Should have been a cowboy

  • Wednesday, March 5, 2014

I threw up a photo on Facebook last week for Throw Back Thursday.

It was an old snapshot of me, my two sisters and my female cousin at the beach.

It was the summer of 1963, my Age of Innocence.

I was just beginning to get my arms around this whole Santa Claus and presents thing. I loved baseball. I didn’t know what school was yet, not for another two months. My great-grandfather — Big Grandpa — a big Irish man they called Big Mike O’Hara, was still alive.

Life was one long endless summer.

And I dreamed of being a cowboy.

This was before Superman, when for me Superman was Chuck Connors as Lucas McCain in The Rifleman.

He was the cowboy’s cowboy, more so than Roy Rogers, or the Lone Ranger, or Gene Autry.

For one, I couldn’t yodel like Roy Rogers and I couldn’t play guitar like Gene Autry.

But I could shoot a rifle like Chuck Connors.

The Rifleman’s gimmick was all about the rifle, a modified Winchester Model 1892 with a large ring lever drilled and tapped for a set screw, according to Wikipedia.

The lever design allowed Connors to cock the rifle by spinning it around his hand. In addition, the screw could be positioned to depress the trigger every time he worked the lever, allowing for rapid fire.

Wikipedia also told me the whole Rifleman concept was a gross anachronism because the John Browning-designed rifle appeared in a show set 12 years before it was designed.

I didn’t care.

I was five years old. All I know is I lived for the opening credits when Chuck would fire that rifle nine or ten times in the show’s first 10 seconds.

I was sold.

Now, back to the Throwback Thursday photograph.

My sisters, my cousin and I were standing along the beach at the water line of Lake Missaukee in Lake City, Michigan. We posed in a line by a boat.

There was sand.

There was water.

There was marine craft.

My sisters and cousin all wore sailors’ hats.

And me?

I wore a cowboy hat.

Notice a pattern here?

My head-in-the-clouds square peg free spirited nature reared its ugly head at an early age.

I can still hear the hushed whispers even today.

“We’re at the beach! There’s water! And he’s wearing a cowboy hat!”

“You need to have a long talk with that boy.”

“Does Danny not get it? He should be wearing a captain’s hat. This is the beach not the wild West.”

“Thank goodness he’s wearing pants.”

I remained true to my first love.

My guns of choice were a pair of pearl handled six shooters with rhinestone inlays stowed in a white leather holster.

My cowboy suit of choice included cowboy boots, my hat, my six-shooters, a Rifleman tee-shirt and my Fruit of the Looms briefs.

I had a thing for running around in nothing but my underwear at a very early age.

My creative spirit would not be inhibited by the confinements of pants.

And I remained a cowboy until that fateful day I saw Clark Kent whip off his classes, jerk his tie-knot askew and duck into the storage room closet.

A moment later to a great fanfare of music he emerged wearing a bright red cape, red underpants, and leotards.

And he jumped out the window.

Not even Roy Rogers could do that.

I long thought it was the cape that sold me on Superman, but as I get older and more reflective, I know it wasn’t the cape.

Superman was my kindred spirit, not to have his superpowers restricted by the confinement of pants.

Yes, it was the underpants.

Red, no less.

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