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A real life horse whisperer

  • Buck Brannaman in "Buck."
  • Buck Brannaman in "Buck."
  • Buck Brannaman in "Buck."
  • Buck Brannaman in "Buck."
  • Buck Brannaman and Cindy Meehln on the set of "Buck."
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Buck is a sweet little documentary about a real cowboy.

Buck Brannaman had a small degree of fame as kid who could do tricks with a rope. That led to a television commercial in the early '70s. He and his brother also appeared on a popular TV show at the time. And just like The Jacksons, who were appearing on TV shows at the time (but on a much bigger level), both families had abusive fathers.

It makes the story all that more amazing that Buck gravitated more towards training horses, and using a firm sensitivity. He shows that same sensitivity when it comes to his wife, daughter and four dogs.

Training some of those horses means that he’s really training the owners, as we see in one scene where he’s speaking sternly to a woman that has too many studs and seems to make a lot of bad decisions.

It was fun to see clips of him working on The Horse Whisperer, a Robert Redford film. By the time we hear Redford commenting on Buck’s character, these are things we’ve also discovered while watching this interesting character study.

The first 10 minutes of the Buck, I thought you’d have to be into horses to appreciate this. Certainly that helps, but I found myself so emotionally invested in this mans life by the mid-way point.I didn’t need to see all the scenes of him riding, roping, and talking at various clinics (where we start to hear the same things), but hey – this is what he does.Perhaps 30 minutes could’ve been shaved off and made an excellent TV movie, although it’s enjoyable as it is.

When Buck Brannaman came to San Diego, I interviewed him at a hotel in the Gaslamp.

What was your relationship like with your father after you went to a foster home?

He would send birthday cards to me and my brother, and in them he’d write that he was going to kill us on our 18th birthday. He’d even mention things he watched us do during the day through the scope on his rifle. He described the chores and where we were, so he was watching us. The sheriff [who we see in the movie] finally ran him out of town. He basically told him to leave, and if he’s ever seen in town again, he’ll just disappear. The laws now are a lot different on how they’d handle somebody like that. He ended up living to 83, in Arizona.

Did you ever talk to your dad again?

Yeah, a few times. I knew he was getting old and probably wouldn’t be around much longer. I wrote him a letter saying that I loved him. I just didn’t want him to die thinking that I hated him.

I wish you would have.

I probably did it more for myself. I didn’t want that burden on me.

What is your brother doing now, and did he ever speak with your father?

No, he never did. He went into the Coast Guard for 25 years, got married. He rides horses, but he sort of gave all the other stuff up that we used to do with horses.

How did you meet your wife?

We met at a clinic I did in Colorado. I always told myself I’d never date any of the women at my clinics. It just didn’t seem right. Sometimes the women are vulnerable and I didn’t think that was right for a guy to take advantage of their position. In the back of my mind I told myself…if you ever break your own rule, you better marry the woman. That’s what I did.

It must be hard on her, having you on the road nine months out of the year.

Oh yeah. If it was the other way around, I probably wouldn’t be able to stay married to that person. I would’ve been gone after a few years. And I’ll admit, it’s been tough at times.

You have a daughter, and I hear she's already a better roper than many men [we see some of that in the film, too].

She wanted to pursue roping. She’s going to go to Montana State to major in business. After that, she’ll decide if she wants to pursue this as a career.

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  • Rating: 3 of 5