TONTO RIDES AGAIN

I grew up with the Lone Ranger and Tonto racing around my bedroom.  No, not live, but I had authentic Lone Ranger wallpaper. Until the wallpaper was installed, I was sure he was the Long Ranger … as in “he rode a lot and covered great distances.” Y’know. Long range.

Other girls had Disney Princesses, flowers, and butterflies. I had “Hi Yo Silver, the Lone Ranger Rides Again!” Although my walls did not play the William Tell Overture, I could hum it well enough. I had many a long chat with Lone, Tonto, Silver and Scout as I lay abed pondering the meaning of life and how I could convince my mother to let me have a horse.

tonto_on_scout_with_gun

It was a hard choice between Lone and Tonto. It was even a difficult choice between their horses. Silver was magnificent, but Scout — a stunning paint — was gorgeous too. Really, I would have settled for any horse, any color, any heritage … but if I was going to ride only in my dreams, I got to choose. I was never was able to decide.

I eventually found Jay Silverheels, the man and actor, more interesting than the Lone Ranger. Silverheels was born Harold J. Smith of the Six Nations of the Grand River First Nation in Ontario, Canada. He was one of 11 children, son of a Canadian Mohawk tribal elder and military officer, Major George Smith.

Silverheels raised, bred and raced Standardbred horses in his spare time. Once, when asked about possibly running Tonto’s famous Paint horse Scout in a race, Jay laughed. “Heck, I can outrun Scout!”

He probably could have outrun Scout. He was a natural athlete and played lacrosse. He wrote poetry, though I haven’t been able to find any of it or I would gladly post an example.

He never escaped his Hollywood stereotyping as a Native American who could only speak broken English. His career faded with the years. He died too young, at age 67 in 1980.

Silverheels spoofed his Tonto character on a number of occasions, most famously in a Stan Freberg Jeno’s Pizza Rolls TV commercial opposite Clayton Moore (TV’s Lone Ranger).

Jay_Silverheels_star_HWF

Jay Silverheels was the person who got me interested in Native American culture, got me reading real history. When anyone makes fun of the Lone Ranger, I always defend the show. Yes, it carried forward a lot of stupid stereotypes, the worse of which is the weird broken English spoken by Tonto in the show … but Tonto and the Lone Ranger were far more equal in their interaction than any other Native American – White Hero combination I saw for many long years. Talking funny wasn’t nearly as important as the mutual respect between the two men. It ultimately changed the way I saw the world and American history. That’s quite a bit of influence for a 1950s TV serial.

Eventually, as I rounded the corner into adolescence, the Lone Ranger and his faithful Indian Companion (who had led the fight for law and order in the early west) returned to those thrilling days of yesteryear, whence they had come. They were replaced by plain, off-white paint. I would have preferred Lone and Tonto to live on, but the paper was old and peeling. Nothing and no one lasts forever.

Tonto and the Lone Ranger were the consummate good guys. The always fought the good fight, were always on the side of justice, fairness, and truth. They never asked for anything in return. As role models go … not so bad. Not bad at all.

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Silver-reaingI would choose to be Silver, the Lone Ranger’s horse. Strong, powerful, beautiful. Galloping free on the range, the wind in my mane, my snow-white tail streaming out behind me. Leaping fences, rearing high on my powerful legs declaring myself the king horses.

I might deign to carry one special man — my Ranger — when he rides out to rid the west of the bad guys and make the world a better, safer place. But when the saddle comes off, I will be free again.

White horse free

I will live off green grasses under blue skies. The wind and running streams will be my friends. No beeping, dinging, or buzzing.

No chores to do, schedules to meet, or bills to pay. I will live my life under the sky with no pain or shame of the past — nor fear of the future.

When my life is over, let me rejoin the earth, My Mother.

AND STILL HE RIDES!

The original Lone Ranger and Tonto — Jay Silverheels and Clayton Moore

I grew up with the Lone Ranger and Tonto racing around my bedroom. It was the wallpaper that informed me he was the “Lone” not the “long” ranger because until then, I was sure he was the Long Ranger … as in “he rode great distances.” Or maybe he was just very tall.

Other girls had Disney Princesses, but I had “Hi Yo Silver, the Lone Ranger Rides Again!” Although my walls did not play music, I could hum well enough and I had many a long chat with Lone and Tonto, Silver and Scout as I lay abed in the evening pondering the meaning of life and how I could convince my mother to let me have a horse.

