'Every shot he took was an oil painting': The best of Monument Valley

Jimmy Cricket at Monument Valley
Jimmy Cricket at Monument Valley
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Columnist Jimmy Cricket writes about his coach trip through Arizona in the USA.

Myself and Mrs Cricket were on a coach trip travelling through the great state of Arizona in the USA.

Jimmy Cricket at John Ford Point

Jimmy Cricket at John Ford Point

Our guide is encouraging everyone to sing, and the French people at the front go into a rousing chorus of their national anthem.

Then led by a cheerleader the Italian gang at the back, belt out Nessan Dorma.

We’re in the middle and there’s an Aussie couple just behind us, and after they give a boisterous rendition of Waltzing Matilda, all eyes are on us.

I launch into Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star. I can still hear the collective groans from fellow passengers.

Just as I was about to slouch further down into the seat I saw Monument Valley. What a sight. It may not be one of the Seven Wonders of the World but it could definitely understudy for one of them if they ever got ill.

Monument Valley is so vast it actually straddles two states; Arizona and Utah.

As I gazed upon it, it all came back to me. The countless times I sat in the cinema when I was growing up in Belfast watching the Cavalry ride across that landscape.

It was the Hollywood director John Ford who seemed to get the best shots of Monument Valley, whether it is the Oscar winning black and white movie, Stagecoach, trundling through the Valley covered in snow, or the full Cinemascope colour of The Searchers, where John Wayne sets out to rescue his niece Debbie, who had been taken hostage by the Indians.

As I got older I realised how awesome the scenery was.

As my friend the late great comedy writer Eddie Braben said of John Ford: “Jimmy, every shot he took was an oil painting.”

It was never a happy ending for the Indians in those pictures, however, folks come closer, things have changed. Monument Valley, is now a National Park and is run by the Navajo Indians. They even have their own government.

As our coach drew up, they greeted us warmly and as we all got off, we climbed into Jeeps that drove us into the Valley.

After a memorable journey we then shared lunch with them. Coffee and a taco with a salad and some warm beans thrown in for good measure.

The Chief then introduced me to his wife. He said, “Meet Chief Four Horses”. I shook her hand warmly and then enquired, “Does that name have a special significance for you?” Then with impeccable timing he said, “Nag, nag, nag.”

Then it was time to take some more photos and then say goodbye to this gorgeous landscape.

I couldn’t help but think, sitting in the Jeep on our way back to the coach. In those Western movies that were shot in Monument Valley in the forties and fifties, the

native Americans were portrayed as the baddies, all the dads and grandads of the guys that were showing us around actually got paid to play themselves as actors in those films. So arguably they had the last laugh. That’s one on the napper for the politically correct brigade.

After some final snapping with our digital cameras it was back on the coach.

Our next stop was the Colorado River, where it does a U turn. It’s known to locals as the Horseshoe Bend.

After that it was back on Route 66 and the final leg of the journey back to Las Vegas.

There’s More… I recorded a Christmas CD two years ago called, Santa Bring My Wellies Back To Me. My goal was to sell 2,000 copies and make £10,000 for Francis House Children’s Hospice, in Didsbury, Manchester. I’m just 300 CDs short of my target. The CD has nine more original Christmas songs plus an eight-minute stand up with a seasonal flavour. They can be purchased from www.jimmycricket.co.uk for £6 including postage and packing.