the Good Old Days


I’m not speaking of the days of the western expansion, but rather my own “good old days”. The subjects are closely related as I was raised on television westerns.

The first western series began two years before I was born and that fact would have been lost on me until I reached age five and our family got our first television set. Several of the earliest television shows about the west had already run their course by the time I first encountered the genre.

The Lone Ranger, Hopalong Cassidy, Gene Autry, the Cisco Kid… “Hey, Pancho…” “Hey, Cisco…” Such brilliant repartee to my youthful ears. And there was Wild Bill Hickok, Roy Rogers, Spin and Marty, Sky King, Judge Roy Bean, Buffalo Bill, the Texas Rangers, Fury, Cheyenne, and the ever-present Gunsmoke.

Over the years, new shows came and others drifted away. Some were very good and some were excruciatingly bad. And by the end of the seventies, the western was no longer the dominant genre on the television.

Times changed, tastes changed, and the Native American movement proved to the last of us that the “history” as we knew it was so completely – and painfully – wrong.

Still, even without the spectre of Manifest Destiny casting its terrible long shadow over the era, there were some very brave and stoic people who braved the elements to forge a home in the midst of even the most forbidding environments. “Little House on the Prairie” was that sort of tale. Manifest Destiny did not have to rear its head for the stories to matter.

But the west (wild or otherwise) began to matter less and less. Crime drama have taken their place. Either that or dysfunctional families of the mob variety or otherwise. Westerns found fewer and fewer fans.

“Deadwood” was great but was short-lived. Today there is only “Hell on Wheels”.

Sure, they still make (or remake) the occasional western film, but even those are getting scarce.

Probably no wonder I don’t watch television much anymore, huh?

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Once Upon a Time…

My grandfather only got an eighth grade education. Living in the west at the end of the nineteenth century, most people did not get further with their education. His spelling was never “textbook” but phonetically understandable. And it wasn’t all the words he used that he had trouble spelling, just the more “highfalutin” ones.

At home, he had a small library of books – well-worn volumes he read again and again – that consisted of the Holy Bible and practically every book written by Zane Grey. He loved Zane’s stories even though he was born too late to be that sort of man of the west.

That by-gone era was captured for most of us in the weekly television serials of the likes of Marshall Matt Dillon, Maverick, Lucas McCain, and a host of guys who wore white hats. They were a reflection of the very popular movies of the same genre, most starring John “the Duke” Wayne.

Today, the world is no longer so black and white. The “good guys” are flawed human beings and as complex as the “bad guys” and each seem to swap roles almost indiscriminately – in some regards. But not enough to blur the lines too much.

What if, I always wondered, the times back then were not so black and white… nor so “rational” as we assume they were? And what if they had to deal with more unusual problems than simply the guys in the black hats?

Perhaps nothing as far out as in the film “Cowboys vs Aliens” (which I thought was a lame western as well as a lame science fiction flick – wow! wrong on both counts) but surely they had an occasional pear-shaped moment.

Such was the premise for my novel Young Hellions. What if…

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