Friday, July 20, 2012

High Riding Heroes

My heroes have always been cowboys,
And they still are, it seems.
Sadly in search of and one step in back of 
Themselves, and their slow movin' dreams.
--  as sung  by Waylon Jennings and  Willie Nelson

I grew up in the 1950s during the decline of radio and the rise of television as the family home entertainment medium of choice.  Consequently, I developed an appreciation for the offerings of both media.  

As she worked during the afternoons, my mom would listen to soap operas such as our "Our Gal Sunday" (Can a girl from a simple mining town in the west find happiness with one of England's most titled Lords?), The Romance of Helen Trent (proving that romance can begin at thirty-five.), and others. 

Shortly after four PM, the programming changed and soap operas gave way to programs designed to entertain the kids when they got home from school before the family sat down to supper.  Sponsorship changed from soap, detergent, and home products to breakfast cereals.  The theme of the shows shifted from modern romance to tales of high adventure and great good deeds. Lead characters were no longer women seeking happiness and romance but strong men striving to carve out and civilize a place in the American West. 

When I got home from school, after the chores were done, I would sit and soak up the adventures of Wild Bill Hickock and his sidekick Jingles P. Jones, of Sky King, the Arizona rancher who flew an airplane while maintaining law and order on his large Arizona ranch.  I would eagerly follow the adventures of Straight Arrow, the crime-fighting alter ego of rancher Steve Adams, and, moving north, of Sergeant Preston of the Yukon, sworn to bring in the lawless and maintain the right.

After supper and the news with Lowell Thomas, the entire family would listen to the adventures of The Cisco Kid and his sidekick Pancho, followed by The Lone Ranger. 

Much of my character and many of my values were imparted to me by these mostly fictional heroes. They lived in a world that never existed and did great deeds that never took place in history.  Yet, from them I learned values that remain eternally real.  

I learned to be truthful. The bad guy was usually a liar.

I learned to be honest.  The bad guy usually cheated at cards and sometimes got shot because of it.

I learned to be honorable.  The good guy always carried through on his commitments, even when he was alone, and no matter what it cost him.

I learned to be loyal.  The good guy always stood with and never deserted his friends.

I learned to be courteous, to answer when spoken to, to listen without butting in and to treat others as I would want to be treated.

And I learned to be kind.  The good guy never mistreated his animals or those who couldn't defend themselves.

And I learned that life itself is an adventure that will find you if you let it.

Fictionalized heroes in fictional situations living real values: who would have thought it?

To whom or what do you attribute your values, your character?

How's that working for you?