My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys

    By Scott "Scooter" Haith


            My secretary just brought me the news Gene Autry had died. I sat there a moment gazing at the walls of my office with the pictures of my cowboy heroes and their sidekicks before I grabbed my coat and walked out of the office with the phone ringing and the computer screen flashing at me. I had more important things to think about. I hopped in my truck and drove to the stables thinkin’ what an awful year it had been for my cowboy heroes. First it was Monty Montana, then Roy and now Gene. Hoppy had died long ago, but the memories each of my cowboy heroes had given me were emblazoned in my mind.


I saddled up my young colt and headed out the back gate of the ranch at a trot. The colt didn’t know where we were going, but he sensed  we were in a hurry to get there. We headed up the canyon to the pack trail leading to Oak Springs. I just wanted to sit under the oaks alongside the spring and think.


            You see, my heroes have always been cowboys and they still are it seems. I grew up on the Saturday westerns of Roy and Trigger, Gene Autry and Champion, The Lone Ranger and Silver and my best friends, Hoppy and Topper. I remember being the first one in the house to get up on Saturday morning. I’d get dressed in my Hoppalong Cassidy or Roy Rogers outfit and sit in front of the TV firing my guns at the likes of Black Bart and the rest of the bad guys. I wore out two stick horses and the living room carpet riding around on my trusty steed.


My greatest memory of that time came 1952 when my dad got a photo of me in my Hoppy outfit drawing my guns on Hoppalong Cassidy in the Rose Parade. My dad got all of me in the photo, but only Hoppy’s gun. Wide-angle lenses didn’t come on Brownie box cameras. Today, if a rider in the Rose Parade were to draw a gun on a kid most of the Los Angeles County Sheriffs dept would be blazing away at him. But that was 46 years ago and a different time and place.


            Unlike the heroes of today, my cowboy heroes taught me the difference between right and wrong; the difference between telling the truth and lying; to give a job your absolute best; the value of a good horse and friend; and how good will eventually prevail over evil. You know you and your heroes are becoming a rarity when the western clothes you wore as a kid are now on display in a western heritage museum, and you have to pay to see the bedspread, dresser and lamp that you had as a kid.


            So to Gene, Roy, Monty, Hoppy and all of my other cowboy heroes and their horses with whom I have ridden the trails of my youth I say, “Thanks for the memories, and vaya con dios.”