Eventually, as I rounded the corner into adolescence, the Lone Ranger and his trusty Indian Companion (who had led the fight for law and order in the early west) returned to those thrilling days of yesteryear whence they had come. They were replaced by plain, off-white paint. I would have preferred Lone and Tonto, but felt it was time for a change. The paper was old and getting a bit tattered so it was hard to argue the point.

This did not end my allegiance to the first love of my life. I don’t honestly know what it is about masked men on horses that turns on all my lights, but both Zorro and Lone made me woozy with unrequited love. As the years rolled on, I became very attached to Tonto, not as Tonto, but as Jay Silverheels, the actor, whose career I continued to follow long after the Lone Ranger had disappeared from the airwaves.

I still love the Lone Ranger and I didn’t let Johnny Depp spoil it for me by the simple expedient of not watching the movie when it came out or since then.

The Lone Ranger fought the good fight. He never asked for thanks and would run away rather than have to accept them. He was the goodest of the good guys and whenever I’m not sure what to do in a morally ambiguous situation, I can always ask myself “What would the Lone Ranger do?”

Then, I send Garry to town because when in doubt, the Lone Ranger always sent Tonto, right?

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MY HEROES WEAR MASKS – THE LONE RANGER RIDE AGAIN!

The original Lone Ranger and Tonto — Jay Silverheels and Clayton Moore

I grew up with the Lone Ranger and Tonto racing around my bedroom. Until I got the wallpaper, I was sure he was the Long Ranger … as in “he rode a lot and covered great distances.”

Other girls had Disney Princesses, but I had “Hi Yo Silver, the Lone Ranger Rides Again!” Although my walls did not play music, I could hum well enough and I had many a long chat with Lone and Tonto, Silver and Scout as I lay abed in the evening pondering the meaning of life and how I could convince my mother to let me have a horse.

Eventually, as I rounded the corner into adolescence, the Lone Ranger and his trusty Indian Companion (who had led the fight for law and order in the early west) returned to those thrilling days of yesteryear whence they had come. They were replaced by plain, off-white paint. I would have preferred Lone and Tonto, but felt it was time for a change. The paper was old and getting a bit tattered so it was hard to argue the point.

This did not end my allegiance to the first love of my life. I don’t honestly know what it is about masked men on horses that turns on all my lights, but both Zorro and Lone made me woozy with unrequited love. As the years rolled on, I became very attached to Tonto, not as Tonto, but as Jay Silverheels, the actor, whose career I continued to follow long after the Lone Ranger had disappeared from the airwaves.

I still love the Lone Ranger and I didn’t let Johnny Depp spoil it for me by the simple expedient of not watching the movie when it came out or since then.

The Lone Ranger fought the good fight. He never asked for thanks and would run away rather than have to accept them. He was the goodest of the good guys and whenever I’m not sure what to do in a morally ambiguous situation, I can always ask myself “What would the Lone Ranger do?”

Then, I send Garry to town because when in doubt, the Lone Ranger always sent Tonto, right?

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DON’T PRINT THE LEGEND

Dusty Streets of Tombstone

I love westerns. I hate westerns. I grew up wanting to be a western hero, maybe the Lone Ranger. Never mind the gender issue. I knew by the time I was 5 that boys get to do a lot more stuff than girls, so I wanted to be one.

When I was a kid I didn’t know much. I didn’t count bullets and wonder how come they didn’t reload. I had no idea how many bullets there ought to be. I didn’t notice prejudice, bigotry and the near-genocide of Native Americans … hey, I was a kid. But I’m not a kid now. I know what it means when someone says “The only good Indian is a dead Indian.”

I understand westerns are not historical documents and I don’t need them to be. I’m used to historical manipulation, ignoring facts to make a story work. But I can’t seem to ignore cruelty, mass murder and the adulation of psychopaths. The claims of heroism for what are really acts of malice, stupidity and greed. It doesn’t roll off me.

Big things bother me a lot while small things bother me proportionately less — like an itch I can’t scratch. “Print the legend” does not work for me. I can’t wrap my head around the myth. There are exceptions of course … but mostly … westerns have become painful to watch. New-style and cynical — or old-fashioned and racist — it’s the same. The only difference is style. For me, it’s no longer entertainment.

It just hurts.

Afternoon walk - Tombstone

HE LEFT THIS SILVER BULLET

The young man was confused. His horse edgy, restless. So much noise. He’d seen horseless carriages, but this was crazy. Those things were fast, going every which way. How many directions in a small town not much bigger than those with which the Lone Ranger and his faithful Indian Companion Tonto were familiar.

Different trees. No cactus. Churches the same. But so many? Why would a small town need so many churches? You’d think one or two would be enough.

