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Saturday, July 12, 2014

Cowboy Dreams

A guest post by my truckbuddy Tim from England, now resident in Spain:

He’s So Fine
Prequel II – Cowboy Dreams

I wanna be the guy who wears the white hat
and rides across the plain

I'm gonna be your enigmatic stranger
Honey, you’re lookin' at your Shane

Cowboy dreams, cowboy dreams
You give me cowboy dreams
--Cowboy Dreams by Paddy McAllon

Remember a while back I wrote some self-revelatory stories under the title He’s So Fine. Part I went back to my adolescent crush Wayne and starred the sexy Steve McQueen . . .

. . . whilst Part 2 featured the gorgeous Cam Gigandet doubling as a more recent crush, my Spanish friend José.

Then I wrote a Prequel, which looked back to some of my earliest memories and childhood heroes. It featured Champion The Wonder Horse, Tales of Wells Fargo, and Flipper. You fellows seemed to like that prequel, so here is Prequel II, where we take a look at another three of my all-time childhood favourite TV shows. They cover my age from 3 to 19, and whilst there may not be too many self-revelations this time, I hope you’ll be entertained by the personal anecdotes, and perhaps rekindle some happy memories of your own.

It’s not by chance that Steve is wearing cowboy gear in the image above, for Prequel II is all about the Wild West and cowboys, those chaps in leather and especially requested by your Head Trucker. I’m not sure which is more beautiful, Steve or the scenery, but thanks to Mother Nature for both!

The fact that Cam is in a wetsuit will give you a clue to the content of Prequel III, which is currently on the drooling board, er, I mean drawing board!

Continued after the jump . . .

We start off with Rin-Tin-Tin, which, like Champion the Wonder Horse, featured a young boy and his German Shepherd dog, the eponymous Rin-Tin-Tin. The series ran from 1955 to 1959, when I was 3–7 years old. Young Rusty and his dog are rescued by the cavalry after an Indian raid. The newly orphaned boy is adopted by the soldiers (this was obviously before Social Services), and given the rank of corporal, whilst Rinty is made a private.

I had quite forgotten how studly Lt ‘Rip’ Masters was (now there’s a name!), played by Texan actor James Brown. He was very much in the mould of Dale Robertson, another of my favourite cowboys, when I hankered after that tall, dark man look.

And Rinty could pick’em too: here he is relaxing on the beach with actors Johnny Mack Brown and Charles Farrell – the lucky dog! Visit here for all things Rinty.

Young Rusty and Co. have all the usual western adventures, Indian fights, forest fires, slavering wolves and gun-totting outlaws, sometimes all in one episode! Rinty, of course always saves the day, and he was my hero too, and for good reason.

One of my earliest childhood memories concerns the time when, aged about 2, I was taken by my Pa to stay with an aunt in the faraway West Country whilst Ma was in hospital. I remember the long train journey - it was so exciting looking down on the ships as we crossed the River Medway, which divides my home county into Men of Kent and Kentish Men, east and west. The wonderful sulphurous smell of the steam train’s smoke came into the compartment as we plunged through long, dark tunnels, built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel for the Great Western Railway, buried deep beneath the Wiltshire countryside where later I was to live.

That evening, after we arrived, I was given a bath in a small galvanised tin tub in front of the kitchen range. And there, standing guard over me, was the most wonderful dog I had ever seen – Major, my aunt’s German Shepherd dog. He didn’t move a muscle as I grabbed a handful of fur on his shoulder to help me stand up. He guided me around the house in the day, keeping me from harm, and slept at the foot of my cot at night. He was so gentle, this big black dog that had decided to adopt me and act as my guardian and mentor for the next month. I wanted one just like him, but it took another 17 years to realise that particular dream!

I got my first German Shepherd, called Legolas, whilst I was in the RAF. BTW, in England we used to call them Alsatians, because we didn’t like the Germans after WWI; now we’re fond of them again, we use GSD the same as everyone else! And just like Rinty he was given a rank. The first time he went flying on a Nimrod he was put on the crew list as ‘Sgt Al Satian’. Our Canadian captain laughed: “If we crash and burn, and they have to identify us from our dental records, he’s gonna give them one hell of a surprise!” On later flights Leg was promoted to the rank of flight sergeant, ahead of me and so much to my annoyance! But in the meantime, whilst still a child, I had to make do with my TV heroes, like Rin-Tin-Tin and Rebel.

