What are you gonna use for hands on this drive of yours, huh? Them little bitty boys down there? Come on, you know better than that, Mr. Andersen. You know what you're gonna need to trundle them boys across the prairie, don't you? A baby carriage.
~ Watts to Wil Andersen.

Asa "Long Hair" Watts is the main antagonist of the 1972 western film The Cowboys. He is portrayed by Bruce Dern.


Watts first appears in the film when he approaches rancher Wil Andersen, who has just enlisted the help of some schoolboys to participate in a 400 mile long cattle drive. He and his gang have just been released from jail and are searching for work. Watts lies to Andersen and, in order to get work, claims that he's worked for several dozen ranchers. Andersen catches Watts in the lie when he reveals that he was the pallbearer at the funeral of one of the ranchers that Watts mentions, and refuses to hire him. Furious, he rides off, and swears vengeance by resolving to take Andersen's herd by force. He and his gang begin discreetly following Andersen and his herd.

Mid way through the drive, Watts encounters one of Andersen's adolescent ranchers, Slim Honeycutt, while he is getting water at a river. He and his gang bully Slim, and he tells Slim that if he tells Andersen that they were following the herd, he would kill him (though Andersen eventually figures out that they are being followed.) Whilst they were setting up camp one night, Watts and his gang encounter Andersen and his cowhands. The confrontation becomes heated and soon becomes a violent fistfight between Andersen and Watts. When Andersen gains the upper hand and seemingly subdues Watts, Watts jumps back up and challenges him again, but Andersen refuses, telling him to "go to Hell". This enrages Watts even further; he picks up a rifle and shoots Andersen several times in the back, then takes off with the herd and almost all their supplies. Andersen ultimately dies from the wounds.

Andersen's cowhands reslove to take the herd back. As part of a plan, Andersen's cook, the African-American Jebediah Nightlinger, wanders into Watts's camp and allows himself supposedly be executed by hanging. This provides enough of a distraction for the cowhands to ambush the camp. With the element of surprise, the boys kill every member of Watts's gang. Eventually, Watts is the only one left, and has broken his leg after falling off his horse, and his leg has gotten tangled in the reigns. Watts desperately pleads with the boys to spare him, and at first they appear to when part of the reigns trapping his leg are cut loose...but only the part connecting the reign to the saddle, which Watts doesn't realize until it is too late. Moments later, Slim shoots a gun blast into the air, which startles Watts' idle horse, sending it galloping off into the desert, dragging him by his broken leg and presumably killing him.


Bruce Dern The Cowboys

Watts revealing his true nature.

While at first Watts seemed to be a pleasant, though slightly stand-offish, individual, he is later revealed to be a violent thug when he sadistically bullies Slim Honeycutt and theatens to kill him, showing that he has no problems with killing, even if it's a child. A vicious and psychopathic criminal, Watts also appears to be very arrogant, belittling Andersen for using boys as cowhands and believing himself to be a better fighter than Andersen, though this is soon proven wrong. Watts also appears to be somewhat racist, based on some of the things he says and does to Jeb Nightlinger, including slapping him in the face and desiring to hang him, all just because he "sassed" him (despite the fact that he was insulting Nightlinger himself.)

Out of all of the boys, Watts seemed to focus on Slim (it's unknown why, though it's probably just because he was the first of Andersen's cowhands that he met.) He took vicious pleasure in bullying and threatening Slim, broke Slim's glasses just because he wanted to (immediately after Slim asks him to give them back, because they were in his family for a long time) and was angry at him before begging to be freed from the tangled reigns.

Despite his viciousness, Watts was also, at heart, a coward. After Andersen beat him in combat, Watts shot him in the back, and, after his camp was ambushed, he desperately begged for the boys to spare him, pleading for them to free his broken leg.

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