It’s all about outlaws

I’ve already gone to bed once tonight, but my brain won’t let me sleep. It keeps doing free association around a particular theme. Maybe if I share it, I can drift off for some well-deserved snoozing. We’re having a monster storm, but my DSL is up, and now so am I, so you’re getting to hear, once again, what’s on my brain.

In another life on another blog, I once shared one of my favorite bits of movie dialogue. It’s from a B movie originally titled “Steelyard Blues.” The movie ran as a sleeper second feature with a piece of junk called “S*P*Y*S.,” which I think was supposed to be a play on “MASH.” Both movies had Donald Sutherland in the lead. Neither ever caught on, but “Steelyard Blues” is a treasure. I may take a quick break and go check Amazon to see if it’s available on DVD. I own only a few movies, but I’d buy this one for sure.

In the dialogue, “he” has just been released from prison. “She” is a local prostitute who used to be his girlfriend and now services the local sheriff. Here’s the bit of dialogue that has stuck in my brain for–who knows?–about 30 years:

She: What do you know? You’re just a common criminal.

He: I’m not a criminal, I’m an outlaw.

She: What’s the difference?

He: I don’t know, but there is one.

What brought all of this flooding back tonight was a houseguest we had for the last couple of days, a friend of Ben’s from his youth. With a few phone calls, Ben managed to connect the houseguest with another friend from the same period, someone who would truly fit the “outlaw” description, at least in his own mind. He’s very hard to reach, because he spends his life in fear of apprehension by “the law.” Is it justified? Who knows? But from personal observation, if the law is looking for him, they’re not looking very hard. But something in the whole flimflam seems to feed a very necessary sense of self-drama.

After the conversation, our houseguest’s wife asked, “What’s your friend up to?” And houseguest replied, “Well, he’s a hippie. He’s been a hippie since before there were hippies.” And Ben called from another room, “And his mother was a hippie before that.” And that started me thinking about outlaws.

Here’s a dictionary etiology of the word:

outlaw adj.

Word History: The word outlaw brings to mind the cattle rustlers and gunslingers of the Wild West, but it comes to us from a much earlier time, when guns were not yet invented but cattle stealing was. Outlaw can be traced back to the Old Norse word tlagr, “outlawed, banished,” made up of t, “out,” and lög, “law.” An tlagi (derived from tlagr) was someone outside the protection of the law. The Scandinavians, who invaded and settled in England during the 8th through the 11th century, gave us the Old English word tlaga, which designated someone who because of criminal acts had to give up his property to the crown and could be killed without recrimination. The legal status of the outlaw became less severe over the course of the Middle Ages. However, the looser use of the word to designate criminals in general, which arose in Middle English, lives on in tales of the Wild West.

Interesting concept: “outside protection of the law.” I think I’m an outlaw, too, and that’s why this keeps surfacing in my brain. Galileo was an outlaw. Socrates was an outlaw. In fact, most of the truly interesting people in history, IMNHO, were outlaws. I think this is a good thing.

Now I truly am going to bed. Again. But I did shoot off for a few minutes to Amazon. No DVD available, but there is a VHS version. I just bought it. Ciao.

2 Responses to “It’s all about outlaws”

  1. rachael Says:

    i love those old stoves!

  2. mklekacz Says:

    Is this Rachael from Swindon, by any chance?

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