The Cowboy Angel Rides

by Larry Fyffe

Singer/songerwriter Bob Dylan ~ well known for adopting and adapting themes from traditional romantic ballads, from the Holy Bible too, about gamblers, outlaws, human nature, and hypocrisy:

Now Brennan being an outlaw
Upon the mountain high
With the calvary and infantry 
To take him they did try
He laughed at them with scorn
Until at last 'twas said
By a false-hearted woman 
Brennan cruelly was betrayed
(Brennan On The Moor ~ traditional)

Such traditional tales spoofed in the song  below:

So all you rambling gamblers, wherever you might be
The moral of this story is very plain to see
Make your money while you can, before you have to stop
For when you pull that dead man's hand, your gambling days are up
(Bob Dylan: Rambling Gambling Willie)

In the song beneath, for listeners who do not like unhappy endings, the songwriter gives a supposedly straight-shooting outlaw a faithful girlfriend:

It was down in Chaynee County
A time they talk about
With his lady by his side
He took a stand
And soon the situation there 
Was all but straightened out
For he was always known 
To lend a helping hand
(Bob Dylan: John Wesley Harding)

Not so in the movie in which Kirk Douglas stars as Jack Burns, a modern-day, horse-riding cowboy with a brave heart. A left-over romantic from days gone by, he doesn’t like to fenced-in; tries to help his friend Paul who’s in jail for helping ‘wetbacks’.

The ending of the movie is not a happy one. Jack and his faithful horse end up severely injured by traffic on a busy highway.

Says Paul’s wife near the beginning of the movie:

Men are idiots
You're an idiot
Paul's an idiot
You're all idiots
('Lonely Are The Brave')

Now there be words in need of wider wings:

Idiot win
Blowing through the dust upon our shelves
We're idiots, babe
It's a wonder we can even feed ourselves
(Bob Dylan: Idiot Wind)


Seems the chaos of old Babylon is back again. With tongue-in-cheek, and straight-faced, the authors of the following song romanticize what happens to an actual mobster-king of New York City ~ who apparently reforms – finds Christ – only to get shot down in cold-blood.

Believe it or else:

But Joey stepped right up, he raised his hand
Said, "We're not those kind of men
It's peace and quiet that we need
To go back to work again"
(Bob Dylan: Joey ~ Dylan/Levy)

It’s back-to-the-bible time:

My soul hath long dwelt with him that hateth peace
I am for peace, but when I speak
They are for war
(Psalm 120: 6,7)


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