Wednesday, September 30, 2009


JOSE FELICIANO'S rendition of Old Turkey Buzzard, reached a crescendo in under three minutes. Even after three decades, the Quincy Jones classic continues to haunt listeners, just as McKenna's Gold, the movie masterpiece it adorned, remains a timeless favourite.
(Copyright © 2004, The Hindu)

Ol Turkey Buzzard, Ol Turkey Buzzard
Flyin, Flyin high,
He's just waiting
Buzzard just a-waiting
Waiting for something down below the dive
Old Buzzard knows that he can wait
Cause every mother's son has got a date,
A date with Fate.. With fate

He sees men come, he sees men go,
Crawling like ants on the rocks below
The men will steal, the men will dream
And die for gold onthe rocks below
Gold, Gold, Gold, they just gotta have that gold
Gold, Gold, Gold, they'll do anything for gold

A thousand years ago, in the southwest, there was an Apache legend. It told about a hidden canyon guarded by the Apache gods and rich with gold. As long as the Apaches kept the canyon a secret and never touched the gold, they would be strong...powerful. That was the legend.
When the spanish conquistadores came, they searched for the canyon, they called it canyon del oro, meaning canyon of gold, but they never found it
Three hundred years later, the Americans came. They heard about the legend but called it, "The Lost Adams". That was because a man named Adams saw it once or so he said. But whether he did or not, he never saw anything again because the Apache's burned out his eyes.
Everybody knew about the legend and a lot of people believed it: Canyon del oro; The Lost Adams. Then for a while there back in 1874, they called it McKenna's Gold.

MacKenna's Gold
11 x 17 Movie Poster
Copyright © 2009 MovieGoods, Inc

There’s a great opening sequence with Joe MacDonald’s camera swooping and soaring over a primal western landscape to the accompaniment of Victor Jory’s narration and Jose Feliciano’s theme song. Ancient buttes and mesas rise up from the parched desert floor before the circling camera locks onto a lone figure and zooms in on an equally ancient Indian on horseback. This old man, Prairie Dog (Eduardo Ciannelli), is carrying a map that reveals the location of a mythical canyon of gold. Before dying he passes on the map to Marshal MacKenna (Gregory Peck), but the marshal has little faith in such tall tales and promptly burns the document. When he is subsequently captured by an outlaw band led by Omar Sharif, he is forced to lead them to the canyon whose whereabouts he has memorized. As the treasure hunt progresses more people are drawn in, notably a number of the leading citizens of the nearest town. There are ambushes, Indian attacks, betrayals and more before the whole thing wraps up with a psychedelic sunrise and a massive earthquake.
(© 2009 by Riding the High Country)

