Keep movin', movin', movin',
Though they're disapprovin',
Keep them dogies movin', Rawhide!
Don't try to understand 'em,
Just rope and throw and brand 'em,
Soon we'll be living high and wide.
Boy my heart's calculatin'
My true love will be waitin', be waiting at the end of my ride.
It starred Eric Fleming as trailboss Gil Favour, a taciturn Team Dad, and a young Clint Eastwood as "Rowdy" Yates, his protege on the cattle trail. For eight seasons, the team of cattle men drove heads of steer along the Sedalia Trail from Texas to Missouri. Which all looked remarkably like Southern California.
This series provides examples of:
- Abusive Parents: Jess Hode in "Incident of the Dry Drive" bullies and verbally abuses his son Jim because he thinks it will make him tougher. He even threatens to kill him when Jim decides to help Favor and his drovers get to the water on their land.
- Adult Fear: Why Jennie Colby pretends not to know Davey in "Incident of the Roman Candles": she's worried they'll kill him to punish her husband for shooting an outlaw in the leg.
- Affably Evil: Arkansas from "Incident of the Chubasco" is a petty criminal, but he's very charismatic.
- Badass Bookworm: Betsy Stauffer from "Incident of the Town in Terror", a fearless nurse who risks hostility from her own town just to help Rowdy.
- Bad Habits: "Brother" Dave Bent from "Incident of the Golden Calf", a preacher and conman who causes chaos among the team of cowmen by tempting them with gold.
- Belly Dancer: Barbara Eden appears as one in "Incident at Confidence Creek".
- Big Brother Mentor: Favor to Rowdy.
- Big Ol' Eyebrows: Captain Loomis in "Incident of the Haunted Hills" has small beady eyes beneath comically thick bushy eyebrows.
- Break the Haughty: Favor in "Incident of the Dog Days". He starts out confident in his ability to move his herd through harsh territory. Then when most of his cowhands quit, he is close to giving up.
- Bridal Carry: Favor lifts a fair number of damsels in this way, especially in earlier seasons.
- Camp Cook: Wishbone, a former mountain man and the oldest member of the team. Because of the practical skills he learned spending 20 years surviving on his own in the wilderness, he also doubles as any other supply-related position the drovers need, most prominently as the doctor.
- Cassandra Truth: Roy in "Incident of the Coyote Weed" can't seem to convince the rest of the cattlemen that Rivera is up to something. Unfortunately, he dies before anyone else finds out.
- Cattle Drive: This show is almost nothing but cattle drives, though sometimes they stumble upon Adventure Towns and outlaws.
- Chick Magnet: Favor has gotten the attention of several attractive women.
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Mr. Favor disappears between the seventh and final season with no explanation.
- Cool Guns. Rowdy and Pete remark on the unique appearance of the gun Rowdy takes from a Gunslinger in "Incident at Alabaster Plain", which has a silver snake on the right-hand side of the grip. (This becomes the gun Clint Eastwood's character in the Dollars Trilogy uses.)
- Courtroom Episode: "Incident of the Thirteenth Man", where Rowdy and Wishbone are forced to do jury duty.
- Cruel and Unusual Death: In "Incident of the Haunted Hills", Native American cowhand Tasunka attempts to make contact with his former tribe, the infamously hostile Paneequa, and plead the drovers' case so they might water their herd at the Paneequa's lake. Instead, he is staked out over a large geyser in the geothermal springs near the Paneequa village, and the other drovers arrive too late to save him before the geyser erupts, simultaneously tearing the flesh from his bone with high-pressurized water and flash-boiling him.
- Dark Chick: Dallas Storm in "Incident of the Tumbleweed" and Jenny Watson in "Incident of the Calico Gun".
- Disappeared Dad: Mr. Favor, actually. He's got two children back east. Rowdy's father, seen in the episode "Incident at Rio Salado", is also an example of this.
- Distress Ball: When Rowdy goes anywhere on his own and talks to anyone (usually a woman), it'll generally lead to trouble. He'll get swindled, roped into something dangerous, knocked unconscious, taken hostage, pushed down a well... Etc. Other characters will occasionally fall prey to this as well.
- Dumb Is Good: Mushy is definitely not the brightest guy around, but he's very nice and always tries to be helpful.
- Dwindling Party: In "Incident of the Haunted Hills", Favor goes with five other men into the Haunted Hills. Two of them are not regular characters, so they, along with the men of another party they join up with, are bumped off gradually on the journey.
