A big change came into my family's life during the recent holiday season.
Nobody got engaged or divorced and we didn't lose or gain any pets - although I have a 20-year-old cat named Shortlife that I would love to find a good home for. No, the change we incurred did not involve people or animals or long term life decisions.
We got a new television system. We have tried them all, understand. We've had roof-top antennas, rabbit ears, a couple of cable systems and a couple of satellite systems and have gone from three channels to 300 channels - and there is still nothing on worth watching most of the time.
Now we have a new system that has a cowboy channel. I don't think that's the official name for the network and I don't even know what number the station occupies on the tuner, but I know they have all cowboys all day - and all night, too . I also know that I haven't wanted to hit a lick at a snake since I discovered this video treasure five or six days ago, while cooking supper.
Yes, we now have a television in the kitchen. "What hath God wrought?"
I was waiting for the skillet to heat up so I could make cornbread to go with my collard greens and black-eyed peas last weekend when I began playing around with the remote control when there he was. Lucas McCain - the Rifleman - telling his sniveling little son, Mark, to run for cover while he took care of the bad guys who were threatening to take over North Fork despite all that the loyal and honest sheriff, Micah Torrance, could do about it.
I was hooked. I burned the cornbread and let all the water boil out of the peas but I saw Lucas fight off the French nobleman who thought he could just take over the whole town as well as some Mexican bandits who wanted to rob the bank and a regular old bad guy who was trying his best to dishonor a pretty girl who was passing through on the afternoon stage.
It was awesome!
Know what came on after "The Rifleman"?
Bat Masterson. Y'all remember him. He was the intellectual type - wore a derby hat instead of a Stetson and carried a fancy cane. But he was tough and I suppose that dressed like he was and with a name like "Bat," he would have to have been tough to get along in the Old West.
Bat Masterson was a real person, of course, and actually spent his last days as a sportswriter. He died of a heart attack, in fact, and was found slumped over his typewriter having written these words, "Everybody in life gets the same amount of ice; the rich get theirs in the summer and the poor get theirs in the winter."
Deep thoughts for a cowboy who wore a derby and carried a cane.
But I couldn't believe my good luck at finding a television station that could so easily transport me back to the days of my childhood. Western were big back in the late '50s and early '60s, you recall - and I was a fan of just about all of them.
We aren't just talking "Bonanza" and "Gunsmoke," either - although those shows were certainly two of the best, and had the staying power to prove it. Even my kids know who Hoss and Little Joe Cartwright were, and Marshall Dillon, and the animal that I call Shortlife they call Miss Kitty, just like the Amanda Blake character.
But I watched all the other Westerns, too. Remember Yancey Derringer. He was the gentlemen's gentleman, and a former Confederate who returned home to New Orleans to keep that city safe from the bad guys. He was a secret agent, though, and carried a derringer in his hat and a sword in his cane. That was cool stuff to a 7-year-old from Porterdale.
How about the "Cisco Kid"? Remember that one? "Ah, Cisco!" "Ah, Poncho!" Loved the ending!
One of my favorites was Richard Boone as Paladin. "Have gun, will travel." Paladin was a combination hired gun and private eye, but even though he wore a black hat, he always wound up working for the good guys.
There was also "Tales of Wells Fargo," "Death Valley Days," Wyatt Earp, "The Rebel" (Johnny Yuma; I know you remember him) and Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane - and we haven't even touched on Roy Rogers, King of the Cowboys.
My absolute favorite, however, was none of the above. That title would have to go to "Wagon Train". Every year, Major Seth Adams would lead a wagon train of greenhorns over the Oregon Trail from St. Joseph, Mo., to "the west," wherever that may be. They fought Indians and drought and storms and starvation, but Major Adams and his trusty scout, Flint McCullough, always saved the day.
Those were the days - and now I can relive them, all day, every day - as long as I do enough work while I am not watching to keep the cable bill paid. I may grow tired of the station, but I haven't yet. However, if you run into me up town and I am walking a little bow-legged, you'll know I have been inspired to start riding the horses in my front pasture. But don't worry. I checked my six-shooters a long time ago.
Darrell Huckaby is a local author and educator. He can be reached at dHuck08@bellsouth.net.