Were you lucky enough to get to go to the show (Or movies, or whatever you call it) on
Saturdays when you were a kid? Well I sure was. And I'm talking in the 40's and 50's. Those were the days when the good old westerns
were in full swing. A day at the movies included two main attractions, a Buck Rogers serial, cartoons, sports reviews, news of the
world, and all for the price of $.11. And sometimes my friends and I would stay and watch it a second time around.
Cowboy stars such as Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, Johnny Mack Brown, Bob Steele, and many more hero-types "road the range". These actors,
and lots of others who followed in their footsteps, filled the screen with "shoot-em-ups," as some of us called them, to the delight
of screaming kids of all ages. There was always lots of action, where the "good guys," the ones in the white hats, set out to try
to stop the "bad guys," the guys in black hats, from rustling cattle, robbing banks, getting drunk in the saloons and shootin' up
the place, or any other conduct that disturbed the peace and quiet of the frontier towns.
Some of these heroes even managed to break out in song as they rode across the prairies, all decked out in shiny cowboy boots, silver
belts and two six-shooters tucked in their holsters. Songs like "Happy Trails," "Tumbling Tumbleweeds," and "Back in the Saddle Again"
managed to add something special to many of the movies. And occasionally these gentle, but tough guys managed to rescue some pretty
gal from being kidnapped or just from being hassled by some no good town bully.
certain in every Hollywood western in the old days was that the star had a code of honor he followed. And Gene Autry identified this
code. Among other things, the cowboy:
-Never went back on his word
-Always told the truth
-Never took unfair advantage of someone
-Was gentle with children, ladies, the elderly, and small animals
-Respected his parents
There seemed to be, as Red Steagall pointed out in a book titled "The fence That Me and Shorty Built," a consistent behavior pattern
that good movie cowboys followed. They always stood up for what was right. They were stars on the big silver screen, our heroes, and
men we felt could easily become our friends.
Lately, the so-called western movies have
taken a turn towards showing a darker side of the cowboy. Maybe today's movie-goers like to believe the westerns are a little more
realistic. A good example could be the classic "Lonesome Dove." But maybe way back when, movie fans, especially kids, weren't looking
to judge a good western by how closely it reflected reality. They wanted straight shooting good guys bringing in the ornery old bad
guys, and action, action, action! Some western movie stars of today, Clint Eastwood and Gene Hackman, for example, often show a sometimes
revengeful, cruel side in their role. Maybe that's the reason you don't see many kids going to Saturday movie matinees nowadays. Guess
they're at home punching their i-phone buttons in their own little virtual reality-view of the world. As for me, take me back to the
time when "From out of the past come the thundering hoofbeats of the great horse Silver. The Lone Ranger rides again. Hi-yo-Silver,
Those were the days, my friend, when you thought they'd never end. And I'll bet
that anyone who had these experiences, like I did, wouldn't trade those Saturday afternoons for anything in the world, especially
all the pornographic, foul language, so-called Academy Award pictures disguised as "entertainment." The sad truth is, the good old
westerns will no doubt never return. But in the grand old prairie in the sky, let's hope the guys in the white hats are still taking
dead aim at the guys in black hats, still standing up for what's right.