Monday, June 25, 2012

My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys

Recently, a friend asked me why the obsession with Westerns. Why cowboys?

I was born in 1955. Yes, I'm that old. As a child of the 50s and 60s, pretty much what we watched on television were Westerns. You couldn't swing a rope without wrangling a cowboy. Gunsmoke, Bonanza, Wanted Dead or Alive, Rawhide, Have Gun Will Travel, Bat Masterson, The Big Valley (when the show first aired in 1965, it was on past my bedtime. Wouldn't have been able to watch it anyway, as we only had one television set, and my dad wasn't a Missy (Barbara Stanwyck) fan. I fell in love with Heath as a teen when I watched the show in reruns after school). Death Valley Days, Wagon Train, The Rifleman. Even children's shows had Western heroes: Howdy Doody (though I barely remember this show), The Lone Ranger, Hopalong Cassidy (my first hero, I even had a Hopalong lunch box. Long gone. Thanks, Ma, that tin box is probably worth a small fortune today). In Boston, Rex Trailer hosted the Saturday morning show, Boomtown. So my heroes have always been cowboys.

But what's the attraction?  For me, the cowboy was someone who didn't go looking for trouble, but when it found him, he wouldn't back down. Brave, courageous. Didn't say much unless there was something to say. And who wouldn't want a pony? Had a moral compass. Was honest. Stood up for those who couldn't stand up for themselves. Chivalrous. Very similar to the knights of the Middle Ages. All this highly romanticized and sanitized.

 As a girl growing up in this time, there weren't a lot of opportunities for us. We could aspire to be moms, nurses, teachers, stewardesses (I couldn't meet the height requirement), and secretaries, and because I went to parochial school, a nun. Definitely not an option!  I didn't want to be Annie Oakley. Even though she had skills that were better than her male counterparts, she was still expected to conform. Paraded out. Shown off. Little Sure Shot.  No one would ever think Little Bat Masterson.

I longed to be a cowboy. The cowboy represented freedom. Choice. Go where you wanted. Be your own person. You were free to like blue and not forced to wear pink. Unless you wanted to. (Heath sported a pink shirt in seasons 3 and 4).

Who was your hero, and why did you aspire to be like him or her?


  1. There is something cool and collected and brave and strong about a cowboy. *sigh*

  2. I don’t remember back that far! LOL