- Evil Matriarch: Luisa Esquivel Y Hadley from "Incident of the Day of the Dead" is a cruel, domineering and arrogant woman who treats her Mexican workers like feudal slaves and ruthlessly bullies her husband and her daughter. It gets so bad that her husband ends up supporting a rebellion amongst their workers and nearly ends up shooting her for the sake of their daughter. Before that, she manipulates Rowdy to get into her financial debt so she can force him to try and break an incredibly aggressive stallion that has injured or killed every other person who tried, even forcing him to do so as part of the Day of the Dead festivals so his fate can be entertainment for her household.
- Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Matt Lucas in "Incident of the Curious Street" begs Favor to give his beloved dead son Waldo a decent burial as he's being arrested.
- Every Episode Ending: "Head 'em up! Move 'em out!" Mr. Favor's Signing-Off Catchphrase. (Sometimes said by other people.)
- Femme Fatale: Narcie from "Incident on the Edge of Madness", Jenny Watson from "Incident of the Calico Gun", Louise from "Incident of a Burst of Evil", the woman who invites Rowdy to gamble in "Incident of the Day of the Dead" and Maria from "Incident at Spanish Rock" are all sexy, untrustworthy women who entice the cattlemen into danger.
- Florence Nightingale Effect: Averted in "Incident of the Town in Terror". A female nurse, Betsy, tends to Rowdy while he's sick, but they develop no relationship whatsoever, she doesn't fall in love with him, and she only views him as a patient.
- Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling: Lance (foolish) and Brazo (responsible) in the episode "Incident at Barker Springs". Lance is a gang member bitter and disillusioned with his family, and Brazo is the gunfighter trying to go after him to try and not get himself killed.
- Hard Head: Rowdy in particular, but several characters, in the main cast or supporting, get a Tap on the Head and are just fine.
- Heel Realization:
- Favor has one in "Incident in the Valley of Shadow" when he realizes that he has been emotionally abusing Winoka (born Nancy Curtis) by insisting that she belongs with her own kind, the white men, and allows her to stay with Manso.
- Luisa Hadley has this when her husband, daughter and workers abandon her at the end of "Incident on the Day of the Dead", culminating in her freeing the untamable stallion Muerte to cement how she has lost everything.
- Heroic Sacrifice: Favor almost gets himself hanged in "Incident Below the Brazos" to save Jesús who himself offered his life to make up for getting a farmer killed.
- Humans Are White: Most of the characters on the show are white.
- Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: "Incident with|at|of|on X" (although this was dropped for season four, and for the final two seasons it was dropped again).
- In the Back: Several characters over the series. For example, Hannah Haley is shot this way in "Incident West of Lano".
- Interrupted Suicide: Ellen Hadley in "Incident of the Day of the Dead", who has trauma-induced paralysis of her legs and an abusive mother, tries to wheel herself into a pond. Rowdy stops her by tackling her.
- It Works Better with Bullets: Subverted in "Incident of the Calico Gun", where Mushy tries shooting a gang member with a rifle. Unfortunately it doesn't seem to be loaded. However, at the end, it turns out that the gun was just malfunctioning.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Wishbone could be pretty irritable, but he was also deeply moral.
- Laser-Guided Karma: If a person is an antagonist for genuinely malicious, selfish or stupid reasons, expect them to end up paying for it by the episode's end. Especially if they're a woman.
- "Incident of the Shambling Man": When Harry Whitman realises his daughter-in-law Rose has been trying to get him declared mentally ill and locked up so she can sell the ranch and leave, he tricks her into a goodbye embrace and then snaps her spine.]]
- "Incident at Jacob's Well": When Illora Calvin's attempt to murder her stepdaughter Melissa by pushing her down a dry well is revealed, she ends up fatally falling into another dry well herself whilst trying to retreat from her husband and neighbors.
- Machete Mayhem: Luke Storm, the outlaw leader in "Incident of the Tumbleweed", carries a machete and is only too keen to use it.
- The Medic: Wishbone handled this role whenever there wasn't a real doctor around.
- My Beloved Smother: Discussed with Mrs. Miller in "Incident of the Curious Street", who has a Heel Realization after she realizes that she has been "breathing for" her daughter Angie.
- Nitro Express: In "Walk Into Terror," A couple of drovers are trapped in an old mine, and another drover, who saw some "gun gel" (possibly gelignite) at an abandoned shack nearby, says he can use that to free them. But first they have to slowly transport the stuff via wagon.
- Number Two: Rowdy (although Favor will sometimes leave the herd with Pete instead).
- Only a Flesh Wound: Several main characters take a bullet to the arm, hand, shoulder, torso or even head at some point, but seem to more or less walk it off. Sometimes bad guys are taken out of the fight but unarmed by shots like this from the good guys as well. (On the other hand, when it's convenient for bad guys to die quickly, the Instant Death Bullet will come into play, usually with Bloodless Carnage.)
