Mort Laitner


It’s midnight and I’m binging on “Godless.”

It’s a Netflix classic American Western drama.

It’s  seven-episodes long.

It’s a father and son movie.

And I’m hooked.

I want to go to bed but these episodes are just too darn good.

I treasure the landscapes, the acting and the plot.

I am stunned by the props, the sex and the violence.

And I love the dialogue—folks using words sparingly but wisely.

The title intrigues me.

Why “Godless?”

The movie’s villain explains, “What G-d? Mister, you clearly don’t know where you are. This here is the paradise of the locust, the lizard, the snake. It’s the land of the blade and the rifle. It’s the land of the bleeding and the wrathful. It’s godless country.”—Frank Griffin

In the film, the 1880’s wild west appears pretty “godless.”

And I know that with an absence of a higher power evil prevails.

But Westerns are morality plays:

Good versus evil;

Black hats versus white hats;

G-d versus the devil.

Hollywood makes sure by the end of the film that the white hats win.

The outlaws, banditos or the savage Apaches die and the town survives.

From the age of five until my bar mitzvah, I want to wear a white hat.

I dream of killing horse thieves, Mexican hombres and savage Comanches.

I want to be a cowboy riding on a white horse, wearing blue Levis, with brown leather chaps and a white felt Stetson, shooting a 1873 Winchester carbine and hanging out with Miss Kitty.

I can still remember the soft touch of the felt on my fingers.

As a kid, my parents encourage my dream by buying me the works: a silver six shooter cap gun, a gold marshal’s badge, a red bandana, a brown plastic belt and holster, a tan cowboy hat with a stampede string and narrow pointed-toe black cowboy boots embellished with Texas stars.

I can still smell the smoke emanating from my cap pistol.

I cannot fail mention the hours I spend playing with my collection of hundreds of plastic toy cowboys, Indians, horses, corrals, barns, stagecoaches and Conestoga  and chuck wagons.

Talking about chuck wagons, once a week, my mom cooks and I devour the chuck-wagon special: steak, fries covered in ketchup and pork and beans.

I can still taste that sirloin smothered in onions.

I think, “You play being a cowboy. You dress like you are a cowboy and you even eat like a cowboy.

So where is your horse?”

Well during my wonder years, I blow out my candles, silently praying,  “G-d please, this year a horse for my birthday.”

As the candle flames convert to smoke, I daydream my dad saying, “Son, let’s walk to the backyard to see your gift.”.

I run to the yard and see my palomino tied to a post.

Well, it never happens.

G-d and my parents conspire to make sure a horse is not in the works.

But G-d gives my father and I a far better gift.

The eternal love of cowboy movies.

A love that leads us to watch hundreds of glorious westerns for hundreds of glorious hours.

Bonding hours.

Quality-time hours.

Father-son hours.

And when I give my father’s eulogy, I say,

“Dad and I loved westerns.

We watched them all the time.

And I know right now as I speak, he’s up in heaven in front of a large screen color TV  watching “Gunsmoke.”

“Well, That was 31 years ago.”

And now, I sit in the middle of the night—alone—watching “Godless” and picturing my father.

Realizing how much he would have enjoyed this cowboy flick.

Realizing how much I miss him.

Realizing how much I love him.

Remembering how we loved talking about the westerns.

Then something happens.

Within a split second, I feel his aura.

His presence.

His warmth enveloping my body.

I clearly know where I am.

I am in his loving arms.

We watch one more western together.

And this is why I believe.

And this is why I am not Godless.

About the Author
Florida's Jewish short-story writer, speaker, film producer and retired attorney. He has authored, "A Hebraic Obsession", "The Hanukkah Bunny" and "The Greatest Gift." He produced an award-winning short film entitled, "The Stairs". Movie can be viewed on my TOI blog. ChatGPT says, Mort is known for his works that often explore themes of love, loss, and the human connection. Laitner has published several books , including “A Hebraic Obsession.” His writing style is characterized by its emotional depth and introspection. Laitner’s works have garnered praise for their heartfelt expression and keen insight into the human experience.
Related Topics
Related Posts