Mackenna's Gold - a 1969 western film
(Images from

Mackenna's Gold is a 1969 western film directed by J. Lee Thompson, starring Gregory Peck, Omar Sharif, Camilla Sparv and Julie Newmar. It tells the story of how the lure of gold corrupts a diverse group of people.
The many stories arising or deriving from the lost diggings have inspired many to search for lost Apache gold ever since. Its legend has supplied many folk tales, stories and books with ample fuel for fantasies of lost treasures, hidden canyons, Apache secrets and gold, "somewhere out there" in the wilds. Another supposed Indian name for the mine was "Sno-Ta-Hay," which supposedly means, "there it lies" i.e. the gold is on the ground and can be picked up or panned as a placer mine. If the diggings don't exist they sure inspired many strange behaviors on the part of those who allegedly took place in the event and it certainly inspired thousands of searches ever since then. Nobody knows how much energy was spent in toto, by all the people who have sought this gold since the time of Adams, but the amount of mail being sent to western New Mexico during the 1930s prompted the government to create a new post office in the area affectionately named, "Lost Adams Diggings, NM". The site, minus the post office, which later shut down, bear witness to the lust for gold that will never diminish among those who catch the fever which has an indelible quality in the southwestern deserts of the USA.
The movie Mackenna's Gold is loosely based on the Adams legend. Numerous books about, or based on the diggings, have been written.
The plot:
An old legend talks about a fortune in gold hidden in the 'Canyon del Oro', guarded by the Apache gods. A man named Adams found it, only to have the Indians capture and blind him and kill all his companions. Years later, Marshal MacKenna kills an old Indian shaman who tried to bushwhack him and comes into possession of a map that supposedly shows the way to the treasure. Though skeptical, he memorizes the directions before burning the map.
Meanwhile, notorious Mexican outlaw Colorado and his gang had been tracking the old man for two weeks to get the map, all while being chased by the U.S. army. He takes shelter in the house of the old judge of the town of Hadleyburg, stealing horses, mules and food for his journey. He kills the judge and kidnaps his daughter, Inga Bergmann, as a hostage in case the cavalry catches up with him.
He finds MacKenna digging a grave for the Indian chief. When he finds that Mackenna has destroyed the map, he takes him captive and forces him to lead them to the gold (Colorado knew that in addition to being a marshal, MacKenna was a good card player with a good memory). Colorado and one of his companions have a past history with MacKenna. Colorado was driven out of the state by Mackenna, while a fiery Indian woman, Hesh-ke, had been his girl. Mackenna later had to arrest her brother, who was hanged, and it is unknown if she still holds a grudge. Colorado's main henchman is a hulking Indian warrior, Hachita, as well as a few other Apaches and outlaws.
On their trek, they are joined by a posse of townsmen who become infected by gold fever, among them a newspaper editor, a storekeeper, a preacher and old Adams himself. They are trailed by the cavalry, under the leadership of Sergeant Tibbs. All, except for MacKenna, Colorado, Inga, Hesh-ke, and Hachita, plus perhaps a few others whose fates are unknown, are killed in an ambush by the cavalry or by other Apaches who are trying to protect the gold from outsiders. Tibbs periodically sends messengers back to his commanding officer, supposedly to keep him informed. Eventually, the patrol is whittled down to just two men. At that point, Tibbs kills them and joins the outlaws for a "share" of the gold.
After more adventures they finally reach the place specified in the map, where a tall rock tower, 'Shaking Rock', stands. As the sun rises on the specified day, the shadow of the pinnacle grows longer (in violation of basic optics) until it points to the hidden entrance to the canyon. Seeing this, MacKenna, who had been skeptical until then, begins to believe in the legend.
(From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

Spider Rock (Shaking Rock)
(Image from

Spider Rock - Canyon De Chelly, AZ
Canon EOS 20D
1/40s f/16.0 at 15.0mm (35mm equivalent: 26mm) iso100 full exif
Author Mike DiRenzo at

When they enter the canyon, they find that the sides are interlaced with rich veins of pure gold. The jealous Hesh-ke tries to kill Inga and falls to her death. Then, while the rest are celebrating their great fortune, MacKenna escapes with Inga to an Indian dwelling high up the canyon wall. Meanwhile, Colorado and Hachita kill Tibbs. Then the Indian turns on Colorado; he is one of the treasure's guardians and has summoned a band of Apaches. However, Colorado manages to kill him and pursues MacKenna. The Apaches attack but all of the shooting has shaken loose a balanced rock. It falls with a tremendous boom. After a moment's pause large cracks appear in the walls and the crust heaves up as the sound waves trigger a massive collapse. As the survivors flee the walls of the canyon fall burying the gold beneath massive tons of rubble, followed by the crash of 'Shaking Rock'. In the rising dust the image of old Prairie Dog, the Indian shaman who MacKenna killed at the beginning of the movie, appears over the scene. Obviously Prairie Dog is relishing the action of the old Apache Gods who were guarding the treasure.
Colorado leaves in disgust, believing the gold has been buried beyond reach. Mackenna and Inga ride off together. In the final scene, a saddlebag on the horse Mackenna took in the mad scramble is shown to be full of the gold Tibbs had been loading into it.
(From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

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