Posted by: ktzefr | June 15, 2017

Cowboy Values from Dad

Checking out the catch, Ocean City, mid-70s.

I watched westerns with my dad.  He loved all those old cowboy movies and television shows in the 50s and 60s.  Each one climaxed with a shoot-em-up and the good guys always won.  The endings were immensely satisfying.

That’s what happens in life, he’d say.  You can’t do wrong and get by. 

A lot of moral lessons could be taught by the way things turned out on Gunsmoke or Rawhide or The Virginian, lessons that could make a difference over time.

When the men of the Ponderosa got into some kind of trouble and the life of one or the other was hanging by a thread, I would be anxious with worry.  “They’ll be ok,” Dad would say.  “Stars of the show never die.”

The good guys always win and the stars never die — in the world of make believe.

I wanted to be a cowboy.  My parents’ bedpost was my horse.  I would saddle up with a pillow, use a belt for the reins, and I was Annie Oakley.  I wore a leather holster that had been well-worn by my brother over the years with an old  silver six shooter that would still hit about every third time on a roll of caps.  I rode off into the sunset, that slant of light from the west that fell through my parents’ bedroom window spotlighting my mother’s shelf of ceramic what-nots.

I built make-believe campfires on the floor with Pick-up Sticks and curled up on the rug, pretending I was sleeping in the desert or somewhere in the vast reaches of the Sierra Madre Mountains.

When I was alone in the house I could talk to myself, pretend to be anyone, anywhere in the world.  I always had a horse — the bedposts, the mop with its flying dirty mane, even a change of my gait would do.  A skip or two around the yard was enough to carry me away — back into cowboy days or off into an unknown future.

It would be a long time before I discovered that in real life the good guys don’t always win and all stars eventually die. 

If I could give one piece of advice to new dads on Father’s Day it would be this:  Reality sets in soon enough.  Let your kids be kids.  Childhood should occupy an awesome place in time, a place you can still visit on occasion.




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