Of Gentleness and Foolishness

10 Sep

Sometimes, when it’s neither really dark nor really light, you experience a certain calm. You begin to dream or reminisce. Here’s a personal visit to yesteryear.

It was a Saturday afternoon in 1946. Mom, Dad and I had gone to the Rex Theater in Abbeville, Louisiana. I was about 12 years old.

It was a very special Saturday – Alan Rocky Lane, a.k.a. Red Ryder, was there in person. I was going to meet him and speak with  him.

Before the movie started, my hero was signing photographs in the lobby of the theater. Dad has given me the money for picture of Rocky and his horse, Thunder. I was one of a bunch of boys crowding around him.

Before going any further, it will help you to know that at that point in my life, country boy that I was, I wanted to be a horse rancher or a movie star, or both. I liked acting and I was in almost every school play from K-12. I guess I saw this as my chance to get in good with Red.

So when my turn came, I addressed him in the character of Little Beaver, his American Native sidekick: “Gosh’m, Red, me heap glad to see you.”

The kids around me groaned or laughed or snickered – but Alan Rocky Lane shook my hand, looked me right in the eye and with gentleness, he said, “I happy to see you too, Little Beaver.”

I feel rather foolish about that now; but I did not feel foolish then. I was elated. I had done a scene with Red Ryder!

The real foolishness came later when my hero brought a young girl on the stage for a short skit. As I think back it was a nothing skit. But then, for me it was all glamour and glitter — until Red made a big mistake in Cajun Land.

He had that young girl up there and was doing some kind of hero and damsel in distress scene and then he kissed her full on the lips.

There was the sound of rushing feet and an angry voice as an elderly woman ran up to the stage demanding in French: “Give me my daughter! Give me my daughter!”

Rocky looked bewildered – he finally got the message. Maybe it was the daggers in that woman’s eyes of the steam coming out of her ears, but Rocky-Red-Alan got the message.

It was utterly embarrassing – and I couldn’t make up my mind whose side I was on. I guess, with the sadness, I felt I was with the woman and that young girl whose face was crimson red.

From that time on, I never could enjoy his movies as I had before. I still have that autographed picture of Rocky and Thunder. It’s in a box somewhere.

But the memory is marred.

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