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The Cowboys

Title Card - THE COWBOYS

ABC Network
30 Minutes

Set in the 1870s New Mexico Territory, this was the story of widow  Annie Andersen (Diana Douglas), her ranch foremen Jebediah Nightlinger (Moses Gunn) and their attempts to run a homestead with the help of seven young orphan boys (aged 9-17).

These "cow" boys were originally hired by Will Anderson, the owner of Longhorn Ranch in Spanish Wells to move his cattle to market in Dodge City, when he couldn't find any real cowhand to employ.

Unfortunately, Will is killed by rustlers and so, with the help of Jebediah, the boys fulfill Will's wish sell his herd.

With money in hand,  Jebediah and the boys return home and inform Will's wife of the tragedy that befell her husband. Under Kate and Jebediah's guardianship, the seven boys stayed and helped run the ranch.


The youthful cowpokes that Will Andersen hired included:

  • A Martinez as Cimarron
  • Robert Carradine as Slim
  • Sean Kelly as Jimmy
  • Kerry MacLane as Homer
  • Clint Howard as Steve
  • Mitch Brown as Hardy
  • Clay O'Brien as Weedy

Marshal Bill Winter (Jim Davis) was a friend and father-figure.


TRIVIA NOTE: The series was based on the novel by W. D. Jennings and the movie The Cowboys (1972) starring John Wayne.

In the movie version, when a desperado called Long Hair (Bruce Dern) tries to rustle Andersen’s cattle, Will speaks his mind: “You look like the vermin’ bitten son of a bitch you are.”

When Long Hair begins to taunt a young boy, Will shouts, “We’ve seen what you can do to a boy. How are you when they come a little bigger?” “You’re a pretty old man”, replies Long Hair. “Yeh, thirty years older than you are. Had my back broke once, my hip twice and on my worst day I could eat the Hell out of you.” Andersen started the fight with a punch to Long Hair’s face.

Unfortunately, the defeated desperado reaches for his gun and put five bullets into the man who had bested him. On his dying bed Will says, “See the boys get home. Summer’s over.”

After he dies, the young boys finish the cattle drive but not before dispatching all the rustlers, including Long Hair (he dangled upside down off his saddle as his horse dragged him and his broken leg through the brush and to his death).

On a segment of TNT production Big Guns Talk: The Story of the Western (1997) Bruce Dern remembered that just before he filmed the killing scene, actor John Wayne leaned into him and said, “Eww, they’re (the American public) gonna hate you for what you about to do.”

Obituaries: Moses Gunn: 12/16/1993; Jim Davis: 04/26/1981

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