‘1883’: What Does Tim McGraw’s ‘J. Dutton’ Notebook Mean

by Leanne Stahulak
(Photo by James Gourley/WireImage)

It looks like country superstar Tim McGraw is just as excited for his role in the upcoming “Yellowstone” prequel “1883” as we are.

Yesterday, fans and cast members alike found out that the new Western from Paramount+ will debut on Dec. 19. And already, McGraw is throwing himself full-tilt into his character, James Dutton.

We learned a few weeks ago that McGraw and his wife, Faith Hill, will star as “Yellowstone” character John Dutton’s (Kevin Costner) ancestors, James and Margaret. The couple makes their way across the Great Plains to Montana in search of a new life and (potential) fortune.

“1883” will also star Hollywood’s favorite cowboy, Sam Elliott. He’ll take on the role of cowboy (shocker) Shea Brennan, who leads the Duttons through the American West. But along the way, the Duttons and Brennan are sure to run into some trouble.

That’s why McGraw is starting to prepare for his role. We saw on his Twitter account yesterday that the “1883” actor has been practicing his “quick draw.” Based on the picture of his ripped and powder-covered jeans, it looks like McGraw took the brunt of the practice compared to his opponent.

But it’s the second picture McGraw posted that really has fans wondering. We see a brown leather notebook, what looks like hand-bound, with the initials “J. Dutton” in the bottom right corner. Take a look for yourself in the tweet below.

McGraw writes that he’s “gettin in the groove for 1883 ….. as for the jeans … black powder blanks from quick draw practice!!! #yellowstone.”

What Does The J. Dutton Notebook Mean For ‘1883’ And Tim McGraw?

While McGraw explicitly says he practiced his quick draw in those jeans, what did he use the notebook for? Is it a prop, or does it contain actual notes about his character, James Dutton?

I’d ask if it contains notes about John Dutton, so he can read up on his descendants, but the old-fashioned nature of the notebook makes it seem more like an “1883” prop. And if it is a prop, what significance does it have for the upcoming debut of the show?

For one thing, it could just be a personal notebook or diary. It wasn’t uncommon for men and women to carry those around back in the day, and keep track of what was happening in their lives. And especially if Margaret and James Dutton are heading off on this thrilling trip across the country, it would make sense for them to record what happened to them. Maybe someday, their children (or great-grandchildren) will want to know how they came to be in Montana.

But on the other hand, the notebook seems almost too big for a personal diary or journal. So maybe it’s a financial ledger instead, or another bookkeeping tool that helps McGraw as the Duttons keep track of their livelihood once they get to Montana. Knowing how the Duttons experienced financial loss and gain over time can only help present-day John Dutton as he runs the family ranch.

It seems to me that if nothing else, we can count on seeing that notebook in both “Yellowstone” and the “1883” prequel. It’ll be an interesting way to tie the two shoes together. The only remaining question is whether we’ll see the notebook first in Season 4 of “Yellowstone,” which premieres Nov. 7? Or, will we not see it until the debut of “1883” on Dec. 19?