The High Chaparral
Buck Cannon


Characterization #1
Although Buck Cannon isn't the brightest of the Cannon boys, he is the most colorful.  And even though, he isn't book smart, he certainly is wise in the ways of the human heart. Buck wouldn’t hesitate to give you the shirt off his back, carry you on his back, or break his back (along with his heart) for you. He’s a weather-beaten and tough-as-nails-on-the-surface cowboy, but a huge, tender heart beats beneath that filthy black shirt and worn out leather vest.

Buck fights tirelessly for the underdog because he counts himself as one. Yet, he stands tall among the bunkhouse boys and his family for his loyalty and compassion. In times of crisis, it’s Uncle Buck that Blue Boy often turns to for the solace and understanding he could never expect to receive from his father.  And though Buck’s advice is not always eloquent, it does come directly from that over-sized, selfless heart.

You can count on Buck - most of the time. Just don't trust him with your money or your horse - unless you happen to be his best friend, Manolito. Mano understands that Buck isn’t dishonest; he’s just gullible. The crazier the scheme, the harder Buck will fall for it. That’s how he and Mano acquired the C-bar-M Ranch - useless lode of silver ore included.  

Buck usually tackles life with enthusiasm and reckless abandon. Whether he's buying a camel off an unscrupulous Irish cavalryman, searching for a home for an orphan Mexican boy, or trying to free an enslaved white girl from the Apache, Buck charges forward with blinders on, fighting for his convictions. He knows it will take several attempts and a lot of gunfire, a few punches, large amounts of “redeye”, and a scolding from big brother John, but Buck won’t stop until he has achieved his goal.

Buck calls a spade a spade, so don't try to cheat him at poker. His aim is true, and he can shoot straight, too. He'll tell you in an instant that he's nothing more than what you see, but don't believe him. He’s made up of his life experiences and weighty inner conflicts, like his need to measure up as something more than John's inadequate younger brother; the sorrows of lost loves and romantic deceptions; his passion for the land that rages against him; the torment of his darker days as a drifter and soldier in the Confederate Army; and a precarious love/hate relationship with the Apache.  Most of this pain, he drowns in whiskey.

David Dortort was lucky to sign veteran actor, Cameron Mitchell, to the role.  They met on a plane en route to Tucson.  Mitchell had arranged to sit next to Dortort because he had heard that he was casting for the role of Buck Cannon and he wanted to make his pitch for the job - partly because steady work in the States meant he could move his family back from Europe where he had been working for much of the sixties. Mitchell brought years of big screen experience and a personal depth to his role. His real life love for children, animals and food is visible in his character. As an accomplished actor, Mitchell has played many roles, and it was this wealth of experience that Cameron Mitchell used to shape the heart and soul of that big-hearted, eager, and honest saddle tramp we fondly know as "Buck Cannon".  (By Mary Ann Draves)

From "The Reluctant Deputy"

Characterization #2
Shadows are a recurring theme on High Chaparral, shadows on the land, shadows of the wind, long shadows- and there is no real question that Buck Cannon occupies a central place directly in the shadow of his older brother, cattle baron Big John Cannon. He is not alone there, certainly; that shadow also extends to encompass John's son and family, and his men. But Buck has been that shadow's most long term resident, and one senses that place has been fundamental in shaping his own character. For first and foremost, Buck is a character. Hard drinking, hard loving, hard fighting, Buck Cannon does nothing by halves.

Describing himself to his brother as a drifter who has merely found someplace good and comfortable to drift into, but who will always be looking toward the next good thing, there is an air of rootlessness, of ungroundedness, to Buck that may even look like irresponsibility at first glance. His brother certainly interprets it often enough that way, when Buck fails to be where Big John wants him to be, at the exact time John wants him to be there. But the actual case is more complicated. It is not that Buck is irresponsible, necessarily, quite to the contrary. He understands and takes very seriously the tasks that are required for running a cattle ranch in the wilderness, for managing both stock and men. Buck is a top hand. He is also deeply and absolutely loyal to his friends, for better or for worse, present and past, whether it's an old army buddy looking for help, or an old girlfriend looking for her husband who needs his assistance. But Buck is also easily distracted, sensitive to the wonder around him, his imagination captured by the world. And more to the point, he is essentially a fun-loving free spirit, drawn to the frolic of the moment, whether that moment is horse racing with his nephew or a friendly card game at the bunkhouse, or a trip to the saloon when he really should be doing something else. As his own brother affectionately comments, once Buck gets a whiff of whiskey and perfume, there's no holding him.

