The American "West," which is really the prairie since the coast is actually west and what we call the West is east of the Rockies, is almost as defined by sentiment as it is by actual geography. The same goes for the state of Montana, which once defined a kind of writing or at least it's quality. Now that "emotional" felt thought is given the attention it deserves in relation to the logical, reasonable, results-based thought, I want to look at the "felt" in relation to the American West trope.
I thought of doing this with fiction, using my experience in Browning in the Sixties as a source. But why not go directly to the events and thoughts which are fifty years old now and safe from motives of vengeance (very Western)?
Not that we've escaped the mystique of the indigenous people of the prairie, the ones on horseback with feathers, the ones who have transmuted into dance pow-wows with whirls of frenzied moves, so many florescent flying ribbons and dyed plumes that it's hard to see the person at the center. The same forces have made the tough, dusty work of early livestock-based ranches into bull-riding spectaculars that introduce the contestants with explosions and search-lights. Buffalo Bill may have started both, but he would faint if he saw these.
Back to the Sixties when the sentimental love of art about horseback culture, both indigenous and introduced, against a vast background of distant horizon and baroque skies, dominated whole galleries. The individual who pushed this was Charlie Russell (or maybe actually his wife). Remington was a back east representative, a man so fat that horses groaned, a painter of Indians so fond of handsome young military men . . . This art was around in many forms, some of them more focused on landscape or animals.
Sentiment also dominated the movies but not so much the TV shows of the Fifties when Westerns were a theme of many series. I've called them "stand down" movies for the men who fought WWII. The plots often opposed the passionate gut reactions of Rowdy Yates (Clint Eastwood) to the reasoned strategy of Mr. Favor (Eric Fleming). This was the "magic" of the show which was cancelled when Fleming died in 1965. The basic drive died. We know what happened to the emotional Eastwood by now -- he's far to the right, treats women badly.
Teaching on the Blackfeet Rez was wildly romantic. I was the only person in town who was charmed by finding a group of horses grazing in my yard. I didn't see manure, only "Green Grass of Wyoming." Like many Western stories, this book came from the real life romance of a woman linked to a narcissistic man. Exceptionally capable, charismatic, achieving men in the West have often depended on women or a series of women falling under their spell. Bob Scriver was no exception and his mother was one of the women.
Wessie MacFie Scriver, the cosseted daughter of a prosperous farmer near Quebec, had no doubts about her entitlements and the proper qualities of a sentimental home. By the time I knew her, she was old and had at least the illusion of what she had originally expected, but if it hadn't been for the fancied adventure of life with Thaddeus Emory Scriver in Indian Country, she might not have come. In fact, once she had produced an heir and a spare, she thought to go home to Quebec. That idea faded in the supposed reality of safety and comfort, the romance of being the mother of sons -- much intensified when they served in WWII. None of this was rational and much of it was powered by the Edwardian culture in Britain/Canada carried to the American West.
When I had pneumonia just as entering puberty, the neighborhood doctor saved me from what had previously been near-certain death with a shot of penicillin in my little butt. I was mortified by my exposure but soon began to recover. Next to my bed was one of the floor-to-ceiling bookcases my father built against every wall. I found "Riders of the Purple Sage" (1912), as potent a mixture of romantic love and the romantic West as ever written and at exactly the formative time of my identity. It wasn't until I read "Marjorie Morningstar" (1955) in high school that "art" and "theatre", both intensely romantic in the Manhattan way, became an element in my ardent drive to be exceptional. (Jewish never quite came into it, one way or another.) Of course, Jo in "Little Women" had already made it acceptable to fall in love with an older man like Professor Bhaer.
A hard-headed therapist looking at this little plotlet would have had a lot to say about father-hunger (my father was subtly disabled by a concussion), oldest-child syndrome, and sneaky Christianity. The elementary school librarian said casually as she handed me a copy of "Pilgrim's Progress" (1672), "I think you are mature enough to read this." I was very earnest about religion, to the point of disabling any belief in the church's fantasies so that I was offended to the point of beginning a long search, as much rational as sentimental. But I did love things like "Mother's Day" in our little Presbyterian church when we carried the tables out to the yard, spread beautiful tablecloths, and each wore a rose -- red for a living mother and white for a dead mother. Wartime makes a romance of death and mothers. ("Little Women")
This is plenty of stuff for fiction, but in terms of fact, romance is a matter of attachment, often on the basis of familiarity. The taste, temperature, and tactile become literally part of our system. It is a force for valuing and preservation that is biologically based, kept in cell chemistry. Now that Westerns like "Yellowstone" justify corruption, power, and violence and try to make us sentimental about status and bonds between men, the terms of the Western are confused. Check this out: https://twitter.com/NativeApprops/status/644183098964463617/photo/1 Commodifying the PowWow. Got quite a backlash from those who guard the fence around a certain kind of "Indian."
In fact, my favorite contemporary Western is Australian, "Mystery Road" (2013) This link is to the trailer for the second story, but it doesn't have Judy Davis in it which is a serious shortcoming. https://www.imdb.com/title/tt2236054/videoplayer/vi717273625?ref_=vp_pl_1