I watched John Wayne in The Cowboys yesterday. It is one of my all-time favorite westerns. I have liked westerns for years. In 1976 I was at my Grandma and Grandpa's house. I visited them almost every day. There was a paperback book lying on the footstool by Grandpa's chair. I picked it up and started reading it. Grandpa urged me to take it with me. I am sure he had not finished it, maybe he had not even started. I don't know, but like any other self-absorbed 14 year old I took it with me. The book was Tucker by Louis L'Amour. I was hooked. Over the next several years I read every book written by L'Amour and most of his short stories.
A few weeks after Grandpa gave me that book I dreamed he died. I went over to visit the next morning. Grandpa was watching a movie on TV. I was relived he was fine. I did not mention my dream (and would not tell anyone about it for years). He wanted me to sit and watch it with him. I was a busy teenager and had better things to do. Grandpa died in his sleep that afternoon.
The character played by the Duke in The Cowboys always reminds me of my Grandpa for some reason. I am not sure why. John Wayne was a big man, Grandpa was about 5'2". Grandpa did not work on a ranch or a farm, he managed a lumberyard. Somehow, in my mind, there has always been a connection.
I still have that copy of Tucker. It is dog-eared and worn. I expect the glue to separate from the spine the next time I read it. Every few years I ride with Shell Tucker as he tracks down the guys that stole money from his family and becomes a man in the process. In the beginning Shell Tucker is an impetuous teenager that cares only about himself. In the end he learns responsibility and maturity. Maybe Grandpa knew what he was doing when he gave his 14 year old grandson that book.