THE HIGH CHAPARRAL 
ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT TELEVISION SHOWS IN HISTORY
THE HIGH CHAPARRAL
The High Chaparral, a TV western that aired from 1967 to 1971, is the show that left an indelible mark on me.  I fell in love with the setting, the story lines and the characters, focusing mostly on the antics of Uncle Buck, played by Cameron Mitchell. To an 8-year-old girl, he had it all:  handsome, loving, tough, loyal, mischievous, fun-loving and hard-working.

While my eyes mostly followed the cowboy in the distinctive black vest, I also fell in love with the rest of the cast:  Leif Erickson as Big John Cannon, Henry Darrow as Manolito Montoya, Linda Cristal as Victoria, Mark Slade as Blue Boy, Don Collier as Sam Butler, Rudy Ramos as Wind, Bob Hoy as Joe Butler, Rodolfo Acosta as Vaquero, Roberto Contreras as Pedro, Jerry Summers as Ira Bean and Ted Markland as Reno.

On the production side, the show had a superior sense of realism, having been filmed at Old Tucson Studios on the outskirts of the Saguaro National Monument west of Tucson, Arizona.  The dirt was real, the sweat was real, the cacti were real.  The stories were solidly written and produced and acted.

On the intrinsic side, the show modeled the ideals of the Old West that became the impetus for us to thrive as a nation: individualism, perseverance, courage, strength, self-confidence, loyalty, truth, conviction, determination, responsibility, friendship, justice, love of family, freedom to make your own way, and  accountability if the way you chose was illegal.  

Henry Darrow as Manolito Montoya and Cameron Mitchell as Buck Cannon
More importantly, though, The High Chaparral creator (David Dortort), producers, production manager (Kent McCray) and casting crew, made a conscious decision to cast Latino actors in Latino roles, Native American actors in Native roles...and those roles were more than mere stereotyped bandidos and rampaging savages. They had character and depth; they had dignity and polish. The show portrayed all ethnicities as a cross-section of equally good and bad.  That is to say, the bad guy (or gal) was made evident by his/her immoral actions not by his/her nationality.  And this was consciously done during the era of the Civil Rights Movement!  What vision on the part of the cast and crew.
And so its impact on me...

It exposed me to Spanish and Native American peoples and languages in a way that never would have been possible in my homogeneous hometown in Pennsylvania. That is not a slam on my roots; it's a realization that diversity was not present where I grew up.  It was presented to me via The High Chaparral in a healthy way by portraying people of different races, languages and religions as being honorable so long as their actions were honorable. It taught that different was not bad--that bad behavior was bad, and bad behavior could come from any human being, not just those whose culture was foreign to mine.  It showed in action what my loving parents laid down in the solid moral foundation they modeled for their children.

I took all these lessons with me into the world, into the U.S. Army, living overseas, into the business world of education where I taught culturally diverse students and led a diverse staff and faculty, into my community and church where I hope I have made a positive difference.  By the way, the show impacted me so much, I lived in Tucson for 10 years and hope to return some day.  
Leif Erickson as Big John Cannon and Linda Cristal as his wife, Victoria

I share this insight with you in the hope that you will renew your interest in The High Chaparral, or make efforts to watch the episodes on INSP or any channel that's airing it if you've never seen it.  Its messages are timeless and inspiring still today.   

I've attended three High Chaparral Reunions and can't begin to tell you how joyful it is to be in a room filled with hundreds of "family" members that share the ideals of the show as well as the love of its cast, crew and characters.  They come from all over the world.  Yes, the world!  

The beloved "Bunkhouse Boys"
Frank Silvera as Don Sebatian de Montoya
Manolito and his sister Victoria
Brothers Buck and Big John Cannon
The Cast of The High Chaparral