Can you remember the movie where the cowboy is bitten by a rattlesnake just after he’s saved the schoolmarm from rustlers? He unties her from the railroad track, not noticing the snake until it’s too late and OUCH! We don’t remember the name of that movie but the same story line filled a lot of Saturday afternoon matinees when we were six-years-old.
The other cowhands carried our snake bitten hero to the schoolmarm’s bedroom where the small-town doctor announced to everyone within hearing distance, “ If he survives the night, he might make it, although the only thing I guarantee with certainty, little lady, is that he’s going to get worse before he gets better.” The schoolmarm would turn white and gasp while the doctor took a big swig from his pocket flask.
A snake bite is serious business for an six-year old so we paid attention. Still, a few questions went unanswered: Why were all the doctors in the west alcoholics and wasn’t there anyplace in town for injured cowboys except the schoolmarm’s bed? When we reached puberty and partial wisdom (much, much, much later) we realized that this bedroom scene was a thinly disguised attempt at introducing a romantic interest acceptable to movie censors. Remember Doris Day and her twin beds? (Decency Rule #23: a cowboy can only be seen in a woman’s bed if he’s been bitten by a snake). But at the time, we were more worried about our hero and less about the boundaries of sexual morality. And after all, it was the schoolmarm’s fault. If she wasn’t such a silly girl, the rustlers wouldn’t have caught her and our hero wouldn’t have been snake bit. All of us agreed with that observation.
We also agreed with the doctor’s warning, “…he’s going to get worse before he gets better.”
So we’d sit on the edges of our seats, watching our hero suffer. He’d sweat, toss and turn as the poison worked its way through his pure body. The schoolmarm helped by placing wet rags on his forehead. It was the least she could do, being responsible for his misery. Eventually, as the town’s one and only rooster crowed at dawn, our hero would open his eyes and we’d sit back in our seats and breathe again. He was going to make it. Everything was right with the world.
Back then, the town’s people would organize a posse and hunt the rustlers down. In simpler days, people had a basic understanding of who to attach blame to when bad things happened. Sure, a few of the more confused went looking for the snake but most understood who the real culprits were.
If you believe that this is only the fading recollections of a few aging movie fans, you’d be wrong. This scene set the framework for our future view of the world.
For eventually, the town people of today (The 99%) will organize and go after the rustlers (The 1%). Sure, the rustlers are blaming the snake (government) for all our problems but that only works for so long.
Note: If you’re curious, the picture is of Tom Mix and his horse, Tony. Mix filmed many a cowboy epic in San Miguel County during the last century. But don’t ask us why he’s sitting backwards on Tony. Some things are better not known.