Tuesday, January 3, 2017

"Lonesome Dove" at Late Midlife

First, a disclaimer:  I'm no longer sure what constitutes midlife, with all its variations.  I expect to live to be in my 80's or 90's, barring some unfortunate accident or a cancer that's waiting in my body.  I know that the average U.S. man makes it to 72.  So, if my spouse and I are 51 and 52, are we in late midlife or just the middle part of midlife?

Regardless of how we categorize our life's phases, we are in a very different stage now than when we first watched/read Lonesome Dove.  My spouse read it and was excited about the miniseries that aired in 1989.  I wasn't sure about the subject matter or the time commitment, as we were both in grad school.  But it drew me in.

Over the years, we've owned the VHS version and now the DVD version--so yesterday, as the rest of the nation watched football, we returned to the cattle drive.

We had talked about the show in the waning hours of 2016; I had wondered if it would take on a different feel now that we are older, and since it's been at least 10 years (perhaps) since we last saw it.  I know we've seen it since we moved to South Florida--but we haven't watched it since we moved into our house in 2013.

I'm not sure that I see it all that differently now, even though I'm older.  Even when I was younger, I understood all the regrets that these men have about roads not taken, about people who have been hurt, about all the ones we love whom we will lose.

I caught a few more snippets of history here and there--when the 2 old Texas Rangers go into a Texas town to find a new cook, and they say, "We are the ones who made all of this possible.  We drove the Indians out and then these towns moved in.  Maybe our whole lives have been a mistake."

McMurtry has  devoted much of his nonfiction writing to exploring the American west.  One of my favorites is Walter Benjamin at the Dairy Queen.  He reminds us:  "The myth of the American cowboy was born of a brief twenty years' activity just before railroads criss-crossed the continent north-south and east-west, making the slow movement of livestock impractical"  (Walter Benjamin at the Dairy Queen, page 50).  In just 20 years, a way of life came into being and passed away. 

We tend to think that we're the first generation to deal with a dizzying pace of change, but I suspect that most every generation would tell you that the change that they must deal with is more than any other generation has ever had to bear.  It's truly astonishing to think of how the land west of the Mississippi River changed from 1860 to 1900.  It both makes me sad and gives me hope for our own age.  Humans are tougher than we give ourselves credit for being.  If we could settle that land in 40 short years (and yes, I know that Native Americans would tell a different story), we can survive the whatever may be coming for us now.
What's coming for me most immediately is a return to work.  I haven't had as much time off as most everyone else I know, so it won't be as much of an adjustment for me.  But it will be an adjustment nonetheless.  I don't really have much in the way of time off again until Memorial Day.

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