When I filmed THE DREAM, Ross Knox was one of the cowboys I used. When Ben Johnson saw the cut he said that ‘there were some real cowboys out there.’
Ross was a purist and used a rope hackamore on his horse, a rare way to control the animal. Ross also wore sheepskin chaps, called ‘woolys.’ His main ‘job’ was a ‘packer,’ stocking cabins in the Grand Canyon, a job that kept him away from contact with the greenhorns. Ross (on a horse) would lead a mule team down the steep sides of the Canyon, a dangerous undertaking.
He quit when a new-hire boss (a girl) told him he had to wear a helmet. He just handed her the reins to his horse and walked away.
He and I were on Ford Point in Monument Valley overlooking the ‘Mittens,’ the unique mesas that John Ford put to good use in many of his westerns. I remarked how beautiful they were. Ross replied, ‘Ugly as shit.’ ‘Why?’ He said, ‘There ain’t nothin’ there for cows to eat.’ I’ve never been able to take THE SEARCHERS seriously after that. The main ranch in that movie is in the middle of The Valley and there still ain’t nothin’ for the cows to eat.
I used Ross as a wrangler when I filmed LET IT RIDE. Ross wasn’t really accustomed to civilization in Florida, so he really didn’t have a good time. I had felt that working with Rudy Ugland, one of the all time great wranglers would be good for him and he would make a bit of serious money (compared to the Grand Canyon). Ross didn’t care about money and when the film wrapped, he went back into the mountains.
He later became a great Cowboy Poet.
I’ve lost touch, but the short time with him was rewarding, almost like a trip to the Old West. As Ben Johnson said, ‘Ross was a real cowboy.’