I don't remember when I lost my love of Westerns. Growing up, I loved them. My first love was Tonto in The Lone Ranger. I was a tree-climber, and the tallest branch I could reach, the one that galloped and bucked in the wind, I called Silver. Nevermind that Tonto's horse was named Scout. That iconic silver horse rearing to the tune of the William Tell Overture was mine too.

I was also loyal to Gunsmoke, The Virginian, and Have Gun Will Travel. And who could forget Rawhide and Rowdy Yates?

I didn't cotton to The Big Valley or Bonanza. I never bought into the notion of real old-fashioned westerners spouting the "why can't we all just get along" philosophies of the 60's. I mean, I was a woman of my time, but I didn't think cowboys of the late 19th Century were. The death blow for me was Little House on the Prairie. I grew up on Laura Ingalls Wilder. I reread them all as an adult and loved them even more. To me, TV'd Little House was a travesty. Wilder wrote from her heart and mind, experience and memory. TV wrote for family values. Little Joe as Pa? "Ick," I say, and again I say "Ick."

This season AMC has mounted a rather good Western - good rather than great, I think - but good enough. Hell on Wheels follows a Confederate soldier seeking revenge in the West of the Union Pacific - and the building of same. We have conflicted Indians and freed slaves and whores with hearts of gold and a fallen preacher and his feisty daughter and a pretty English surveyor/Indian killer, and Irishmen on the make and...and...and - lots more stuff and lots of fun. So I'm watching it.

On top of all that, American Experience has announced its Wild West Collection, kicking off tonight with Billy the Kid. This will be followed up by Custer's Last Stand, Wyatt Earp, Geronimo, Annie Oakley, Jesse James, Buffalo Bill, and Kit Carson. You don't get more iconic that these.

Last year saw the release of Cowboys and Aliens and next year will see the release of The Lone Ranger. With Johnny Depp. As Tonto. I feel like I've come full circle.