by Adam Behsudi
CANTON — Life is a bit quieter these days for Herbert “Cowboy” Coward, once the Hollywood villain who terrorized hapless Atlanta businessmen in the big-screen thriller “Deliverance.”
Most Saturdays, the man known for his chilling role in the 1972 movie can be found autographing pictures at a roadside flea market in Canton.
“It sort of gives you something to do on the weekend,” said Coward, a soft-spoken Haywood County native who now spends time taking his ailing wife to Asheville for doctor’s appointments or playing with Sam Starsky, an orphaned squirrel he rescued 11 years ago.
The 69-year-old’s latest foray into show business came with this year’s release of “Ghost Town: The Movie,” based on the drama played out by gunfighters at the Maggie Valley theme park.
The movie is playing at the Eagle Nest Theater in Maggie Valley.
In “Deliverance,” he’s the mountain man who stood by as actor Bill McKinney delivered the infamous “Squeal like a pig” line.
In 2005, Maxim Magazine named Coward and McKinney as the all-time top movie villains.
Coward began working at the theme park during its heyday in the 1960s.
It was during his gunfighting days that he worked for two months with a young Burt Reynolds, who later invited him to portray one of the evil hillbillies in “Deliverance.”
Life returned to normal for Coward. He retired from BASF after 28 years at the Enka plant. He said he had no intention of becoming a career actor.
It was Dean Teaster, the son of his fellow Ghost Town actor Robert Doyle Teaster, who tracked Coward down for the current Ghost Town movie. Dean Teaster wrote and produced the film.
“Cowboy … man, he can portray a pretty rough character,” Teaster said.
Coward has an autographing corner he set up among the dishes and other knick-knacks he and his wife try to sell.
“That’s the only pleasure I get … talking to people,” he said.