Memories of Hollywood Drugstore Cowboys
I had occasion to be in Grace, Idaho, a few years ago at the Caribou County Fair. While there, I had the pleasure of hearing a performance by the Bar J Wranglers from Jackson Hole, Wyoming. I had heard of the Bar J Wranglers, but had never heard them in live concert. What a treat. If I hadn’t had occasion to be there for other reasons, it would have been worth a special trip just to hear their renditions of those good old Cowboy Western tunes along with their comedy routines.
Those old cowboy songs as sung by the Wranglers, started a chain reaction of memories. Their style is similar to that of a singing cowboy group from yesteryear known as The Sons of The Pioneers. Memories of The Sons of The Pioneers reminded me of Roy Rogers, because they appeared in most of his movies. Remembering Roy Rogers triggered memories of scraps on the playground I had with a classmate during the years I attended grade school in Grace.
Persons who grew up in that era will remember Roy Rogers and Gene Autry were among the top cowboy movie matinee idols of kids in the 1940s, with Roy Rogers being billed as “King of the Cowboys.” His two silver plated six shooters never ran out of bullets, he never missed who or what he was shooting at, and he never lost his hat in a fistfight. As I said, he was king of the cowboys. Hopalong Cassidy and Tom Mix were on the matinee scene as well, but weren’t quite as popular with the kids as were Roy and Gene. This may have been because they didn’t sing. I don’t remember Tom Mix ever singing, and I know Hoppy didn’t sing.
But I’m off point; on with my story. We used to play cowboys and outlaws during recess back then. This friend and I were always at odds about which of us was going to be “Roy.” This led to constant scraps—downright fights—would be a more accurate description. He figured just because his name was Leroy, it automatically afforded him the right to be Roy in these playground games. We were both tall and wiry—well, he was tall and wiry—I was tall and skinny; which made him just a wee bit tougher than I. This didn’t stop me from asserting my right to be Roy, however, although he did win most of the fights.
After wasting a few recesses fighting over who was going to be Roy Rogers, and missing out on playing cowboy games, some wise soul in our group suggested we might be able to settle this whole affair a bit more sensibly by us trading off being Roy from time to time. My nemesis could be Roy one week, or one day, and I could be Roy the next. The one of us who was not Roy Rogers, would be Gene Autry, the “Prince of the Cowboys.” The title of prince, naturally, being somewhat lesser than king. So that’s how we settled that. This classmate I and grew up and remained friends until his passing away.
The last time we had a conversation together, he asked me if I remembered the time he and I decided to run away from home by borrowing (without permission) Dad’s Model M McCormick-Deering tractor. I suppose a more appropriate term for this would be that we stole the tractor. We couldn’t have been much more than 9 or 10 at the time.
The fuel tank must have been near empty, because my friend’s recollection was that we ran out of gas about a half mile down the road. I didn’t remember that little adventure, and told him I would call him one day and have him fill me in on more of the details. He passed away before I had the chance to follow up. It sounded interesting. Who knows, there might have been a good story in that little escapade, but I guess I’ll have to wait until I meet him on the other side to get the rest of it.
If you’d like to dredge up some old memories of your own, my little book might just help you do that. Buddy…His Trials and Treasures, is a book of adventures about a young boy growing up in 1940s rural America. Buddy’s adventures might just bring back some of your own childhood memories. You can get a free sample of the prologue and first three complete adventures by clicking the download button at upper right of this page. It’s also available for purchase at www.amazon.com.