UU Church Uxbridge

Silver whinnied. Lone released his neck rein so he could graze. Soft, green grass. Not coarse prairie grass. He needed to figure out how he’d wound up here. He thought back, trying to reconstruct events. He and Tonto had pitched camp by the Arkansas River, not far from Wichita. Built a fire. Then they heard something. Told Tonto to stay put, he’d check it out.

A weird noise. Sucking, whirring … like a tiny tornado. But not loud. A purr rather than a roar. He’d thrown a saddle on Silver, gone to investigate. In the middle of nowhere, a vortex hovered in the air. He’d ridden closer to get a better look. Whoosh!

Lone had experienced strange things in his 31 years, but this was the weirdest. He’d been transported somewhere else. Some time else, too, if those … vehicles? were any indication. Those wires couldn’t be telegraph wires. Too many. Too thick. Electricity? He’d heard you could get it in San Francisco. Out east too.

“Well,” thought Lone. “I’ve got my gun, ammunition, silver bullets. Silver. There must be work for me here. There’s always a job for The Lone Ranger.”

He looked around. He was on a green lawn surrounded by white churches. A few statues. Likely a village common. Not west of the Mississippi. This looked like pictures he’d seen of New England. He must be there.

It was all connected to the odd disturbance in the air. A doorway? Through … time? Space? Lone was an educated man. He read books. He’d heard of things like “time travel.” He’d never believed it. Why him? Only one possible explanation. The town was in trouble. They needed him.

He hadn’t seen anyone on horseback or driving a buggy. Just those noisy things. He had to figure out why he was here. Across the street, next to another big white church stood a brick building. A library. Well, where better to start collecting information? Librarians always know what’s going on in town.

75-LibraryGA-NK-6He dismounted, suddenly aware of his mask and gun. No one was wearing a gunbelt. It didn’t mean they weren’t carrying firearms. “Maybe they hide them here,” he thought.

“Look,” cried some teenage kids, “It’s the Lone Ranger! And Silver! Hey, where’s Tonto? Whatcha doin’, huh? Cool horse!”

“Okay,” muttered Lone to himself. “They know who I am. Now, I have to figure out who they are, where I am and what I need to do to get home.

He dismounted to lead Silver across the road. He’d ask the librarian. Then, he could start unraveling the mystery. He wished Tonto was here. It would be good to share this adventure with his friend.

He looked around. “Hi yo Silver,” he added softly. “I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.”

LOVING THE WESTERNS

Western movies. You love them or hate them. Hardly anyone is neutral. I’ve always loved them, since I was a little girl, pretending to be a cross between The Lone Ranger and Jesse James.

White Horse Wallpapers  25

But why? What is it about westerns that makes them so appealing to those of us that love them?

Let’s work this as a list, top to bottom. Remember, this is my list. You may have a completely different list and totally not relate to mine. That’s okay.

Why I love Western Movies

1) Horses. I love horses. The more horses, the better. You could leave out the riders and I would sit there and watch the horses, no problem.

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2) Scenery. The deserts, the mountains, the plains. The dusty trail as the wagon train rolls westward. The Rocky Mountains looming, challenging. Sunsets over Monument Valley. Some of the most incredible cinematography has been done for westerns. From Ride the High Country to almost anything ever filmed by John Ford. To the dusty streets of Tombstone … the big sky hangs over everything, a huge blue dome. Everything is bigger, brighter, younger. The beauty is hard to match and it goes so well with the eye of the camera.

Dusty Streets of Tombstone

3) Simple ethics, simple philosophy. There is something terribly appealing about a world where the excuse “He needed killing” is an actual defense at trial. You can put a lot of violence into a western and it’s just fine. The bad guys wear black hats, figuratively or literally. The good guys are the ones with the nice horses, better clothing … and white hats. No ambivalence. No confusion. Not at all like the real world made up of endless shades of gray. It’s a black and white world, black and white morality. “He needed killing. So I killed him.” I get that.

TombstoneOKCorral

4) Heroes. This is really a continuation of the previous, but Wyatt Earp kills a lot of people and it’s okay. I can cheer him on as he and Doc Holliday rampage through the west. “Yes!!” I cry, waving my fist in the air. I could never kill anyone, but I can be really grateful that someone else is doing it for me. In real life, I favor gun control. In westerns? Blast away!

Ghost Town by Apache Junction

If the movie also has a good plot, terrific sound track, great cinematography? Some wit, cleverness and even a few laughs? Bonus material.

That’s it. Pretty simple, eh? Horses, gorgeous scenery, good guys being good, bad guys being bad. Add music, dim the lights and pass the popcorn.