The other day I was walking across the street in Longton, Kansas headed to Marci’s Café to eat dinner when a car pulled up with New York plates. This little boy jumped out and hollered, "look mom! A real cowboy!" Now I have to admit, I sort of sucked the ole belly in and sort of strutted the rest of the way across the street as "mom" hushed her son and told him not to point and stare.
Now I noticed as I was reading the menu that the family had also entered Marci’s Café and had selected a booth opposite me. The young boy was eagerly trying to see around his mother, much to her embarrassment. Mom was "hushing" him and threatening him to settle down.
Well, as I set there and ate, my mind begin to wonder back to my youth and all my "cowboy heroes". There was Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, Hopalong Cassidy, The Lone Ranger, Rowdy Yates, Hoss Cartwright and his brothers, Matt Dillon and Festus in the days of my early youth. These guys were always on the "right", stood up for the down trodden, defended the defenseless and were great shots! (they always shot the gun out of the perpetrators hand with out blowing him to smithereens!) They had an impact on my upbringing that lives with me today.
And then later in my youth I begin to admire other great cowboys such as John Wayne in the movies. He was always on the "right" in movies like "Big Jake", "McClintock", "El Dorado", "True Grit" and many more. Never afraid to face adversity head on, even against tremendous odds. There was Jimmy Stewart, Glenn Ford, James Garner and many other famous actors who portrayed cowboys in famous roles.
And there were some actors who had actually been cowboys in real life such as Ben Johnson from Pawhuska, OK and Slim Pickens from Bakersville, CA. Still later, but still young, I watched as Freckles Brown (at the age of 49) rode a bull at the San Angelo Fat Stock Show where I was in college, one of the all time great bull riders. All of these men had played roles in forming my attitude and fortitude.
Other great "unknown" cowboys had played a role in my personality formation such as Oscar and Tot Keplinger, Red Redford, Russell Whitman and many more. Cowboys had always been my heroes and very important in my life.
Well my dinner nearly over the family got up to leave. The young boy with mom in close pursuit, headed toward my table. "You are real cowboy?" he asked. But before I could answer that I was merely a feed salesman, he added, "You must REALLY be old to have lived back when there was just horses to ride!"
Well with my ego blown to smithereens, I finished my dinner and limped back to my car to spend the rest of the day thinking how I ALMOST had been a hero.