45 Western Stars

I remember almost every one of these “Old Western” actors.

Front row: Dewey Martin, Johnny Crawford (in tennis clothes), Chuck Connors, Glen Ford, Alan Hale Jr., Henry Darrow, Larry Storch, Neville Brand,

Second row: Denver Pyle, Iron Eyes Cody, Harry Lauter, Jeanette Nolan, Linda Cristal, John Ireland, Mark Slade, Joe Bowman, Fred Putnam,

3rd row: Pat Buttram, Milburn Stone, Dan Haggerty, Guy Madison, Rex Allen, John Bromfield, Keenan Wynn,Jackie Coogan,

4th row: X-Brands, Bill Williams, Michael Ansara, Slim Pickins, Dick Jones, Don Diamond, Ken Curtis, John Russell, Peter Brown, James Drury,

5th row: Red Cameron, Jock Mahoney, Jack Kelly, Tony Young, John McIntire, Ty Hardin, Lee Van Cleef, Will Hitchins, Terry Wilson, Clayton Moore, Doug McClure


He was getting old and paunchy
And his hair was falling fast,
And he sat around the Legion,
Telling stories of the past.

Of a war that he once fought in
And the deeds that he had done,
In his exploits with his buddies;
They were heroes, every one.

And ‘tho sometimes to his neighbors
His tales became a joke,
All his buddies listened quietly
For they knew where of he spoke.

But we’ll hear his tales no longer,
For ol’ Joe has passed away,
And the world’s a little poorer
For a Veteran died today.

He won’t be mourned by many,
Just his children and his wife.
For he lived an ordinary,
Very quiet sort of life.

He held a job and raised a family,
Going quietly on his way;
And the world won’t note his passing,
‘Tho a Veteran died today.

When politicians leave this earth,
Their bodies lie in state,
While thousands note their passing,
And proclaim that they were great.

Papers tell of their life stories
From the time that they were young,
But the passing of a Veteran
Goes unnoticed, and unsung.

Is the greatest contribution
To the welfare of our land,
Some jerk who breaks his promise
And cons his fellow man?

Or the ordinary fellow
Who in times of war and strife,
Goes off to serve his country
And offers up his life?

The politician’s stipend
And the style in which he lives,
Are often disproportionate,
To the service that he gives.

While the ordinary Veteran,
Who offered up his all,
Is paid off with a medal
And perhaps a pension, small.

It is not the politicians
With their compromise and ploys,
Who won for us the freedom
That our country now enjoys.

Should you find yourself in danger,
With your enemies at hand,
Would you really want some cop-out,
With his ever-waffling stand?

Or would you want a Veteran
His home, his country, his kin,
Just a common Veteran,
Who would fight until the end.

He was just a common Veteran,
And his ranks are growing thin,
But his presence should remind us
We may need his likes again.

For when countries are in conflict,
We find the Veteran’s part,
Is to clean up all the troubles
That the politicians start.

If we cannot do him honor
While he’s here to hear the praise,
Then at least let’s give him homage
At the ending of his days.

Perhaps just a simple headline
In the paper that might say:

My Heroes Were Cowboys

I was born in the early 1940’s and loved watching the cowboy shows of the 1950’s on TV.

Back then, there was a prevalent theme in all of them; The Good Guy Always Won and The Bad Guy Always Lost. These shows did not glorify crime in any way and made it clear that crime did not pay. They were so popular that they were refined and improved during the 1960’s. Some of my favorite shows were:

The Lone Ranger (My favorite)

Each episode began with “Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear. The Lone Ranger rides again!” The William Tell overture was the Lone Ranger theme song, and you would hear it playing in the background as he rode his horse, Silver, up a hill. This is what it sounded like.

It had a lot of action, so was a very popular program, especially with kids like me. The Lone Ranger, played by Clayton Moore, used proper grammar and was always helping people who were in trouble, which made him a good role model for kids.

So who was The Lone Ranger? His real name, in the original episode, was John Reid. He was part of a posse of Texas Rangers that were chasing some desperadoes. They were ambushed in a canyon and all were left for dead. What the bad guys didn’t know though, was that John Reid survived and crawled to a nearby water hole. Shortly thereafter, a friendly Indian named Tonto, who John Reid has helped in the past, spotted him and nursed him back to health. He then vowed to help this “lone ranger” avenge the deaths of the other 5 posse members and any other wrong doers they might discover in the future. John Reid became “Kemo Sabe” (“Trusty Scout”) to Tonto and, “The Lone Ranger” to everyone else.

My Heroes Were Cowboys 1While he always brought the bad guys to justice, “The Lone Ranger” never actually killed anyone himself. If anyone was actually killed, it was usually the sheriff who did it, otherwise “The Lone Ranger” worked it out so that the bad guys killed each other.

Every week the Lone Ranger would save the day for somebody in need of help and after being thanked by everyone, he would ride off on his horse calling out the familiar “Heigh-ho, Silver, away!” Then somebody would usually say, “Hey, who was that masked man anyway.” To which someone would usually reply, “ That was The Long Ranger.”

The Lone Ranger’s Creed pretty much summed up what he stood for:

  • “I believe that to have a friend, a man must be one……..
  • That all men are created equal and that everyone has within himself the power to make this a better world.
  • That God put the firewood there but that every man must gather and light it himself.
  • In being prepared physically, mentally, and morally to fight when necessary for that which is right.
  • That a man should make the most of what equipment he has.
  • That ‘This government, of the people, by the people and for the people’ shall live always.
  • That men should live by the rule of what is best for the greatest number.
  • That sooner or later … somewhere … somehow … we must settle with the world and make payment for what we have taken.
  • That all things change but truth, and that truth alone, lives on forever.
  • In my Creator, my country, my fellow man.”

