I grew up in the mythical age of the cowboy hero. Randolph Scott continues to hold a high position in my pantheon of gods. But despite the western morality plays of Bob Steel and Hoot Gibson, I often found myself trapped in a nightmare straight out of High Noon … on the way to the Third Grade would I be challenged by some punk out to get a reputation and shot down in cold blood on the decomposed granite under the shadow of the monkey bars?
Of course even back then I knew that no one was packing heat (oh have times changed) so the fear of having to face down three varmints with scatterguns armed only with the small cap gun I had stuck in my belt was certainly just fantasy, but it still was frightening. Having visited Tombstone I could easily imagine the return of the OK-Corral to the strip Mall not far from my home and school. How scary would life be if everyone went around with a six-shooter strapped to their hip and hot lead was the ultimate decider of any dispute or disagreement?
As a kid, this was my first horror story. Later I learned about the H-Bomb on Beanie and Cecil and when I got a little older I turned over a rock and discovered Republicans. Do you remember the powerful ranch owner who refused the powerless sod-busters water, vilified and killed anyone daring to graze sheep on the open cattle-range, and commanded large battalions of saddle-bums and gunslingers straight out of Strother Martin and Lee Van Cleef. In the movies, like any good morality play, it’s the good guys against the bad guys, two out of three falls and the good guys (almost) always win in the end. Today we have the rich and powerful ranchers which we call The One-Percent and they are unfortunately turning around the narrative and winning, at least so far.
There is also a very disturbing movement to have everyone walking around with a Tec-9 in their cargo shorts (or worse). Guns. Guns. Guns. Then again, if the western is the great American mythology then guns and violence must be the height of patriotism. I have always heard that when you grow old you revert to many of the patterns you experienced as a child. Well, I’m not in diapers yet but I wonder: do I have to return to those days of yesteryear and be afraid to cross the ball field on the way to the Third Grade? Will Miss Gardner, my teacher, still wear those fluffy, revealing dresses made from flowing silk and modern Rayon when she straps on her pearl-handled Navy 44s to teach use the correct way to play a Flutophone? Will our children survive the takeover of this country by the Fascists and the Wing-Nuts?