Cowboys like smoky old pool rooms, clear mountain mornings,
little warm puppies, children, and girls of the night. Them that don't know him
won't like him and them that do won't know how to take him. ~ verse from "Mamas,
Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys"
I’ve been thinking a lot about cowboy movie heroes. I remember going to the movies every Saturday and with only one
trip to the bathroom, staying there until Mama or Daddy picked me up.
A Saturday matinee cost ten cents for kids under twelve, a
candy bar was a nickel and a bag of popcorn, a dime. I showed up every
Saturday unless I had chicken pox, measles or mumps. My folks loved it because
the show started at noon and lasted until 5 o’clock. The matinees my brother
and I usually attended featured cowboy stars like Rocky Lane,
The Durango Kid, Hopalong Cassidy, Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, The Lone Ranger and
Tonto, Johnny Mack Brown, Rex Allen, Lash LaRue and Tom Mix.
My hometown of Orangeburg, South Carolina boasted two movie theaters, the Carolina and the
Edisto. For a mere 10 cents, we saw a newsreel, cartoons, a chapter
from a serial, a short subject with Laurel and Hardy, sometimes a documentary,
and then, best of all, the feature.
I was allowed to spend an entire quarter so I bought a
Tootsie Roll since it could last me until I went to college. I bought candy, a
large bag of popcorn, a large Coke and that took care of my quarter.
After finding a seat, I settled in for an afternoon of magic.
I watched Movietone News and that fool rooster crowing his head off,
and then footage of the President or the war or something current. A
glimpse of the latest Paris fashion was shown and maybe a candid visit with
Betty Grable, Bette Davis or Errol Flynn. During most of the newsreel portion,
however, I talked and giggled with my friends.
Then it was Looney Toons: Donald Duck and Tweety Bird. After cartoons
came a comedy featuring Ma and Pa Kettle or The Three Stooges, and then it was
time for a continuing serial like Buck Rogers (my brothers fave) or the one I
liked best, Blondie. (With the exception of Bubblehead Blondie, there was a
serious lack of serial heroines although much later in the century TV
soap operas would make up for the deficit.)
In cowboy movies, the good guys always prevailed and got the
girl; the bad guys always got caught. After the gunfights were over, our hero
stood next to the bar in a cowboy saloon drinking sarsaparilla with his sidekick,
someone like Smiley Burnett who talked funny.
My brother and his friends booed and hissed if and when a
cowboy kissed someone other than his mother or his horse.
Every now and then a cowboy gave a live performance at the
Carolina Theater. I had a crush on Lash LaRue who cracked his whip, KAPOW!
and made my eyes grow as big as salad plates. He was one slick, sexy dude
dressed head-to-toe all in black, a good guy even though he never wore a white
My heroes have now all gone up to that big roundup in
the sky, but I can't forget the good times I experienced on Saturdays for twenty-five cents.
An Ode to Cowboys
I miss ol' Hopalong Cassidy. I coulda sworn I saw him
I ’spose I must be wrong, ’Cause I heard his git-along-song
When he pranced off on his horse into history.
Buster Crabbe made Westerns, too. You remember him, at least
you ought to.
He was a white hat cowboy in his prime,
He could turn his horse round on a dime.
But with a name like Buster Crabbe, he had to.
Will someone tell me where did Lash Larue go
With that black hat of his cocked real low?
When he snapped that bullwhip my stomach did a flop-flip.
His smile was mighty sexy, also.
Do you ever ponder about Tom Mix and
wonder how he did those
He was quickest on the draw, could shoot holes in a straw,