by John L. Fuhring

Roll ‘em.  Take Two!

     Monday morning we all got up, put on our wool uniforms and boots, grabbed our ‘arms de guerre’ and boarded the bus for the long trip to the set.  When we arrived they had now three complete antique trains on an enlarged section of track they laid for the set.  Again, those trains were beautiful, especially the newly arrived engine and rolling stock (this was supposed to be Jim West’s private train).

Being from Aerospace, it was amazing to me to see how fast and efficently these skilled
workmen laid track and erected the equipment.

Jim West's private engine and car.
These were unloaded from huge trucks, set up and put in working
order in just a few hours.

     As usual, we weren’t allowed to look to the horses, but had to eat and then go to make-up first.   Up to now they said I looked OK, but this day makeup darkened my face somewhat.  By the way, the wardrobe on site and the makeup studios were set up in big circus tents.  The men and women who work  at this are very polite and professional.  The dining arrangements were also set up in circus tents.  The food was very good and you had to watch out you didn’t eat too much in that heat.

     We finally got out to the horses and gave them some food, but they only had a few minutes to eat.  We were assured that feed would be brought to the picket line and the horses fed there, but it never happened.

     It sure seemed to me the director was himself direction-less as we didn’t do anything most of the morning.  After a while we all drifted to the caboose end of one of the trains and lay down on the track bed under the carriage in the shade with the reins of the horses in our hands.  There was a nice breeze blowing under the train, it was warm but not really hot under there, the horses were nodding and it was an altogether very, very pleasant feeling to be lounging about that way.  I recalled reading about cavalry doing the very same thing during raids and was very glad to be experiencing what must have been the same feelings of relaxation.

     By the way, I met some genuinely colorful characters while in the ranks.  These guys were from ranches and small farms in Texas, Arizona, New Mexico and Kansas.  They talked with a twang that I used to think was affected by western actors, but these guys were the real article.  They seemed to be a bunch or real good guys, most were there to pick up a few (much needed) bucks and to live out a wish to return to a time they felt more suited to (like me).  Now I know where some of the characters in old western movies came from.

     When they finally called us back to the shooting, they only wanted half of us (the half of the group that I was in), the other half was dismissed to the picket line.  We participated in a couple of shots and then they brought in about eight stunt-men.  I (and I expect everyone else) was surprised and confused when they asked everybody but Keith and myself for our horses.  They didn’t ask me so I don’t know what I would have done, but if any of us would have had time to think about it we should have said   ABSOLUTELY NOT !!

     Well, the stunt-men had on uniforms like us, had rubber guns (so as not to hurt themselves when they fell) and we all lined up in formation as before.  By the way, these stunt-men were a very rough looking bunch and didn’t appear to me to be overly smart.  This time they had a camera on a very flexible and tall crane and they wanted the horses and people to go berserk when they caught sight of the giant spider.  With the aid of some rather wicked spurs and hard jerking of the bits in the poor horses mouths, the stunt-men were able to get the horses pretty thoroughly fired up and, if I say so myself, I hammed it up pretty good although it wasn’t necessary for me to be so rough on my horse.  We did two takes like this and by the end, Greg’s rental horse was very excited and wouldn’t calm down.  At this point the stunt-men gave the horses back to their owners.

     After the re-enactors got back in line, Greg’s horse was really fired up would not hold still so Greg and the horse were made to move to the back end of our formation.  Just when they started filming another sequence the horse reared up then flopped over on its side pinning Greg under it.  By sheer dumb luck, Greg ended up with only a sprained ankle (he could have bones broken or killed).  Because he "couldn’t control his horse" he was dismissed from the remainder of the filming.