In 2004, he was inducted into the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City

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Lending a helping hand has never been difficult for Cowboy Hall-of-Famer and Grass Valley resident Clint Walker.

When the actor first moved to Hollywood in the mid-1950s, he was late for an appointment at Paramount Studios with producer and director Cecil B. DeMille because he’d stopped to help a woman change a tire.

“Young man, you’re late,” said DeMille, an imposing figure even to the 6-foot, 6-inch former deputy sheriff.

I’m sorry, sir,” Walker said, “I stopped to help somebody on the freeway.”

“Yes, I know all about it,” retorted DeMille. “That was my secretary.”

After that fortuitous meeting, DeMille cast Walker as a Sardinian guard in “The Ten Commandments.” Walker’s career took off when Warner Brothers gave him the lead role in the popular Western TV series, “Cheyenne,” which aired from 1955 to 1963.

His numerous credits include roles in the films “The Dirty Dozen,” “Night of the Grizzly,” and “Yellowstone Kelly.” In 2004, he was inducted into the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City alongside performers such as John Wayne, Clint Eastwood and Glenn Ford.

On Monday night, Nevada County fans will get a chance to hear Walker’s Hollywood anecdotes firsthand and ask him questions about his career when he hosts “An Evening With Clint Walker” at the Nevada Theatre.

Walker, 79, will also read from his latest novel, “Yaqui Gold,” co-written with Kirby Jonas. The evening’s lineup includes music from Jonathan Meredith and his Cowboy Band and a screening of an episode of “Cheyenne.” Ticket sales from the event will go towards a new fire sprinkler system at the theater.

“Yaqui Gold,” published in 2003 by Jonas’ own company, Howling Wolf Publications, tells the story of two close friends who search for treasure in the Southwest desert deep in Yaqui Indian territory. During their quest for gold, they have to overcome many obstacles, including one character losing the soles of his feet when they’re sliced off by the Yaquis.

Walker said that he’s had the idea for “Yaqui Gold” for 35 years, but it wasn’t until he heard an audio tape of a book by Kirby Jonas that he decided to co-author a novel with the writer.

“We fleshed it out together,” Jonas said about the manuscript during a recent telephone interview. “He had the idea, I had a few changes. Between the two of us, we spent a lot of time on the telephone together outlining the book.”

Jonas has written six Western novels. He likens his style to Western writer Louis L’Amour.

 

Walker moved to Grass Valley 26 years ago to escape from the smog and crowds of Southern California. But taking a step away from the movie capital didn’t slow him down or lessen his popularity with Western fans.

During a recent interview at the Trolley Junction restaurant in Nevada City, he and his wife, Susan, described how busy they’ve been since Warner Brothers released a boxed DVD set in June of the entire first season of “Cheyenne.” As of Friday, the DVD was ranked 17 on Amazon’s list of top-selling Western DVDs.

“Our Web site has been off the charts,” said Susan Walker. “It’s almost more than the two of us can handle at this point.”

The Walkers started the Web site three years ago to communicate with fans and sell autographed DVDs and other memorabilia. Today they receive 40 to 50 e-mails a week.

One would think that a handsome, blue-eyed actor renowned for baring his 48-inch chest an average of once per “Cheyenne” episode would get admiring letters from female fans. But many of the incoming e-mails are from men, the Walkers said.

“Men remember him from when they were 10, 11 years old, and they take him to heart,” said Susan Walker. She described the e-mails they receive as “emotional.”

“Sometimes they’re ill and we write a letter back,” she added.

Even renowned manly man Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has a soft spot for the renowned cowboy, according to Walker. A few years ago, Schwarzenegger called Walker, reminiscing about the 1966 Mr. Universe competition in London where Walker, the celebrity presenter, handed the bodybuilder his title. Schwarzenegger said that he remembered what Walker was wearing that day, Walker said, and told him that Walker was the first movie star he’d ever met.

Although cowboys ride into the sunset at the end of every film, Walker doesn’t think the popularity of the Western genre will ever wane. Not as long as they depict big skies, open land and laconic men and women standing their ground for what they believe in.

The Union .

PROC.BY MOVIES

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