Although I was in my 20s I still remember, with heavy heart, when the Roy Roger’s television series ended in 1963. I was one of his most fervent fans and had been for many years.
I imagine Roy would be considered a sissy in today’s world. After all, he never killed the bad guys. Heck, he hardly ever wounded them and that was when he would shoot the guns out of their hands. Now and then he might get in a little fisticuffs action, but that was about it.
How could a cowboy deal with the evils of the old West without major bloodshed? Well, let me tell you – for the kids growing up in the late 1940s and early 1950s – Roy Rogers was still King of the Cowboys. He not only stood for what was right, he made us want to do the same. How many heroes today have that effect on kids?
I first saw Roy Rogers back in 1949, when I was nine years old, at the Iowa Theatre in Madrid. The movie was “Springtime in the Sierras.” I remember it made me want to get a horse and become a cowboy.
It didn’t take long for my folks, who lived in town, to inform me that horses can’t be kept in back yards. That took a little of the glamour out of my plans, but didn’t altogether end them.
I decided to become a cowboy crime fighter on foot. Instead of riding up in a blaze of glory, I would sneak around in the bushes looking for bad guys. To do this, I reasoned that instead of a white hat and colorful shirt, I would need to outfit myself in black.
I requested — and received — a black straw cowboy hat for my birthday. I already owned a black shirt, so I talked my grandmother into sewing some dark fringe on it.
The toughest thing to come up with was the proper shooting iron. I didn’t want one of those cap guns that looked like a cap gun. What I was looking for was a pearl-handled six-shooter, just like Roy carried.
For the next several weeks, I would accompany Mom whenever she went to Ames or Des Moines shopping. While she was looking at clothes and the like, I would be in the toy section checking out the guns. Look as I might, all I could find were cap guns that looked like cap guns.
We were leaving the J.C. Penney store on Ames’ main street late one afternoon when Mom remembered she had left a purse at a luggage shop to be repaired. I could think of few things more boring than going into a luggage shop, but I was the one who had volunteered to accompany her shopping.
I couldn’t believe what was in that store! There, hanging from the wall, were two cap guns exactly like I’d been looking for, along with the most impressive holster set I’d ever seen. It wiped out most of my savings, but when I walked out of the store that day — I felt like Roy Rogers.
For the next few weeks, I became the scourge of the neighborhood as I crept from bush to tree, looking for a crime in progress. Trouble was, crime really wasn’t that rampant in small town Iowa in 1949. At least, not that I could uncover.
I decided to branch out a little — cover a few more sections of town. I finally made it all the way (three blocks) to the east part of town. I couldn’t find any crime there, but I did discover a very unfriendly dog.
The dog chased me all the way back to the friendly confines of our screened-in back porch. As he sat on our back steps barking, I emptied an entire roll of caps on him. All that did was make him bark louder. The neighbors finally called Dad, and he came home from work and chased the dog away.
That ended the crime-fighting part of my life. However, it certainly didn’t stop me from going to every Roy Rogers movie that came to the Iowa Theatre for the next several years.
Ed Rood is former publisher of the Tri-County Times.