Newsletter Archive February 2021

2/27/21 Newsletter

Dust in my brain’s attic, volume 2

Change of plan, again.  I initially suggested that I’d be talking to you about how easy it is for you to write and publish a book, but that will wait a little while longer.

So, why do people enter careers in public service?  Whether the military, teaching, government or law enforcement, those who chose these life paths without an ulterior motive have to have a reason, methinks.

There are, I am confident, any number of psychological and sociological studies on this topic, but where is the fun in that?  For my generation, I choose to believe that for many of us, the seed that was planted in our tiny little adolescent brains came not from parental examples, religion, or other reasonable origins but rather from TV.  And not just any TV.  TV Westerns!

Now, you may tsk-tsk all you like, but the fact is that TV first became ubiquitous (How about that for a big word?) in the 1950s.  And throughout that decade and into the next, Westerns were massively popular, especially those in which the theme, or at least a common plot, was the lead character going out of his (sometimes her) way to help someone in trouble.

As my lead character in Rage in the Woods recollected, I used to curl up in my dad’s big red leather chair, covered in his WWII flight jacket with the sheepskin lining and fur collar, and watch our only three channels WRGB (Schenectady) and WCAX (Burlington, VT) and occasionally WNYT (Albany).  I genuinely do relate the smell of leather to watching Westerns.

In preparation for this newsletter, I sat down with pencil and paper (Yes, I still use those.) and began to list all the Westerns I remember from my childhood (the 50s and 60s).  I did not use Google or any other form of cheating, and I still came up with more than thirty-two shows!  They included locales in three countries, Zorro and Cisco Kid in Mexico and Sergeant Preston of the Mounties in Canada.  I didn’t even count the cartoon versions such as Quickdraw McGraw and his alter-ego El Kabong

What really strikes me is not just that I remember the names of the shows, but how many details are still stuck in and among my head’s dust bunnies.  For example, there was one episode of Yancy Derringer, in which the Federal Army sought Yancey’s arrest for having provided the derringer that John Wilkes Booth used to kill Lincoln.  I remember that he was exonerated when the gun they thought he had sold Booth was retrieved from a dried-out well by Yancy’s Native American sidekick.  Now, remember that there was no series syndication and no reruns during the off-season back in those days.  You got one chance to see it.

I recently bought the full set of Yancy Derringer episodes, and, sure enough, there it was.  The very episode I’d last seen when I was maybe six years old. It was just as I recalled it.  I also remember many of the theme songs and even some of the lyrics.

With a dream he’d hold ‘til his dyin’ breath, he’d search his soul and gamble with death. The Rebel, Johnny Yuma.

Paladin, Paladin, where do you roam?  Paladin, Paladin, far, far from home.

Okay, so here is a brief trivia quiz for those of you who wish to be rendered immortal in my next newsletter.

  1. What did the show Shane and the show Kung Fu have in common?
  2. Which member of the Cartwright family of Bonanza appeared in the first episode of The Rebel?
  3. Who sang the theme song to The Rebel?
  4. Who played the lead in The Deputy?
  5. What was the unique weapon in Wanted Dead or Alive, and what was the name given to it?
  6. What was Sugarfoot’s favorite drink when he walked into a saloon?
  7. What was the image in the center of Paladin’s calling card in Have Gun, Will Travel?
  8. Who was Marshall Dillon’s first deputy?  (This one is a gimmie!)
  9. What company was the sponsor of Death Valley Days?
  10. Who played Cousin Beau in Maverick?

Please go to my website and email me your answers.  Feel free to share this with your TV fanatic friends and bring them to their knees. See you next month.  Be safe!