, chances are good you’ll survive anyway regardless of role except maybe villain.)

2. Listen to the hero no matter how much of jerk he is because he is always right. (Sure John Wayne may be bully and a complete asshole but if you don’t listen to him, well, there’s going to be trouble. Of course, unless you’re Maureen O’Hara you might want to avoid sleeping with him).

3. Don’t mess with the hero. (The hero’s motives may not be pure but if you do anything to him or try to hinder his goal, well, you’re going to get it.)

4. Avoid saloons and banks. (Sedentary indoor gun shootings happen at these places 90% of the time. Also, brothels, bars, hotels, and dance halls count as saloons since they also serve booze.)

5. Don’t be in anything by Sam Peckinpah. (I can’t help you there given his movies make Quentin Tarantino films look like something from Disney. Come to think of it, you might have better odds in The Hunger Games than in a Sam Peckinpah western.)

6. Stay indoors when the guns go off. (Or else, you’ll end up shot as an innocent bystander.)

7. Horseback riding and sharpshooting are valuable skills. (Being skilled in at least one will help you tremendously.)

8. Remember that most weapons fire rounds beyond their capacity without reloading. (Westerns are notorious for having six shooters that fire more than six at a time before reloading.)

9. Don’t board trains carrying gold or weapons in the baggage car. (It will be targeted for a train robbery which will involve shooting and dead bodies.)

10. Don’t travel by stagecoach. (Trust me, it will be Indians, bandits, or both.)

11. If you’re challenged to fight against a guy who’s known for his fast reflexes or excellent aiming skills, get the hell out of town as soon as you can. (Sure you might be called a coward but at least you’ll survive.)

12. Don’t challenge people to duels. (Just don’t. The challenger usually gets shot and killed in these. If he survives, then welcome to hell.)

13. If you’re white, stay out of the Indian settlements. (I don’t care if you’re in the US Army and it’s your job to get them to surrender peacefully {which won’t happen}, if the nearby Indians aren’t bothering you, either establish friendly relations or leave them alone. Otherwise, you’ll end up like Boromir.)

14. If you’re an Indian, stay out of white settlements and be prepared to face evacuation or the white man at all times. (Seriously it really sucks being an Indian in westerns, doesn’t it? Even if you do these things, there may be no hope for you but the reservation, which may be fate worse than death.)

15. Whenever you enter a town, make sure that there are no Wanted posters with your picture on them. (If there is, get the hell out before anyone sees you. You will either face armed confrontations, be chased by a posse, be arrested by the sheriff, deal with a bounty hunter, or possibly lynched.)

16. Remember your guns and horses are your prized possessions and traveling companions. (Take good care of them and they’ll take good care of you.)

17. If you get hurt, remember that a veterinarian is just is good as any doctor around. (And if you need medical care, you’ll need the nearest doctor you can get if there’s any around. Besides, most doctors in westerns usually treat both people and livestock anyways regardless of their specialty.)

18. Remember fire safety is really important. (Especially, since this is a time when most people don’t have access to electric lighting and that most structures are built out of wood.)

19. When the town needs a new sheriff, don’t volunteer or talk about your exploits. (You don’t want to be sheriff in that town, because the last guy probably got killed and crime is pretty bad.)

20. Don’t go in front of charging large animals. (You will get trampled.)

21. Forget codes of honor and perhaps try to do your best to survive. (I mean you don’t have to face the bad guy if it’s going to get you killed. An early grave is far worse than being called a coward.)

22. Gathering a large posse is a great defense against a band of violent criminals on the loose. (And in westerns, you most criminals are violent or at least armed robbers at best.)

23. Best leave fighting invading Indians to the army cavalry instead of doing it yourself. (Except if it’s Custer at Little Big Horn, Fort Apache, or in some unavoidable situations.)

24. Always show respect and courtesy toward the Indians. (They may be your enemy but will be less likely to kill you if you treat them politely and you’re not in a large group. Only applies when you actually have to go to the Indian camp or want to trade.)

25. Friendly Indian sidekicks are very reliable outside civilization. (When it comes to surviving the wilderness, there’s no one better. Outlaws, mountain men, and trappers are very good as well since they know how to handle a gun.)

26. On the trail, circling your wagon is a great defense against Indian attacks. (They always do this in western movies set on the trail. However, in real life, Indian attacks on wagon trains hardly ever happened {since the Indians knew raiding them would be a very stupid thing}. Also, the circling wagons was more for keeping cattle in and took hours.)

27. If you’re in a bank being robbed, do whatever the bank robber says. (Because it will get ugly if you don’t.)

28. If you’re a guy, never underestimate women in the frontier. (Sure there’s a lot of sexism at the time but many women in westerns do know how to load and shoot a gun, have helped built their own houses, and has seen her share of adversity, especially if she’s much older. And if you have the wrath of Mattie Ross, then God help you.)

29. On the cattle drive, watch out for stampedes, rustlers, snakes, storms, flash floods, droughts, etc. (On second thought, maybe working on a cattle train is not a good idea.)

30. Basic knowledge of first aid will help tremendously. (Especially since there will be no medical establishment within miles.)

31. If your town is besieged by violent criminals, don’t be afraid of enlisting outside help even if it’s just a drifter with a mysterious past. (Of course, he will be played by John Wayne or Clint Eastwood anyway, so you’ll be fine.)

32. Just because the hero can survive after going through a hail of bullets doesn’t mean you should. (Somehow western heroes tend to be somewhat immune to bullets at least until the very end than most of the other characters.)

33. If you’re a famous western hero, make sure the movie doesn’t depict anything related to the Alamo or anything related to your demise. (If you’re David Crockett or Jim Bowie and the movie’s title is The Alamo, you won’t last.)

34. Remember anything can be edible if you’re desperate enough. (Even if it’s dead human flesh or grasshoppers.)