Sam Shepard :: Where Does A Hero Live?


Through bragging, a lot of early-day American heroes sprang up. Paul Bunyan, Pecos Bill, all those mythic guys emerged from the fantastic “tall tales,” mostly based on macho bravado and superhuman strength. Pecos Bill dug the Rio Grande with his bare hands. Paul Bunyan uprooted mighty trees and drank whole lakes in a single sitting. But these guys were totally fictitious. Then there were the real live ones like Jesse James, Billy the Kid, Mickey Free, Buffalo Bill. Tales grew around them mostly out of a giant communications gap between the stolid intellectual East Coast and the wide-open mysteries of the West. The East was intrigued and curious about all these dudes, and the West was more than willing to supply them with all the fancy embroidered “facts” of their heroism. So, even though they were real guys involved in a real environment, their deeds were largely invented to satisfy this growing hunger and intrigue from the opposite coast. That hunger never left us. Even now, when communications are almost down to teleportation of brain signals, there’s still an emotional space in us that needs filling. And it’s the same as it was then. It doesn’t matter if the information on our heroes is completely made up, we still want to believe it. Even with the advent of ‘demystification,’ we get stoned out on the gyrations of a few individuals. Somebody ‘out there’ is actually doing what cries out in us to be done. Something somehow that we know is in us, but it’s not us that’s doing it. It’s a hero. It’s not a hero. It’s just a guy or a girl or somebody. But it’s them and not us. It’s them performing an act that’s totally together. We feel the same act in us but it’s dormant. It’s lying around and undeveloped. So we’re all applauding ourselves in what it comes down to. “There is is! up there! The whole of mankind in one single act!” And he’s doing it. He’s getting it on for all of us. And he’s doing it better than anybody. There’s nobody who can touch him in this particular sphere. It’s not worship exactly, it’s revelation. It’s like watching Wilt Chamberlain stuff basketballs in the hoop like he’s packing a lunch. It’s almost out of the realm of possibility, but he’s actually doing it. — Sam Shepard, The Rolling Thunder Logbook 1974

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