Roughing It Interests Me Most in This Cosmopolitan World
Says Clark Gable
Cosmopolitan magazine, July 1941
When I was fifteen I owned my first saddle horse. Nine-tenths of the time she hauled the farm buggy. I didn’t see another horse for years—all those years I spent as callboy, tool-dresser, lumberjack, necktie salesman, mule driver, log loader and actor. Then I got my first break in pictures, a party in a Western called “The Painted Desert.”
Just as I had my pen poised to sign the contract, someone asked, “Can you do cowboy stunt riding?”
“Sure,” I said easily, thinking of the old buggy horse on the farm.
When I finished the e on Gable, I lit out for the nearest riding academy. An old cowpuncher who broke horses took me in hand. I practiced plain and fancy sheriff’s-posse riding, and escape from sheriff’s-posse riding. I learned downhill plunging and how to get off a horse going full speed—all the stuff you see in the last ten minutes of a Western. When that cowboy had finished with me, I was an expert at hoof pounding and a horse lover at heart.
Today, I get my fun out of my horses, my dogs; out of hunting and fishing and camping. My job keeps me pretty much indoors; the major part of any picture is made on a barnlike sound stage, under a blinding blaze of lights. No complaints, you understand—I like acting. But in my spare time I get a great kick out of life, for I have discovered the outdoors. With so many things to do there, I don’t see how anybody can be bored.
If you aren’t getting a hundred percent out of life; if you haven’t had any real enjoyment since Wrong-way Corrigan in Ireland, maybe you could use the Gable formula for fun. It’s simple and down-to-earth, but I’ve found that the best kind of fun generally is.
We—that is, Mrs. G. and I—have two horses and a mule: Sonny, a high-headed, high-spirited eight-year-old chestnut sorrel; Peanuts, a palomino cow pony with a disposition like a Shirley Temple doll, and Judy, a meek hybrid who was thrown in with the ranch.
A few years ago, I bought a mare named Beverly Hills. I thought it would be a great thrill to own a race horse. Well, I didn’t break out in American flags or anything. She raced two or three years, then developed a throat infection, and I sold her. Right then I realized I didn’t particularly care about racing and betting. What I enjoyed was being outdoors and riding, myself.
This brings us to the first rule in the Gable system for successful fun. Pick out something you like to do, not something you’re supposed to like.
When I acquired Sonny, he immediately endeared himself to me by throwing me. I had taken him out for a trial ride and we came to a washout in the road. Sonny plunged square into it and I flew over his head like a sack of flour.
Sonny’s so proud he can’t be bothered with what’s going on under his feet. He keeps his head back like a cakewalker and lets the Clark Gables fall where they may.
I generally ride about the sunset when I get the chance. I go out the back gate of our ranch and along the trails in the mountains behind it. I go fairly easily the first half-hour or so, letting Sonny out at intervals, but by the time we get back he’s had enough exercise.
Here’s another thing about getting fun out of a sport. I find that, for the fullest enjoyment, you have to be good at it. When you ride, your horse will know if you’re unsure or afraid. Animals are trained to positive commands. You should be assured about everything you do with them.
I find, too, that the more you know about a sport, the more interesting everything about it becomes. I not only like riding Sonny; I find pleasure in rubbing him down, washing him, currying and clipping. I take pride in having the stable neat, the feed pails clean and everything just right.
You can get a world of pleasure out of owning and training a hunting dog. A good one can be bought for around twenty dollars, and you can get books out of the library and do the training yourself. Studying up should be part of the fun. There is always something new to be learned about an animal. From the time I was six, I have had some kind of mutt at my heels. The first dog I owned was a beagle-mongrel who helped me hunt rabbits. One day he disappeared. I’ve never been able to ask my father what became of him. Of the five dogs we have now—two German short-hair pointers, two dachsies and one Labrador retriever—two were trained by me in the initial stages.
The third rule for getting fun out of a sport is very simple. Start in easy and don’t overdo. Start in easy and don’t overdo. When I hunt my dogs, I never take them out all day long the first day—only for a couple of hours, so they can get used to the country without getting sore feet. Next day, I take them out a little longer. I don’t overdo my hunting, either, or my fishing. When I come to an inviting grassy bank, if I feel like it I lie down and go to sleep for a while. That’s part of the fun.
When you’re doing something for pleasure, don’t be too serious about it. When Mrs. G. first went along with me on hunting trips, I bought her small-sized man’s clothes, since I couldn’t find hunting wear for women. They were hot and coarse and heavy, but she had so much fun discovering the outdoors that she didn’t mind them.
Companionship plays a big part in having fun. At first, Mrs. G. was merely being a good sport when she went along with me on hunting trips. Now she enjoys camping as much as I do. And she’s handy around a camp, whether it’s our cabin up near Bakersfield or a tent down in Mexico, where we frequently hunt.
I knew Mrs. G. was going to make the grade the first time I took her duck hunting in Lower California. It was actually a part of our honeymoon; we were having a vacation together, the idea being to devote part of it to my hunting and the rest to a visit to New York.
Now, there is nothing fancy about a Gable camp; no hot water in the morning, no sheets, nothing beyond the bare essentials. Food has only to be filling, and it is best prepared in one big frying pan and over an open fire: eggs, ham, beans, spuds, trout, quail, or whatever luck provides. After two weeks of roughing it, up at dawn every day, never seeing a newspaper, we returned home.
It was now Mrs. G.’s party and New York. She fidgeted a day or so, then said, “Let’s not go to New York! We can have more fun camping.”
Now we keep the station wagon ready to take off at a moment’s notice. It isn’t necessary to have long vacations to enjoy the outdoors. An occasional weekend in the open is the ideal tonic for anyone who feels dragged out, and usually there are interesting places to be found a few miles from home where a healthy sport can be the source of a lot of fun. And finally, it doesn’t matter what sport you pick, just so it is a means of getting away from it all.
Once I went to southern Utah to lasso cougar. At a trading post way in the back country, my guide brought up and old fellow and told him: “Dad, this Clark Gable. He’s a motion picture star.”
Dad eyed me up and down. “Howdy,” he said. Then, to the guide: “Jack, what in tarnation’s a motion picture?”