In answer to a question recently posed by a blog viewer, the Curmudgeonly Professor is pleased to announce a new feature: Ask the Curmudgeonly Professor. The Professor will use his vast store of trivial knowledge to answer pertinent questions, or even impertinent ones. If he does not know the answer, he will make up something, since he is in training to become a politician. So here is the first entry in this new series.
Dear Curmudgeonly Professor:
What is an oater?
Signed, Confused in Olympia
Dear Confused in Olympia:
The term "oater" was used in a recent blog entry to refer to movies by John Wayne and Clint Eastwood. 'Oaters" are western movies, so named because horses eat oats, when available, and there are many horses in western movies. Thus, instead of calling these movies just plain "westerns," they are called oaters to distinguish the oater genre from, say, mystery, romance, comedy, etc. etc. However, this gets tricky when you run into oater westerns by Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, and the like who went around strumming their guitars and singing songs to the horses, cows, and beautiful women. Many so-called oaters were B movies, such as those starred in by Ronald Reagan who went on from said B movies to become President of the United States and pass out jelly beans in the oval office, such movies being suitable for kids at Saturday afternoon matinees, but singing cowboy westerns were not likely to stir your blood and cause you to salute by the likes of John Wayne who might knock you across the room if you sass him back or do something he may not like.
True oater afficianados (the Curmudgeonly Professor has a Ph.D. and learned a few big words along the way to impress his students, who all repeated his big words back to him on essay exams and term papers) do not really care whether the movie starred Joel McCrea, James Arnett, or the Three Stooges. The only requirements, which remain undeviating, is that they have horses, a battered up stage coach, a sheriff, an evil guy wearing a black hat so you know he is evil, two or three nineteen year old beauties who obviously did not get their beauty treatements on the main street of Dodge, a shoot-em-up or two with lots of bang-banging so we young boys could go around saying bang-bang while we shot our imaginary six-guns, a couple of saloons with swinging doors, a bank to rob, an evil land grabber who must be disposed of before the movie is over to save all the poor clod farmers and sheep raisers from being driven out, a stampede, a train robbery or two, a couple of Indians from Laguna Beach, a pretty widow or two, a half dozen gorgeous saloon girls straight out of Hollywood High School, some cowardly towns people who are afraid of the bad guys and leave shooting up the town to save them all to some courageous name actor like Gary Cooper, that's why Coop got paid more than the other actors in the movie got paid, and the like. Oaters are the only media in which rugged he-men are called boys, as in "You boys go out and rob the stage or shoot up the bank." The movie was often helped with a bit of cattle rustling, horse thievery, cattle brand chicanery, poker playing, and the like. True oaters rarely spoke bad swear words or romanced pretty girls excessively and, as a result, most of them were G rated in spite of a bit of violence, which was all deemed healthy because we all knew it was for a good cause to clean up a rotten, evil, corrupt town. Oh yes, and we need a blacksmith shop with a gnarly black sooty blacksmith pounding on a horseshoe or two just taken red-hot from the forge. And an undertaker to dispose of the dead guys, who are just pretending dead, actually, so they can get themselves up and walk out the swinging doors themselves. Some kind of beanery or eating establishment is necessary as western folks ate a ton of beans. High in fiber, actually, thus avoiding the need for Metamucil. Having Walter Brennan in your oater enhanced the general quality and enjoyment of your film. Finally, we need a Boot Hill cemetery to bury all the non-dead guys who were shot full of holes in the saloon and on the main street of Dodge.
Oaters work best when the lead actor, as in Clint Eastwood, knows how to clench his teeth, snarl, curl his upper lip, and shoot you to smithereens while sitting in his bathtub. Eastwood was especially good in painting an entire town red to scare off the bad guys. Since frontier life was rough and lawless, blasting people to smithereens was not only justified, but some times necessary.
The Curmudgeonly Professor hopes he has enlightened Confused in Olympia as well as any others who may have been pondering in a state of agitation and confusion over what an "oater" is. To summarize, an oater is a bucket of oats. The bucket of oats is eaten by a horse. The horse carries good guys in white hats, bad guys in black hats, and pulls stage coaches. The horse can usually be found tied up in front of saloons, since imaginative oaters have much of their actions and shootings up in saloons, where saloon owners must forever be cleaning up broken glasses and whiskey bottles and clearing dead bodies off the floor and getting the piano player started up again, unless the piano player got shot during the fracas. You get the picture. Please support your oaters. And if wondering what oater to see, start with James Garner's epic oater, "Support Your Local Sheriff." You'll gain a whole new appreciation for this much-loved genre, better than any stuff they make today.
The Curmudgeonly Professor
P.S. If Readers are deficient in any other types of knowledge, please write.