Monday, March 18, 2013

Playing Cowboys and Indians

As a child of the 50’s it was natural to play cowboys and Indians. 
Being one of the first generation to have television available, I cut my teeth on watching Roy Rogers and Dale Evens, Gene Autry, The Cisco Kid, Paladin, Wyatt Earp, Gunsmoke, Bonanza and probably several more I’m forgetting.
It was pretty much the genre of the generation - six shooters and gun fights, stagecoach robberies, barroom brawls, any kind of violence you could ask for.
And we can’t forget the Marlboro Man, back in the days when television promoted cancer as a death option. 
I'm sure this is where my love of candy cigarettes began, which fortunately only evolved into a sugar addiction and not one for tobacco.
Cowboys were an image to aspire to and I wasn’t the only one in the hood wearing cowboy boots, shirts with fringe and a ten gallon hat.  Maybe that's why becoming a Texan late in life seemed so natural for me.

And the guns!  We can’t forget that every little boy and girl had a six shooter strapped to their scrawny bodies loaded with caps to create smoke and noise.  If you lacked a gun you smacked the caps with a hammer on the concrete, but it wasn’t as cool as pointing a pistol at your friends head and yelling “you’re dead!”  And then breaking into a fight as to who really lived and died.

A boy across the street was routinely tethered to the back steps with a padlock on his holster to keep him in the yard.  Somehow that didn’t seem strange to me at the time.  Scotty was a wild one and there’s no knowing what dangers he’d have found without some parameters.  I was generally walked with a leash as I was prone to suddenly darting from the sidewalk between cars or up a tree.  Hmmm.  I think Scotty and I may have been the as yet undiagnosed ADHD kids on the block. Squirrel!!!!

We grew up in a politically incorrect culture where it was normal to point and shoot a gun at another kid and take turns playing dead.  And yet we knew that the .22 sitting on the porch was the real thing and left it alone.

But BB guns were okay to shoot with and were a rite of passage into the next logical phase of a single shot .22.  I don’t recall a lot of warnings that we could shoot our eyes out,  our parents were usually just glad to have us whooping and hollering outside and out from underfoot.

I remember the day I ran home with the news that my cousin had been shot and was dying in the yard next door.  And he had been shot…with rock salt.  We were climbing into the plum trees again searching for food and the neighbor had had just about enough of us and opened fire.

He lay on the ground grabbing his backside and valiantly telling me to run…to save myself.  It was the most courageous thing I’d ever seen in real life.  Of course I was all of five years old. The real pain was when he got home and confessed what we had been doing and had to return to the neighbor to apologize.  The fact the man shot him with rock salt?  Not an issue.

Always one to promote Equal Opportunity even at that innocent age, I would play the Indian.  And even though my arrow came with suction cups on the end, they could still deliver a twang and leave a mark.  This was far cooler than shooting a cap pistol in my mind.  When I hit my mark I knew it.

Apparently I took it just a tad too far for my Grandmother one day when she caught me with my freshly scalped doll.  She wasn’t only upset that I had cut the doll’s hair off; it was the rest of the scenario.  In hindsight I guess tying the doll to a stake and preparing to burn it did appear a bit gruesome.  But I knew it wasn’t real and she wouldn’t feel a thing anyway…sheesh.

I mean it’s not like I buried it in an ant hole and poured honey on its head to torture it to death, or staked it out spread eagle with wet rawhide bands that would shrink in the sun.  Sorry, but I was just imitating what I saw on television.  Perhaps TV does shape the mind?

But the good news is that I did not continue on the way to becoming a psychopath that tortures small animals or anything.  In fact I am the first to defend those who are without power. 
I think what really warped me the most was watching the test pattern early in the morning waiting for TV to “sign on”.  Yeah, I’ve tried to explain to my 24/7 generation granddaughters about that, but I don’t think they believe me and chalk it up as yet another of my jokes.  I didn't even bother telling them that when my Grandmother would come into the room and asked me what I was doing...standing there next to the TV like that, I'd explain that it said to "stand by" and that's what I was doing.  Yup, I was an obnoxious little comedian at a tender age.

I really did believe that I would be a cowboy when I grew up.  Then my beloved Grandmother did the unspeakable to quash that dream.  She told me I was a little girl and I would grow up to be a cowgirl and would have to ride sidesaddle like a lady.  I cried for days over that pronouncement.

This is what led me to my new desire…to become an Indian when I grew up.  But that’s another story for another day.

Long Live the Queen of Cowboys and Indians



  1. Ah yes the Indian tale....I'm looking forward to hearing all about it. Great post....however did we all survive???

  2. You forgot the Lone Ranger and Tonto ... who could forget, Hi Ho Silver or Gettum up Scout. I liked being the Indian too when I wasn't being Roy Rogers. Roy and I were tight (in my imagination). I thought he was hot (don't think that's what we called it in those days), but my Mother burst my bubble when she said he was homely (what the heck is homely, I thought. But I could tell by her tone of voice that it wasn't pretty). My next love was Cisco Kid ... do you remember him? He was pretty cool, but I always went back to Roy or Tonto, depending on my mood. Those were the days ... we would run along slapping our hips to sound like a horse galluping and thought we were so cool. My sister was in love with Lone Ranger. My parents bought us the record album with the story of how he became the Lone Ranger. I still remember listening to it over and over. What fun we had. That was back when you went outside to play and we made up our own games. We were never bored. I never thought about what I would be when I grew up, but I was absolutely sure that I was already a cowboy ... I knew I was a tomboy because my Mother was always accusing me of that, so surely that meant I would be a cowboy, right? Well, thank goodness we grow out of our naivety and become grown ups ... right? Wrong ... I would love to play cowboys and indians and not have a problem in the world again:)Thanks Queen of Good Memories ... I enjoyed the ride.

    Andrea @ From The Sol

  3. This was a great post. I was with you every step of the way. I always took the tough tomboy roles in whatever we played, only to go on to lead in ROTC later. Someone has to! Long live the Queen. You rock.

  4. Ah yes, I enjoyed the ride too. We were the first in our neighborhood to have a television. Before that, we sat in front of the big black stove, with our feet up on the little shelf below the door, and listened to our favorite programs on the radio. Being able to watch our beloved cowboys and indians on TV was so exciting. And let's not forget Milton Berle, Howdy Doody, Big Brother Bob. Clarbelle, and Kukla, Fran and Olli. Yes'm, those were the good ole days!!! You have a wonderful day. Hugs, Edna B.

  5. Your post certainly brought back the images. The cowboy boots that were worn everywhere by my brothers and sometimes nothing else. Now there's an indelible image. BUT what you really did was make it QUITE clear the correlation between that generation and THEIR guns now that they're all grown up. This just explains everything! Limiting handguns and semi automatic weapons is just a lost cause because Rambo et al followed the next generation on screen. NOW I get it. Boom you really are dead nowadays.

  6. Where are you? It's been four days ... hope you are okay. Miss your wonderful posts. Maybe you told everyone you would be gone while I was gone ... but still miss you. See you soon Queen of Missing, I hope ...

    Andrea @ From The Sol

  7. TV didn't start in La Crosse until about 1956. It came on at 6pm with the news and we all watched the "test pattern"...waiting for Howard Fredricks with his baritone voice to start telling us the happenings of the day. I don't think our test pattern had words...just the black and white emblem. When are you getting back to rescue your RV? Enjoy!