I found out that the cast from The High Chaparral was having a reunion this week, and I thought this would be great for a Retroflections’ story. I made the calls and arrangements to meet the cast and producer and headed out to Old Tucson to check it all out. As I walked underneath The High Chaparral sign at Old Tucson Studios, where the show was filmed, and onto the old set, it got me thinking….
My father helped build the set over 40 years ago. I remember as a little girl leaning on the post by the front of the ranch watching the set go up. Sometimes, after the set was built, we would go and watch the filming. Of course, I was excited to revisit the set that my father helped build so long ago.
The cast was there including Henry Darrow who played Manolito Montoya, Don Collier who played Sam Butler, Ted Markland who played Reno, and, of course, Rudy Ramos who played Wind. I spoke with each one of them, asking how they felt being back on the set, and you could tell by the looks on their faces, that they were back home. “Marvelous,” said Rudy Ramos, “It’s good to be back here and see so many fans.” Rudy was very grateful for his time with the series, which aired 98 episodes from 1967 to 1971.
I continued talking with the actors and spoke with the producer gathering details about the show. And then it hit me, the fans were everywhere, oozing their sense of excitement. I walked up to one gal and asked where she was from, “South Dakota,” she said, “We drove. I would not miss this for anything.” I thought that sure is a long drive to see these guys.
I asked another gal, where she was from, “This is my first time to the United States. I am from Australia. They started airing this a while back, and I just love it,” she said. I was amazed that someone would travel so far to be with their TV icons.
I continued to ask people where they were from and why they were here. They came from London, New Zealand, Ireland, and Guatemala to name a few. It was impossible to keep up with all the people, who had one thing in common, The High Chaparral. “The High Chaparral brought together cultures,” said Patryca Duran y Chaves, “Finally, the Mexican-American culture had Hispanic heroes.”
I asked Penny McQueen the organizer for the event what’s up with these diehard fans. Penny reminded me that she is one of these diehard fans. She said her mother told her, “It’s a TV show. None of these people are real, and you are never going to meet them anyway.” She is proud to have taken over organizing this event.
Penny said that The High Chaparral was a groundbreaking show using a live-action set. “It was realistic, and it made you feel like you were there.” McQueen stated that it was a show that integrated cultures together and did so much more, in fact; it was one of the most successful westerns on TV.
The fans amazed me. I went there to cover an old TV western and talk to the actors, but I spent more time with the fans, and their pure excitement about this show. These fans all stated they had one thing in common that bonded them all; they loved the show. I asked one fan how it felt to be here with her heroes and, with tears in her eyes, she said, “You are walking on sacred ground.” I smiled at her, tilted my visor, and headed off into the sunset.