They trade cowboy philosophy as fast as Seinfeld punchlines on Yellowstone but what’s really sticking with me is the food.
For instance, the scene in Season 4 Episode 6, where 6666 ranch newcomer Jimmy discovers a foil-covered plate on his bunk after a challenging day on a rank horse. It’s a chicken-fried steak with cream gravy prepared by a Four Sixes ranch manager’s wife and left as a treat for the sore hand, already busted up from rodeo. As played by Jefferson White as Jimmy, a Western tv or film meal might never have looked better. At least for chicken-fried steak lovers, it’s a masterful scene.
I’m not saying this is all I’m getting out of Yellowstone. I tuned it out a couple of years ago after starting to think the violence and Beth Dutton were way over the top. I started streaming it again after watching Longmire and Inspector Morse for the second time and now am taking a closer look. I like the Season 4 Episode 2 line, “Living in Montana is just poverty with a view.” And on a smaller scale, I feel John Dutton’s pain about the waning of the big ranch American West as I walk daily with Cowboy on the 200-acre patch of BLM land that’s been my New Mexico backyard for 30 years, worrying always about possible development incursions.
I decided to give Yellowstone another chance over the past holiday weekend, worn out by 2022 and seeking comfort in Westerns on the screen. I didn’t make it to Yellowstone’s “midseason finale” Sunday night but am glad I caught the chicken fried steak scene in my attempt to catch up. Jimmy’s meal is as memorable for me as Ben Johnson’s riding as Tyree in the John Wayne movie Rio Grande.
I’m finding a lot to like about Taylor Sheridan, while probably not giving enough credit to his camera artists and seeing some overkill in the violence. I liked Wind River. His grit and pace are pretty intense. And how cool is it that he and investors bought the 6666 (Four Sixes) ranch in Texas from the estate of the late Santa Fe art patron Anne Marion, who founded the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in 1995 with her husband, John.
I’m still thinking over what I’ve watched of Yellowstone, although I got excited about Jimmy’s meal. I might be critical or appreciative of things others aren’t. For one thing, I prefer the Dodge truck lineup in Longmire.
I am still mystified about the promotional logo featuring cattle rancher Dutton with a shovel over his shoulder. I was getting desperate for a little laughter amid all the family acrimony and fateful gloom and so far have found only a fleeting display at the dinner table in Season 4 Episode 8. I get weary of the corporate treachery, business one-upmanship and bombastic threats. I like Rip but doubt the accuracy of his rattlesnake tossing.
The violence seems excessive but that’s hard to judge along with other TV.
I softened a bit on Beth Dutton because of Rip and learning her earlier life story. I was amused when she blew away a wind chime with a shotgun in Season 4 Episode 1. The scene is a good as Bill Murray as Hunter Thompson shooting up a beeping fax machine with a .44 Magnum in Where the Buffalo Roam. I like that writer-director Taylor Sheridan rides some in his own shows. I like the shade he throws on catch-and-release trout fishing and cutting horse competition. “That’s not cowboying,” his character says outside an arena in Season 4. “That’s just showing off.” On six-figure horses to boot.
And I like Jimmy, in part because he reminds me of the busted-up rodeo character Perce Howland played by Montgomery Clift in The Misfits.
And then there is cowboy Lloyd Pierce, aka actor Forrie J. Smith, who reportedly is the real deal and has his own style. I’ve seen a lot of toothpicks in cowboy hatbands but never before a plastic
dental flosser. Then again, if you’re dreaming your next meal will be a chicken-fried steak …