I knew what a real cowboy looked like from a very early age. I saw one once, in-person live, at the Olympia Stadium (home of the Red Wings) in Detroit, Michigan, in the 1940’s. My Aunt Inez took me to see him.
My Aunt Inez, my mother’s older sister, lived with us and she and I shared the upstairs attic in our house on 32nd Street. She lived with us for a very long time, and it was custom for other of our relatives to come and live with us for short periods of time, while looking for work in the auto industry. It was boom time for auto makers after the war. The war products machines had come to a halt and factories went back to doing what they liked doing best… creating cars.
Back then we had streetcars in our neighborhood and the lines were very close to where we lived so, we didn’t need a car ourselves. Except on special occasions, like when my dog Tippy bit me in the face. My dad somehow borrowed a car to take me to the doctor to get my series of rabies shots, lest I become rabid and unpleasant to play with. I still don’t take well to getting shots even today. That, was not a pleasant experience.
My Aunt rode the streetcars to and from work everyday, and on Fridays (her pay-day), she never failed to bring me home something of a cowboy nature. Comic books, little pairs of spurs, a neckerchief, guns and holsters, chaps, a cowboy hat! Now, “Cowboy Hats” are where I draw the line, I knew what kind of hat a real cowboy wore, because I had seen one live at the Olympia. Hopalong Cassidy, Gene Autry and other Cowboy impersonators (even if they sang well), if they wore the so called ten gallon hats, they were not real cowboys in my mind. FYI: Ten Gallon is a corruption of a Spanish phrase “un sombrero tan galan,” meaning “Such a fine hat.” Real cowboys didn’t wear “Fine hats.”
Seeing the Roy Rogers show at the Olympia, when I was at such an impressionable age, really did it to me. I became an expert on how cowboys looked and dressed. I saw the whole shebang: Dale Evans, Roy’s horse Trigger, and what I thought was a real rodeo. The magic of the cowboy show ended way to soon, but I knew right then that I wanted to be a cowboy. Or at least look like one.
Passions for things of the old west, that stirred me as a young lad, still do so today. Roy Rogers was my real cowboy then and still my favorite, even though I had an affair with the Lone Ranger… when he first appeared on television in the late forties. I took great notice that he too didn’t wear a ten gallon hat.
Kids in the neighborhood were aware of my cowboy thing. Little Eddie, who lived next door, commented to me one day “you know Ronnie, you look like a real cowboy.” That turned out to be one of my best memories ever. After all these years, that I can recall those words is simply amazing to me today.
I learned later in life that Ken Curtiss, who played Festus on the Gunsmoke series, a TV Western from the fifties, sang with the group called “Sons of the Pioneers.” Roy Rogers also performed with them in several of his movies. Please enjoy listening to this old west standard. It still causes the hair on the back of my neck to stand up straight. That in itself says something about one’s childhood passion running amuck and perhaps reason for my now living in a remote area of Montana. Click the image below and you will want to be a cowboy too.