Memories of Hoppy, Gene and Roy

By Rod Brown

Happy Trails to you
Move ’em out, head ’em up,
Head ’em up, move ’em on.
Move ’em out, head ’em up:
Rawhide.
Cut ’em out, ride ’em in,
Ride ’em in, cut ’em out,
Cut ’em out, ride ’em in:
Rawhide!
Hah! Hah!

As a small boy, born and raised in a big city where beef was born, raised and died in the A&P meat section, I always wanted to be a cowboy: the equal of Rowdy Yates or Gil Favor. I wanted ride the Chisholm Trail with John Wayne and race into Deadwood firing my pistol into the air.

I’d learn to sing to the cows and sleep sitting in the saddle. I’d say ma’am and “shucks” without fear of ridicule, because Clint Eastwood would be behind me smoking his thin cigar with a sneer on his lips.

In other daydreams, I was Marshall Matt Dillon, protecting the weak and facing down the wicked. Validation from Chester and a smile from Miss Kitty would sustain my pursuit for law and justice. Then again, Wyatt Earp was a little cooler and his theme song was much better, so perhaps Matt might have to step aside.

Wyatt Earp, Wyatt Earp,
Brave courageous and bold.
Long live his fame and long life his glory
and long may his story be told.

Of course, there was always Paladin, but he was, even to a little kid, kind of weird. A hired killer who was kind of heroic – my understanding of the classic anti-hero was, at the time, somewhat limited. Now, Roy Rogers or the Lone Ranger or Hopalong Cassidy, they were heroes – great clothes, fantastic horses and sidekicks who were loyal fans. All of them would shoot the guns out of the hands of the villains, who would immediately surrender, recognizing the superior moral and physical qualities of Roy or Hoppie or Lone.

As I entered my teenage years, country music faded somewhat as my tastes were running toward rock and roll… but sometimes out of nowhere, I heard Marty Robbins singing Cool Water or Gene Autry crooning Remember the Red River Valley. I don’t know who bought those records and I certainly didn’t listen to country music radio stations, so the question remains. Who turned the dial or played the record? I suspect my Dad, who grew up with “down East” music and listened to Don Messer on the radio, brought the old tunes into the house.

Patsy Cline and Tammy Wynette and Loretta Lynn sang their songs of love gained and love lost with a twang that invoked open spaces and other times. They were entertaining audiences long before the hybrid country/western/rock/blues songs emerged.

Occasionally, I need a “fix”; I need a song without the angst of war or death on the streets or drug overdoses. I need the romance of the open sky, clean air and a clearer vision of right and wrong. The real world is always waiting so my small escape is just that, small.

Tom Dercola, our station president, noted the other day the Sons of the Pioneers are performing here in March. Their play-list must be the envy of most singing groups, and with classics such a Ghost Riders in the Sky and Davy Crockett and Bury Me Not on the Lone Prairie, many of us will travel back in time. Over the years, they’ve had over 40 members – notables were Roy Rogers, Hugh Farr and one of the founders, Bob Nolan, who was born and raised in Winnipeg. (Maybe we should have our own Walk of Fame… what do you think Burton?)

Now it’s time to ride off into the sunset, humming out of key…

Happy trails to you, until we meet again.
Happy trails to you, keep smilin’ until then.
Who cares about the clouds when we’re together?
Just sing a song and bring the sunny weather.
Happy trails to you, ’till we meet again.

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Rod Brown is a member of the CJNU Writers’ Posse

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