You can see the first episode here.

Once you have watched episode #1, I am sure you will want to see episode #2, as I did. So, here it is.

The part where The Lone Ranger finds and saves Silver is a little corny, but it is touching too. Be careful, it is pretty easy to get hooked on these.

Hopalong Cassidy

Hopalong Cassidy was the hero of some twenty-eight western novels written by Clarence E. Mulford beginning in the 1920’s. He was played by William Boyd in the TV series.

My Heroes Were Cowboys 2In 1950 a Time Magazine article said, “Boyd made Hoppy a veritable Galahad of the range, a soft spoken paragon who did not smoke, drink or kiss girls, who tried to capture the rustlers instead of shooting them, and who always let the villain draw first if gun-play was inevitable.” Boyd himself said, “I played down the violence, tried to make Hoppy an admirable character and I insisted on grammatical English.”

It is said that he received 15 thousand fan letters a week and received endless requests from individuals and international organizations to make public appearances. He continued making films until in his sixties and then felt that the Hoppy character could not be properly portrayed at that age. He was also feeling a lot of pressure from being before the cameras month after month, making some forty Hoppy episodes, at about one a month, before he finally retired. Boyd was reluctant to retire because of his loyal fans and the fact that his production crew would be out of work. Fortunately, the TV network was ready to start shooting a new series, GUNSMOKE, so Boyd was able to assure employment for his entire crew.

Hoppy didn’t sing, dance, play football, baseball or basketball, nor did he box or play tennis or race cars. He was simply…Mr. Good guy…everybody’s favorite cowboy…everybody’s friend, buddy, pal and especially, HERO.

This is because Hopalong Cassidy:

  • Was A Man of Action
  • Was The Sworn Enemy of Crime and Cruelty
  • Was The Epitome of Gallantry and Fair Play
  • Had A Strong Sense of Justice
  • Highly Regarded and Strongly Promoted Family Values

The Cisco Kid

The Cisco Kid was aired from the early 1950’s and was on for about six years. Duncan Renaldo played the part of Cisco and his trusty sidekick Pancho was played by Leo Carrillo. I loved their easy manner and the they always seemed to be enjoying themselves, even when going after the bad guys.

My Heroes Were Cowboys 3Cisco and Pancho traveled the Southwest, running-off the bad guys and helping whoever was in need. Cisco was a handsome charmer and Pancho was always good for a laugh!

Cisco was definitely a quick-draw artist, but all he ever seemed to do was shoot the gun out of the bad guy’s hand. Pancho was really good with a bullwhip, and did a lot of the fighting, so there wasn’t that much gunplay anyway.

Pancho didn’t speak English very well and I can still hear him saying, “Hey Ceesco! Let’s went!” Each show ended with some corny joke that had something to do that episode. Then they would both laugh, and Cisco would say “Oh, Pancho!” and Pancho would say “Oh, Cisco!” and they would ride off.

The Rifleman

The Rifleman series started in the late 1950’s with Chuck Connors playing the part of Lucas McCain, The Rifleman. He was a struggling homesteader who was raising his young son Mark, played by Johnny Crawford. Mark was a good kid and helped his dad on their ranch outside the town of North Fork, New Mexico.

My Heroes Were Cowboys 4

Westerns were popular at the time, so they used a gimmick to distinguish this show from others. The Rifleman’s gimmick was a modified Winchester Model 1892 rifle with a trigger mechanism allowing for rapid-fire shots. Connors demonstrated its rapid-fire action during the opening credits as McCain shot at an unseen bad guy on North Fork’s main street. Of course, North Fork was infested with numerous bad guys who the local Marshall would never have been able to handle without the help of Lucas and his rapid-fire weapon, which had a big ring which cocked it as he drew. Supposedly it only took three tenths of a second to fire off the first round, which certainly helped in a showdown!

Although the rifle may have appeared in every episode, it was not always fired, as some plots did not lend themselves to violence.

The show always promoted fair play, even toward one’s opponents, neighborliness, equal rights, and the need to use violence in a highly controlled manner. For instance, Lucas said things such as “A man doesn’t run from a fight, Mark, but that doesn’t mean you go looking to run TO one either!”

The program’s villains tend to be those who cheat, refuse to help people down on their luck, hold bigoted attitudes, and see violence as a first resort rather than the last option. Even though the series aired in the late fifties and early sixties, it is interesting to note one episode where the people of North Fork seem to be truly color blind. In the opening scene, a stranger played by Sammy Davis Jr., checked into the only hotel in town. As the story unfolds during the entire show, no one notices his race.

Back To The Present

On TV and in the movies of today, it is not that unusual for the bad guy to actually win or to get away and never be caught.

Movie stars not only get pregnant out-of-wedlock, but the spin is that this is actually a good thing.

Musical artists often wear gang-like attire and it is not that uncommon for some sort of investigation to be underway related to drug abuse by various athletes. And some of the tattoos that celebrities sport are beyond belief.

I could go on and on. It is sickening. How could these types of individuals serve as role models for today’s youngsters. They shouldn’t.

My advice is this, Go to Amazon, Hulu and/or YouTube and search out DVD sets of programs that promote family values and the values demonstrated by my cowboy heroes of yesteryear.

Watch them with your children. It will be good for all of you.