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FROM THE VALLEY: Wild West Sidekick Story


What's up with the cowboy sidekick?

Why would anyone take that job? Did

kids, in the old west, dream of becoming – as an adult - an abused, laughed at,

cohort of a condescending jerk who thought more of himself and horse than his

fellow human-being? Did they envision themselves doing all the dirty work

while their self-absorbed partner got all the glory, all the credit?

Oh yeah, I forgot. It's probably just a fictitious character born from the

mindset of a writer who thinks everything he dreams up should be

immortalized on paper and seen by as many people as possible. Such brazen

chutzpah. Anyhow ...

I caught an episode of “The Roy Rogers Show” on one of those triple-digit

cable-channels last week. One of those channels that seemingly runs non-stop,

“3 easy payments” commercials interrupted every 10-15 minutes by 45 seconds

of programming. Anyhow, I had to check it out.

Roy was billed as the “King of Cowboys” back in his time. He was 'da man',

the super-hero of western-action shows when television and I were both wide-

eyed youngsters looking for our place in the world.

The visual of Roy in his impeccably clean shirt, 4-inch high cuffed

dungarees, intricately designed cowboy boots and white hat gave an aura of

wholesomeness which bordered on sainthood. Carrying, not one but, two guns,

in holsters with enough sparkle to light up an airfield, he was a walking

arsenal, the swashbuckling champion of law and order.

Alongside Roy was his female co-star Dale Evans. I didn't know what their

onscreen relationship was when I was 8 years-old, nor did I care.

Nonetheless, even as a kid, it was easy to discern that there was an

undeniable pecking order among the cast of characters. Roy was the irrefutable

star of the show; and then, by all appearances, Roy's horse, Trigger, was tied

for second with Dale. Then came the dog, Bullet, followed by Dale's horse,

Buttermilk and finally, their personal jester, Pat Brady.

Brady was the sidekick of which I spoke of in the opening paragraph. He

was portrayed as a disposable buffoon when in reality he was the necessary

seasoning which made the show more palatable to those who liked a sprinkle of

lightheartedness in their programming.

The juxtaposition of cowboys on horses and Pat Brady riding around in a

Jeep didn't set off any chronological alarms for someone my age. It was what it

was and who was I to question the congruity of time set forth by an adult who

surely knew more than I.

As I re-watched this old-time favorite, the final scene in this particular

episode stuck in my craw. I was horrified. The bad guys had been arrested and

put in jail. And as Roy and Dale walked out of the sheriff's office, Pat Brady

sat in his Jeep, “Nelly-Belly,” talking to a couple of cowboys. Brady took a

cigar out of one to the cowboy's shirt pocket and lit it up. Roy and Dale noticed

and Dale casually reached over to a bystander and took the six-gun out of his


She then, from twenty-feet away, fired the unfamiliar pistol from the hip –

without taking a moment to aim - and blasted the cigar out of Brady's mouth. It

was as startling and shocking as you could imagine. And then, as parodied by

Mike Meyers in the Austin Powers movies, everyone started to laugh as the

scene faded to black. Such a display of indifference. Time certainly changes

one's perspective. Subject closed, I got nothing else on it.

Next: I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Tonto, played by Jay Silverheels.

Tonto rode alongside The Lone Ranger and wasn't used for comic relief but

more as a subservient go-for to showcase the masked man's superiority over

everyone, particularly a Native American. “Tonto, you ride to reservation and

get your people to build 58-mile canal to tree over there where I wait to water

horse.” (Note: By eliminating pronouns and articles in his speech, the self-

appointed boss of this crime-fighting duo figured the inferior Indian would fare

better if he talked down to him like a D-student 1st grader. Okay, maybe he

didn't talk like that.)

Another: Gene Autry and Smilely Burnette. I'm not even going to say why I

think Autry wanted a sidekick. But I always wondered about the times he'd pull

a guitar out of thin air and lean over to his ragtag pal and start singing a love

ballad to him. Whatever. Nothing wrong with that – as long as the hapless-

looking sidekick was on the same page.

Anyhow, that's it. Thanks for reading what I was dreaming about and have

now immortalized on paper. Until next time ...

“Happy trails to you ...”

And that's the way it looks from the Valley.

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