When Westerns Were All the Rage
We got our first television in the mid 1950’s. The screen couldn’t have been over 15” and it resembled a telescope more than any modern day set. Western movies and television shows were all the rage in that era. My brothers and I spent hours watching cowboy heroes like “Roy Rogers,” “The Rifleman” and “The Lone Ranger”. So, it wasn’t any wonder I wanted to grow up to be like my favorite star “The Lone Ranger”.
Of course, millions of other kids around the country had the same fantasy of mounting a horse and galloping off after a villain in pursuit of justice.
However, first things first…you had to have access to a horse. This presented a dilemma for city born youngsters, many of who couldn’t tell you the difference between a horse and a mule. But in my case it wasn’t a problem.
I spent part of my childhood on my grandmothers’ country farm in the foothills of the Arkansas Ozark Mountains. Mr. Brammer, a neighbor down the dirt road a ways, raised all kinds of animals, including riding horses to rent.
Naturally, come hell or high water, I was going to ride one of those critters. So my brothers and I broke open our piggy banks and raised the 50 cents each needed for a 2 hour adventure. Next we strapped on our toy “six shooters”, donned our straw “Roy Rogers” cowboy hats and plastic deputy sheriff badges, then rushed off.
We arrived on Mr. Brammers’ door step winded from the mile run up the mountain road, plunked our paltry coins down, and demanded to see some horses. Mr. Brammer led us out to his big red barn and pasture. We saw our horses but Mr. Brammer continued on down to another field. Where was he taking us?
It had never occurred to us we weren’t yet quite big enough for a horse…a pony was more our speed. A pony! “The Lone Ranger” wouldn’t be caught dead riding a pony! What self respecting outlaw would be intimidated by a pony riding lawman? This was humiliating. We protested and insisted we get horses. After all it was our 50 cents.
But it turned out, our host was right. The horses were too big for us to climb up on. We held a quick summit meeting and decided the only thing to do was just pretend our ponies were horses. We also swore never to tell our friends and classmates they weren’t.
Some hired hands saddled our mounts for us and we each selected a pony and climbed aboard. It was time to go. Well, at least everybody else’s pony began moving. Mine remained motionless like his hooves were set in a block of concrete. This never would’ve happened to “The Lone Ranger”! I would’ve switched to another, except these were all the ponies he had.
After some compelling persuasion from a hired hand, my mount was convinced to amble along after the others. However, once out of sight of the handlers he stopped again and a battle ensued trying to keep him from heading back to his comfortable pasture. The stand-off continued on without either of us gaining an advantage. As I saw my brothers returning I realized my 2 hour time limit had expired. I bet no other cowboy ever had to demand his 50 cents back. Mr. Brammer was a fair man though and returned my money.
I didn’t have an opportunity to go horseback riding again until I was 14 and living in Clio, South Carolina. Don’t bother looking…it’s too small to find on most maps. A classmate had a few horses and invited me to go riding with him on a Saturday. I accepted. My mom however, decided it was too dangerous and forbade me to go. I felt she was being a mite overprotective and secretly planned to go anyway. And besides, years before grandma had not thought it too dangerous.
Therefore, when Saturday arrived, I contrived a story about going somewhere else. My companion, Harry, greeted me at his house and we went out back to see his horses. We saddled two of them up. That’s when I came to the realization I must have stopped growing back in Arkansas. My spectacular height of 5’4” wasn’t big enough to allow my foot to reach the stirrup. This never would’ve happened to “The Lone Ranger”!
Thus, I was forced to unsaddle the horse. But not to fear, Harry had another ride for me…a pony! Unenthusiastically, I saddled him and climbed on. It was time to go. At least Harrys’ horse did. My pony just stood grazing, seemingly, oblivious to my presence. I inwardly seethed. This wasn’t going to happen again!
Climbing down I found a good sized switch and walked around to the back of the insolent, stubborn beast. “I wouldn’t do that if I were you” warned Harry. But I wasn’t to be deterred from exacting my revenge and showing this animal who was boss. I whacked him sharply with the switch and he glanced around at me in surprise. His expression seemed to say “You didn’t?” I raised the switch for yet another strike, but he wasn’t having any of it. Up came his right back hoof, smacking me squarely under my right eye and knocking me backwards about 5 feet. Harry couldn’t help laughing hysterically. “I told you!” he guffawed.
Dazed, I stood up brushing the dust from my britches. When my head cleared and vision returned, I dropped the switch, angrily walked around to the pony’s’ front and slugged him on the jaw as hard as I could. Apparently, no one had ever taken this approach because when I got back on he obeyed my commands.
However, his obedience turned out to be only a subterfuge. Once out on the back country dirt roads Harry challenged me to a race. Both mounts shot forward competing for the lead. “This was more like it” I thought. I was beginning to edge past Harry when the pony suddenly halted in his tracks. I sailed neatly over his head landing in a crumpled heap in the middle of the road. Harry kept on unaware of what had happened. Once again I picked myself up and dusted my clothes off. And again I faced the mean spirited brute, hauled off and smacked his jaw once more. We could play this game all day if he wanted too.
I remounted and the pony was off and running barely before I got into the saddle. I held on for dear life as he quickly caught up with Harry. Victory was within my grasp when the pony sharply veered right onto another road. I continued straight down the road while he merrily trotted off in the other direction. But not before turning around to look at me, and in only what could’ve been a laugh, he neighed loudly. The fiend continued on.
By this time Harry had figured out what had occurred. He boosted me up on the back of his horse, which had a bony rear end, and we headed for home. By the time we got to our destination my butt was so sore I could barely walk. The pony was already back in his pasture. Somehow I had an inkling Harry knew what was going to happen before we left on this little jaunt.
I suddenly became aware not only was my rear end sore, but my right eye was puffed up and hurting too. Harry remarked on what a shiner I was sporting. How was I going to explain this to mom?
Geez, this never would’ve happened to “The Lone Ranger”!
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