Frontier Doc

Not-So-True True Grit

Hollywood’s latest “tongue ‘n’ cheek” medical miracle.


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Four riders surrounded the Texas Ranger, LaBoeuf (Matt Damon).

Suddenly, the horseman on the Ranger’s left threw a lasso over his shoulders and quickly pulled the Ranger to the frozen ground, dragging him on his face and belly. All hell broke loose as Marshal “Rooster” Cogburn (Jeff Bridges) started firing his Winchester at the riders from his concealed position.

This classic scene in Joel and Ethan Coen’s 2010 production of True Grit is one played over and over again in Westerns. As a modern doc, I have always wondered what real and hypothetical injuries could befall the unlucky cowboy caught up in such an unfortunate situation. If dragged at a gallop for minutes over rocky, uneven terrain, he could suffer terribly from severe fractures and head trauma, later to die of blood loss, stemming from internal injuries.

Not so in the current scenario. The Coens decided to portray LaBoeuf as being dragged only a short distance on his face while simultaneously sustaining a through and through left shoulder wound, possibly caused by an errant shot from Cogburn’s rifle.

Basically ignoring the shoulder wound, at least, for the moment, Cogburn concentrated upon grabbing and repositioning the Ranger’s mangled tongue that was “bit almost through.” “Should I just yank it free?” Cogburn asked the suffering and bleeding Ranger, as he recounted the...

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