I sit down to write this, my first post, in a dusty little town in Southern California, a desert town, a place that felt oddly familiar to me the day I arrived here almost five years ago. Though I’d been born and raised in upstate New York, I couldn’t seem to shake the feeling that I had been here before.
As I began exploring the rugged mountains surrounding the high desert – a moonscape where enormous boulders lay scattered about like fallen planets; where canyons spiked with cholla cactus suddenly opened out onto vast, waterless plateaus dotted with Joshua trees as far as the eye could see – it began to dawn on me why I felt so at home here: these were the very same hills where the cowboy heroes of my boyhood – Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, Hopalong Cassidy et al – shot many of their films, along with a few hundred bad guys, way back in the 1950s.
On any given weekend I could be found in a darkened theater catching a Saturday matinee, sitting on the edge of my seat with all the other rough riders, stuffing my face with popcorn and jujubes, breathlessly riding the trail with these guys, week after week after week. Now, here I am, over a half century later, giving it up to the ether, to all the post riders in the sky. Hats off to you, Hoppy.
You’re probably wondering what, if anything, this has to do with the photo above – as well you should. If you look closely, you’ll notice there are a few other heroes in that room. Churchill and Roosevelt, for instance, who joined forces to defeat the guy with the Charlie Chaplin mustache in World War II; and, though he isn’t in the picture, the Evil Empire ruled by the man dressed in white would one day be brought down by another hero, himself a cowboy – Ronald Reagan.
The photo, by the way, was taken in a wax museum somewhere in London, which I hear is somewhere in England. Weird enough for prime time, seems to me. I know, I know, there aren’t any cowboy pictures up there. Maybe next time. We’re headin’ into non-linear country here, folks, so keep your hat pulled down and hold on tight to them reins.