Nor has Buck always followed in his brother's footsteps, though his acts of independence have been, in a way, reactions to his brother's authority as much as personal decisions in his own right. His most marked divergence came during the Civil War, when Buck chose to fight for his native Virginia with the Confederacy, while brother John fought for the North. It was a decision that appears to have separated the brothers for some time, with only John's dream of an Arizona cattle ranch bringing them together again.

It is Buck's carpe diem approach to life that most often frustrates his brother, and is most often the cause of trouble between the two men, but there is also a darker side to Buck, as well. We continually get little hints about a past that might have been less than strictly legitimate, especially immediately after the war. Occasionally, his disreputable past acquaintances drift their ways onto the ranch. And we are regularly reminded that Buck is essentially a fighting man, both with his fists and with a gun. There is also a need for solitude in Buck that stands in sharp contrast to his lighthearted ways. As often as he goes in search of a card game or a saloon with his friends, he is just as likely to light out looking for some distant, anonymous town festival to visit, or to go hunting in the mountains alone. One senses some deeper secret behind the drinking and the almost frantic search for amusement, a secret that is never quite revealed, but that likely has something to do with the war.

A handsome man, with laughing eyes and sunny hair, Buck is as attractive to women as they are attractive to him. He has never been married, however, and, as far as we know, there have only been two serious love interests in his life: Anne Simmons, before the war, who married somebody else, and Charleen "Charley" Converse, a freight company owner, who eventually leaves him because she realizes that his life could never be hers. There was a brief, though poignant, attachment to Meg Hallock, the wife of a young bank clerk turned rancher the Cannons try to help, but Meg was married, and ultimately out of reach. For the most part, though, Buck's taste in women runs toward those denizens of the saloons and dance halls, with whom he appears to maintain a great friendship as well as whatever professional relationship they may share. It may be that Buck avoids entanglements with "decent women" for that reason common enough among cowboys, the fear of getting tied down, but one also senses in Buck a belief in his own unworthiness as husband material behind his choice of companionship.

There is little question that the real love of Buck's life is his nephew, Blue - his little Blue-boy, as he still insists on calling the twenty-year old youth. Buck is absolutely devoted to his brother's son, and it is often sensitive and open-hearted "Uncle Buck" who must bind the wounds left by John's gruff, and often harsh, dealings with his son. And there is no question that the affection is reciprocated - for it is to Buck that Blue turns first for advice, support and companionship. Buck also has a deep, caring, almost worshipful relationship with his sister-in-law, Victoria, whom he admires and adores, and who has done the most, certainly, toward "civilizing" him. And Victoria's brother, Manolito, is easily Buck's best friend, his favorite drinking companion, and friendly rival in the field of love. It is his relationship with his brother, John, however, that continues to dominate Buck's life, and to define him. It is a relationship fraught with pain and misunderstanding, for the two men could not be more unalike, and John's powerful personality would be difficult for even the most secure individual to contend with. But it is still a relationship fueled by the deepest love, however badly or infrequently expressed. For there is no doubt that the two brothers love each other, and would do anything for each other, as long as they do not kill each other first.

It is not an easy place to live, in the shadow of so dominant a personality, and Buck Cannon cannot help but show the effects of living there. But living there has also given him a perspective on life that is perhaps more giving, and maybe more realistic, than his brother's. For Buck knows that things, though nice to have, and attractive to dream about, are not what's really important - it is friends, and family, and loyalty to those you love that matters, not the acquisition of more cattle or more land. For all his rough ways, and devil-may-care attitudes, there is one characteristic Buck reveals more than all other- and that is a heart of gold. 
(By Sheryl Clay) 

From "The Kinsman"

See the Guide to Character Weight to determine in which episodes Buck had major or minor roles.

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