FOR YEARS The West and I got along fine by maintaining an attitude of complete mutual indifference. This satisfactory arrangement would, no doubt, have continued indefinitely, had I not married and undertaken to raise two children. Now I find that The West is not a region to which one goes, or from which one stays away. Ear from it, pardner. Right here in my own home,
through the children. The West is a hearty, unflagging pain in the neck.
Erom the («aider wo eat for breakfast
‘‘Couldn’t ride a horse without it,” says the Lone Ci ranger i posing with his faithful hors«» Colic) to the final word of the nightly discussion on ‘‘Why can’t I sltvp under the stars like Hopafence?” 'I’ll«» West is beating my door down all day long.
We eat dinner accompanied by “Hi ho” hang, hang Silver!” . . . hang, bang, bang, from Monday to Friday. Saturday we have United States Marshal Lightning Jim Whipple, hang, hang, hang. Defender of Law and Order, bang, bang, bang, his pal Whitey. bang, bang, and his horse Thunder, just one hang. This solves the problem of dinner conversation. There isn’t any.
Our house is litter«»d with cowboy comic magazines in which, so far as l
can see, the same homestead is rescue»«! from the siime p«;ople in every issue. It influences the children’s clothes. If the garment isn’t one on which Yosemite Sam would beam with satisfaction, then I have a war on my hands to get it worn at all. The only costume in which our two are happy is blue jeans and a plaid shirt, adorne«! wit h a bandanna kerchief. Roth go fully armed and both are two-gun men. And they keep bringing me pictures of patterns for embroidered frontier shirts, with a mere year or two of nttedlework on them, and l«>oking hopeful.
I frankly admit that 1 am no authority on cmvboys and what little I know I would rather not; but hasn’t there been quite a change in western heroes in the last few years? I have tried to pictured Wm. S. Hart and Jack H«)It in the embroidered shirts and failed dismally. If my memory serves me, Tom Mix was considered pretty «ludey in his beaded buckskins. In my day cowboy stars were steely-eyerl characters who spent their time chasing boss thieves: they’d as soon have been film;*d in a boudoir scene as sitting around in a rose-covered shirt a-strummin’ a gee-tar and singing dirges.
That, I think, is my strongest gripe against them. After listening to songs about a “Lonely Little Pony in the Old Corral Tonight” (due to the untimely demise of its young master), ‘The Little White Cross on the Hill” (Cowboy tragically mourning his depart'd baby), “I Never Will Marry” (because of something to do with a fair young body in the water), not to mention “I Don’t W«>rry ’Cause It Mak«»s No Difference Now.” I have come to tht» conclusion that there is no such thing as a happy cowboy. I do not
listen to these cheery ballads voluntarily, but our children do. I am fast Ixîcoming an unwilling expert on cow« boy recordings. So far, the sprightliest number by far is caltad “You Can’t Break My Heart It’s Been Broken Before.” If I were a cereal manufacturer I wouldn’t dream of asking a western star to sponsor my product.
I think they all need vitamins.
The only touch of cheer 1 ever got from The West turner! up in a Lightning Jim Whipple, Defender, etc., program. Lightning Jim rode hellfoideather into town and told the sheriff that the minister of the town’s church had been shot and the church funds stolen. The sheriff mulled over this and then said in a deep, slow, thoughtful voice, “Now who would play a low-down trick like that?” My joyful whoops put me in the doghouse for some time. The children were shocked and pained. These things are deadly serious to them.
It was a sorrowful thing to watch the slow dawn of disillusion as they realized that they had been born of parents who scarcely knew a branding iron from a chuck wagon. We couldn’t tell them the difference, if any, between a dogie and a steer. We did offer, haltingly, our belief that longhorns are cattle (only, unfortunately we called them cows) with long horns and shorthorns, we believed, had short ones. They were not impressed. So far as the finer points of bronco-busting and bulldogging steers are concerne«l, a couple of penguins would be just about as helpful as we are.
The confusion, however, is not all ours. Our son says he can’t see why we don’t just have a counter where the family can toss off their meals in little glasses the way the cowboys do.
Those Wet Pants
So far as I’m concerned, Gene Autry has put the feather on the whole situation. He recently struck a chill to the hearts of mothers throughout the land by telling the press that any cowhand worth his salt puts his jeans on soaking wet. It is not enough that our children say “Reach for the ceiling,” and “Head them off through the hills,” instead of Mary Had a Little Lamb! It’s not enough that they feel improperly dressed without ten-gallon hats and high-heeled boots and are armed at all times. It’s not even enough that their poor little tonsils are permanently warped from their bloodcurdling efforts to yodel and they constantly risk their necks in daring rescue leaps from the backs of plunging, rearing back fences. Now they have to get pneumonia.
Whatever became of the strong, silent men of The West? If ever there was a time when a strong man should have been silent, that was it. If Mr. Autry didn’t realize the situation he was creating in thousands of homos, he certainly should have. Any such
statement from the Kingpin of the Buckaroos would, naturally, he accepted as a royal decree by his devoted followers. Does he care, the big bronzed thing? He babbles to the representatives of the press, who don’t rare either. They print it with fiendi.-h glee and the hand that rocks the cradle copes with the resulting sham hit's.
My ears are ringing with Oh-l«»e-«>hlay-lee’s. I am riddled daily with
countless rounds of ammunition. I’ve been lassoed several times. I never dare drop int«J a chair without inspecting it. It always has a gun in it.. And now my children want a horse. So 1 hereby raise my last faint shrerl of voice remaining after shouting down Lightning Jim, and l>eg pitifully, “Go East, young man, go East.” ★
The story you want is part of the Maclean’s Archives. To access it, log in here or sign up for your free 30-day trial.
Experience anything and everything Maclean's has ever published — over 3,500 issues and 150,000 articles, images and advertisements — since 1905. Browse on your own, or explore our curated collections and timely recommendations.WATCH THIS VIDEO for highlights of everything the Maclean's Archives has to offer.