How The West Wasn’t

Have you ever found yourself in the midst of a virtual Wild West escapade in Red Dead Redemption, engaging in the time-honored tradition of tying up virtual civilians and leaving them on the tracks, only to realize, “Whoops, this isn’t even the real Wild West era”? If so, congrats, you’ve stumbled into the quirky, not-so-accurate reimagining of a time that was less about high noon showdowns and more about, well, survival and less glamorous day-to-day life.

Imagine, if you will, accidentally traveling back to the actual Wild West because you were trying to help a buddy who’s oddly specific about being a stranded 80-year-old theoretical physicist. Sounds like a plot ripped straight from a sci-fi classic, doesn’t it? Before you start picturing yourself as the next cowboy hero, let’s set the record straight on what you’d really be in for.

First off, the landscapes? Breathtaking. From bison roaming the vast plains to mountains that truly live up to the “rocky” moniker, the scenery is the stuff of legends. And the diversity of Indigenous cultures? Absolutely enriching. It’s like stepping into a rich tapestry of history and nature combined—definitely not what most spaghetti westerns would have you expect.

But ah, here comes the twist. You see, the Wild West wasn’t just about riding off into the sunset. With new lands (acquired in ways that would definitely not pass the modern ethical sniff test), the promise of freedom and opportunity lured folks from all walks of life. This led to a bit of a mishmash of outcomes, including environmental impacts that were, to put it mildly, less than ideal. Think bison nearly driven to extinction and Native American cultures upended.

And the careers? Oh, boy. Whether you fancied yourself a cowboy, miner, or, ahem, a member of the world’s oldest profession, let’s just say the reality was a lot less romantic and a whole lot more grueling than Hollywood’s renditions. Cowboys herding cows (shocking, I know), miners facing downright dangerous conditions, and the less said about the other options, the better.

Living conditions ranged from “cozy” log cabins to houses made of sod (basically grass). And social life? Well, between the questionable saloon drinks and “entertainment” options, let’s just say it was a far cry from our modern standards of fun and hygiene.

So, before you lament your inability to live out your cowboy fantasies in real life, remember, the actual Wild West was a mix of breathtaking beauty, harsh realities, and daily struggles that shaped the America we know today. And hey, at least we’ve got video games to let us play cowboy without any of the downsides, right?

How The West Wasn’t

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