- Only Known by Their Nickname: The young cowhand Mr. Favor loses while trying to cross high water was only known as "Boston".
- Opening Narration: Mr. Favor usually provides these. After he disappears, Rowdy takes up the mantle.
- Out-of-Genre Experience: In "Incident of the Thirteenth Man", Rowdy and Wishbone suddenly find themselves in a courtroom drama when they're forced to do jury duty in a town they're passing through.
- Papa Wolf:
- Jardon in "Incident with an Executioner" is a villainous example of this. He stalks a stagecoach party to avenge the death of his wife and daughter.
- Jed Mason in "Incident of Fear in the Streets", who prevents help being gotten sooner to Pete and prepares to hang the Sheriff just so he could get justice for his dead youngest son.
- Pragmatic Hero:
Pete: Mr. Favor's sure set in his ways... even when he's wrong.
- Mr. Favor can be this to a fault, often caring about his men but putting business above all else. For example, in "Incident of the Coyote Weed", he reasons that losing Roy Evans in a cattle stampede is less important than losing a herd.
- In "Incident of the Judas Trap", when Pete is arrested, Favor lets the matter wait until the next day, because they need Brad Morgan, who turns out to be the culprit of a murder, to help them keep the wolves away so they can get all the cattle to Sedalia.
- Redemption Equals Death: Several episodes center around morally ambiguous guest star characters with shady pasts, a significant handful of which end up dying just as or just after they acknowledge their misdeeds and/or attempt something heroic. ("Incident of the Tumbleweed", "Incident of the Garden of Eden", "Incident at the Top of the World", etc.)
- Remittance Man: A very bitter remittance man is one of the prisoners masterminding the escape attempt in "Incident of the Tumbleweed".
- Satellite Character: Joe Scarlet and Jim Quince, at least in the first season, are underdeveloped.
- Shirtless Scene: Rowdy gets to be shirtless in a few scenes.
- Suicide by Cop: In "The Book," Rowdy is roped into a duel with an aging gunfighter, but Wishbone manages to get him out of it, prompting the gunfighter to ask, "Why weren't you around twenty-four years ago?" The man who set up the fight convinces another drover, Ernie Torres, to take Rowdy's place. Rowdy and Wishbone try to convince Ernie not to go because they're certain he'll be killed. He goes anyway, and to their shock, wins the duel. Later on everyone talks about how it seemed like the gunfighter didn't even try to draw, making it clear he had decided to die.
- The Starscream: Jesse in the episode "Incident on the Edge of Madness" after he kills Millett.
- Stockholm Syndrome: In "Incident of the Curious Street", Angie Miller falls in love with Waldo Lucas, the son of her captor, who told her that he promised her a better life, and she wants to stay a prisoner. Her emotional scars seem to disappear instantly after Waldo beats her
- The Stoic: Favor is always calm and taciturn.
- Sympathetic Murderer: Amelia Spaulding from "Incident of the Misplaced Indians" tries to present herself as this. She murdered four Delawares because they reminded her of a more hostile tribe who killed her missionary husband.
- Take a Third Option: In "The Book," Rowdy is manipulated into participating in a gunfight that he is sure to lose. Wishbone despairs of talking him out of it, even though Rowdy doesn't even want to go through with it, because Rowdy doesn't like taking orders from anyone besides Favor and also doesn't want to look like a coward. But if he does go through with it, he'll most likely be killed. Just as Rowdy's about to go out to the street, Wishbone breaks a bottle over his head, leaving him in no condition to fight. Rowdy's not even angry about it, since it gave him an honorable way out.
- Team Dad: Mr. Favor. Don't forget it.
- Team Mom: Wishbone.
- True Companions: Well, yes and no. The drovers could generally be counted on to unite against external threats, but at the end of the day, driving the herd was a job. If Favor pushed them too hard, or did anything that might jeopardize their pay, they made their displeasure known. In "Incident of the Odyssey," a number of them, including Rowdy, nearly quit because of Favor's unwillingness to explain what they saw as unreasonable demands.
- The Voiceless: Sánchez in "Incident of the Coyote Weed" doesn't have a single line of dialogue.
- Would Hit a Girl: A marshal hits the convict Dallas Storm after she assaults him. His excuse is that she's more wildcat than woman.
- Wrongfully Accused: Favor gets accused of murder in "Incident of the Devil and His Due." Rowdy is accused of murder in both "Incident of the Sharpshooter" and "Incident of The Big Blowout." Once, Quince is accused of rustling cattle and almost lynched on the spot. "Incident on the Road to Yesterday" involves the main characters trying to clear the name of an ex-criminal they've met, who is accused of crimes he hasn't committed.