Western Watchins #115
It can be very cool when everything just falls into place. When everything just falls into place buffalo it’s damn near amazing. I’ve been riding high on a personal, emotional buffalo for a few weeks now and this film contributed more than you’d imagine to that impassioned intoxication. Seems there was once a man named Charles Jesse “Buffalo” Jones. He was a frontiersman, conservationist and early friend among the white man to the beasts of the Plains what when they had almost no white man friends. The real Jones’ life was full of adventure and while he supposedly spanked an unruly bear at one time he never did punch a cougar in the face, rescue orphaned wilderness babies or seek revenge atop a buffalo as his movie counterpart did. Buffalo Rider sought then to honor this great man pretty much in name only because farming, no matter how extreme, can’t hold a candle against hand to hand cougar combat. Although bear spanking is absolutely boss. Another boss who continues spanking numerous beasts to this very day is one Rick Guinn.
That’s him mounted up on Grunter, an ornery bison he vowed to ride or die trying during his time working at a wild animal sanctuary in Utah back in the Seventies. Rick’s first ride took him and his soon to be best bud through four different fences, three of them made of barbed wire. It didn’t take Grunter long to realize he wasn’t so much carrying a man as he was a pair of balls that would give God’s a run for his money. Rick Guinn is what happens when you slam Chuck Norris into Jeremiah Johnson inside of a supercollider made out of Clint Eastwood. A good guess says this man is firmly in his sixties now yet he still leads hunting expeditions all over the globe, he still keeps a small herd of bison and is still as genuine and genuinely bad-ass as he appeared on camera almost four decades ago.
How could I possibly know all this about such a famously reclusive individual?
Because Rick and I are what you could call “two guys that have exchanged a few awkward emails.” Oh yeah, totally almost sort of real life friends with the actual Guy on a Buffalo. And yes, actually awkward because he emailed me back so quickly after I first reached out to him that I was sure I’d been hacked and that someone was impersonating Mr. Guinn for reasons unknown. It’s an odd, paranoia inducing world we live in when one day you instantly fall in love with an obscure Western and the next you’re talking to its star like it’s nothing. “Star” might even be too much of a word, not from me mind you, but for the man himself.
Buffalo Rider is a boot straight up your ass revenge flick with a dash of Hallmark holiday feel-good bundled inside of nature documentary. There’s bad guy trampling, a friendly raccoon, one kindly old narrator guy and, tying it all together, one of the most authentic performances from a lead you will ever see. Rick Guinn portrays unfettered outdoorsman Buffalo Jones to (admittedly embellished) perfection because he’s spent his actual life unchained and outside too. The aw-shucks simplicity that comes from Rick isn’t acting, it’s just who he is: a man who doesn’t say much because he’s too busy actually doing. So then ELO’s “Wild West Hero” starts playing. Playing on my phone as I’m sitting here in my cubicle. Sitting here dressed in dress pants and slightly worn dress shoes thinking. Thinking “I’d like to be a Wild West Hero.”
Knowing that I’m not one.
Rick Guinn’s days have been filled with untold adventure. Shit I never thought a man could do, shit Rick never figured a man couldn’t.
And that’s the soul of Buffalo Rider that I fell in love with. This is a poorly produced, oddly paced and mildly edited movie. It’s not pretty but its heart is true and amigos, you know how I choose to ride. Its story is mostly made up, but people out there like Rick do exist. In fact Rick is exactly one of those people. People who never hesitate to help those in need:
People who will, should the need arise, never fail to punch a mountain lion right in his mountain lion mouth:
People who would never consider themselves heroes and yet they live day to day in some of the most goddamn heroic ways you could ever imagine. I’m referencing certain real folks generally and one certain real guy specifically by citing some of the silliness in this film and we’ll all maybe see the point and we’ll all maybe laugh. But how many of us are brave enough, as so many were in the past and so few are today, how many of us could ever find the courage to live in this world as we felt truly called to? Free of jobs that don’t stimulate, free of relationships that don’t fulfill. Free to speak our minds and follow our hearts. Bound by no man and thus completely our own man. If we, the still frightened, managed to face our fears we would easily forge “not gonna happen” into “mother fucker it just did!”
5 rounds in the cylinder for Buffalo Rider and I’m not at all funnin’ ya’. This movie is dated and as unpolished as they come. It also contains some of the most memorable action sequences, scripted or otherwise, of any Western I’ve ever seen. Not since Joe Kidd has a movie’s final set piece crashed and banged so satisfyingly. A tattered tale whose protagonist seeks vengeance because it’s needed, while longing to be left alone because a man needs both savagery and solitude lest he ever forgo one completely for the other.
That balance is the key to strength on any journey.
I stand at what may well be the greatest crossroads I’ll ever come to in my life. The West is calling. And I’m terrified to hear it. But I know I can’t ignore it. And I know I’m thankful. I’m thankful for everything that’s led me to this exact moment. And realize that this old movie Buffalo Rider, and my new friend Rick, came along at just the right time.