Charles Tarlton: The Cowboy and the Gambler


Getting Under the Skin of the Western Movie


The Western Movie per se arises from a matrix of malevolency as the villain’s actions reveal a bleak world beyond society’s normal structure of law and moral order.

The villain’s actions are usually expressions of the sins of violence, betrayal, indifference, and greed that then throw everyone and everything into an anarchy unconstrained by guilt.

The Western Movie story comes into focus amidst these conditions of lawlessness, then, a state of nature where situations are all starkly drawn, and questions of the value of life and death, of honesty, of love, and of courage are suddenly all that matters.

Everyone is compelled to act against this raw background, testing their moral fiber, their judgment, their character, and their skill. The cowboy hero’s ethic requires him to look at both sides of any situation despite the danger. Partly rooted in the anarchism of the frontier, he is also the harbinger of civilization to come.



The GAMBLER sits at a round card table with three questionable associates. They have stopped playing poker, but are still drinking from a bottle of whiskey.


Easy as candy from a baby. It’s

only a small herd, thirty or forty



He keeps them out of town. Only

one old drover to lookout for them.


All we got to do is ride up, scare

the old drover off, and take the

herd to the rail head and turn it

into money.

He abruptly stands, and the others hurry to follow suit. One chair falls over, and the Gambler gives the culprit a hard look. The associates finish their drinks, say goodnight, and go out.

Margot has been waiting at the bar and the Gambler saunters over.


Why do you keep those dunces

around? It must cost you a



Oh, they amuse me. And they

earn their keep.


I saw your little meeting over

there. What are you up to now?


I’m going to rustle the Cowboy’s


Charles Tarlton: The Cowboy and the Gambler
Scroll to top