I have stated a few times in this blog that the period I like best in the western genre is the first half of the 19th century. Part of it is that the tropes standard western (the sheriff, the saloon, the school marm, etc) have yet to be set. Another attraction is that the frontiersman moving west did not always walk into the middle of the continent wide race war that described most of the cross-cultural interactions in the latter half of the century. In history, Jim Bowie married into a Mexican family in Texas, and Sam Houston was married to a Cherokee woman. In fiction, mountain man stories often reflect the reality of romantic entanglements between hunters and natives, perhaps best demonstrated when Boone finds peace and emotional solace with Teal Eye in The Big Sky. Conflict and violence are always possible in these stories, but they are not inevitable. Sometimes love, friendship, and family emerge.
What has put me in mind of this? I live in New England, in a region that is not just white and black, but also almost equally made up of Puerto Rican, South Asian, and Eastern European immigrants. I have spent most of the year so far getting ready for open heart surgery, and have spent the last week in recovery from that surgery. Some of my doctors, nurses, and medical techs were from the United States, but others were from Poland, Russia, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Italy, Tanzania, Trinidad, India, and Japan. I feel as if the world came together in the last few weeks to help me heal and get through this. The western world that captures my imagination is one where such things are possible. You never know what you will find across the next ridgeline, but there should always be the possibility of love, hope, and salvation.