It's early Sunday morning on Boxing Day. I don't box, so I'm sitting at the computer. As I write this, the snow is beginning to gently fall. I'm facing the front window and the woods across the street are quiet; the trees and the brush are delicately laced in white. There are no cars on the road; no people walking their dogs; no kids carrying snow shovels yet. It's beautiful and serene.
The development I live in is very deceptive. It's a large development with over 4000 homes, but many of the homes are spread out, and hills trees and woods abound, as do deer, fox, and many types of birds. There's a large lake, two active beaches on the Chesapeake Bay, an airport, stables, community gardens -- there's a zillion people living here, but with the layout of the development, it just doesn't feel like it.
If there's a flaw to all this, it's in the name. The development is called Chesapeake Ranch Estates and someone -- way back -- decided it would be cool to give the streets western/cowboy-indian names. We have streets named Tomahawk, Six-Gun, Rattlesnake, Kiowa, Gunsmoke, Indian Ridge. There's Bowie and Dillon and Santa Fe and Thunderbird and Mesa and Skeleton Ridge and Cemetery Lane and Bootstrap and Silverado -- you get the idea. But...
We're in Southern Maryland, folks! Home of watermen and tobacco farms! Cowboy names? Really? I can see naming the streets nautical names (Mainmast Drive, Cove Street, Fishing Net Lane) or tobacco names (Black Lung Promenade, Hacking Cough Road, Emphysema Alley) or even pirate names (Shiver Me Timbers Street, Arrgh Matey Way, Blackbeard Lane), but a western theme? WTH?
But watching the snow fall reminds of my childhood, when we sit in wonder, watching the snowfall out of our window over Christmas school vacation, while we stayed safe and warm inside. And the cowboy street names also remind me of my childhood, where I grew up western on a small New England farm.
When I was young, my loyalty was very fickle. One day my western hero would be Hopalong Cassiday, the next it would be Lash Larue, and the next, Johnny Mack Brown. Davy Crockett and Zorro were right up there, too, although I wasn't sure if they counted because they weren't really cowboys.
At night, in my dreams, I would wear a mask and ride a silver horse with a faithful Indian companion by my side. Or someone would be yelling, "Hey, Ceesco!", upon which I would deliver the inevitable reply, "Hey, Pancho!" I'd walk down the street, spinning my short-nosed rifle a la Lucas McCain. I even bought the Dell paperback Poker According to Maverick and tried to memorize its contents.
Roy versus Gene? I was in the Roy camp. Not that there was nothing the matter with Gene. He would do in a pinch, but Roy was my man.
While young, I was never much of a John Wayne man, but as a teenager I never missed one of his movies. His westerns were the best. I didn't truly appreciate certain western movies when I was young; Shane, High Noon and The Ox-Bow Incident were entertaining, but it was not unitl I was older that I realized how great they were.
I suppose Sky King was an "modern" western, but he seemed kind of wimpy, but his niece Penny...hubba hubba! Fury never did much for me either; it seemed like Lassie with a horse.
Range Rider, Wild Bill Hickok, Tales of Wells Fargo, Annie Oakley, Judge Roy Bean, Cheyenne, Sugarfoot...I watched them all. I crossed the plains with Wagon Train. I laughed with Hop Sing on Bonanza. In my mind's eye, I could throw a knife as swiftly as Pahoo-Ka-Te-Wah. I watched Jayce Pearson ride the old west in Tales of the Texas Rangers one week, and wondered how he got to modern west the next week.
Disney jumped into the fray in a big way with Frontierland: not only Davy and Zorro, but Texas John Slaughter, Andy Burnett, Elfego Baca, Mike Fink (not really western, but what the heck), and probably others I can't remember.
And there were the comic books. Roy and Gene and Gabby -- even Dale and Champion and Silver and Trigger had their own books. The Rawhide Kid and the Two-Gun Kid (didn't I read lately that one of them was proably gay?) and Jonah Hex. What was the one where two native Americans were lost in a prehistoric world? (I think it might be Turok, Son of Stone.) They were hunting and climbed (or fell -- I can't remember) into a canyon and couldn't get out and this canyon was the biggest honkin' canyon in the world and contained all sorts of dinosaurs -- didn't make a lick of sense, but I loved it.
Shotgun Slade, anyone remember him? The one-armed gunslinger created by Frank Gruber.
I was not much of one for western fiction, though; that came much later. They only westerns I remember reading as a kid was a Roy Rogers story from Whitman books about a gang of neer-do-wells who had a hidden hideout (that really narrows it down, doesn't it?) and the first Lone Ranger book by Fran Striker.
I had the toy guns, and the cap guns and the holsters and the hat. I don't remember, but I probably also had the red (maybe polka dotted) neckerchief that all the real cowboys had.
I consider myself very lucky. I grew up at the right time. Cop shows, doctor show, lawyer shows all were fairly rare on television back in those days when you could only get three or four channels on television. Westerns, however, were king. And I was lucky to be there.
Who were your western heroes?