This clip has the added bonus of containing a wonderful competition advert. Can anyone remember it? And can you please tell me the name of Cpl Rusty’s pony? It’s driving me mad! I remember saving shredded wheat box-tops for a magnificent red and silver fishing rod, but my favourite cereal toy was a miniature USS Nautilus submarine. You put baking soda inside it and placed it in a bowl of water. It would rise up and down as the soda fizzed away – marvellous! Submarines will also feature alongside wet-suits in Prequel III, any guesses for the show yet?

Now to an all-time favourite western, Laramie, which ran from 1960 to 1963, so from age 8 to 11. And although there were two hunky cowboys heroes in this classic series; Robert Fuller playing Jess Harper and John Smith playing ‘Slim’, it was the young drifter Jess who did it for me, with that square chin, dark hair and manly stubble, his puppy-dog eyes, a cowboy always inviting trouble. This indeed was a boy’s hero, just as he was to Slim’s young brother Andy in the series, and so much to me that I barely remember Slim as a character. But I already knew Jess, for Robert Fuller had also appeared in Rin-Tin-Tin, and just about every other western too!

Compared to some of the earlier westerns, there was often some prime beef on display in Laramie, and I don’t mean the longhorns! So for those of you who can’t decide between Jess or Slim, perhaps this compilation will help you make up your mind. But then again, why choose? Just enjoy both, whilst you fill up that tub and relax!

That scene at 2:21 with Jess in wet long-johns reminds me of the famous Mae West line; “Is that a pistol in your pocket, or are you pleased to see me?” He sure was packin’!

Robert Fuller epitomised that strong, dark man look I aspired to as a child, perhaps even more so than Dale Robertson of Wells Fargo fame, whose dark good looks had intrigued me earlier in my childhood. However, by the time Laramie finished its run, I no longer wanted to look like Dale or Elvis, but the rugged look and muscular physique of Jess were certainly calling to me, though I didn’t understand then the reasons why. My, he was handsome!

Rawhide and Bonanza filled the gap left when Laramie ended, but this was the Swinging Sixties, and science-fiction, in the shape of Dr Who, was now the flavour of the day. The cowboys were put back on the toy shelf. Then, in 1967,when I was 15, High Chaparral made its first appearance. By then I knew I was gay and had gotten over my strong, dark man desires, opting instead for the blond beach-boy look and the cool of Steve McQueen. Enter the young, blond, blued-eyed cowboy who got me back to watching westerns, and more wanking, the appropriately named ‘Blue Boy’ – played by Mark Slade.

High Chaparral was, on the face of it curious mix, widowed American cattleman with a teenage son and a troublesome brother, marries haughty Mexican beauty, also with a troublesome brother! But somehow it worked: the marvellous characterisation and on-screen chemistry between the actors made it much more than a routine western. Everyone had their favourite character; even our young and very attractive rugby-playing geography master at school would wax lyrical about the latest exploits of ‘his’ Manolito, and you can read into that anything you want! Once we realised he was a fan, we would always mention the show at the start of the lesson and so ‘waste’ 10 minutes of lesson time! I have to admit he (Manolito that is) never did much for me, too many teeth, and that smile, it always looked suspicious. My rugger bugger geography master on the other hand –ah, but that’s another story. However, it might explain why I got an A in geography!

No, it was Blue Boy who caught my eye and my imagination, for he represented another variation of the idealised person I wanted to be, like Sandy in Flipper or Mr McQueen. He had a child-like naivety and vulnerability that I (and many others) could relate to. His desire to be seen as a man would lead to rash decisions and inevitably put him in danger, but his heart was in the right place, and every teenage boy can sympathise with that. Of course, he had fun-loving Uncle Buck and Manolito to come to his rescue, and you could sense that they understood the difficult process of growing-up rather better than his stern father, and that’s something else most teenage boys know all about.

Oh, Blue Boy, I could certainly be hard-on you!

Consequently, Blue Boy encapsulated all that was going on in my life in those mid to late teen years, the idealised self-image, the frustrations of leaving childhood, but not quite reaching manhood, and of course increasing sexual awareness and desire.

To play us out, here’s a modern western for mature men; enjoy some clips from Brokeback Mountain as Prefab Sprout sing Cowboy Dreams:

And I hope your Cowboy Dreams are as good as mine!


Davis said...

Robert Conrad - The Wild Wild West - just sayin'

Tim said...

Say some more Davis, he's cute! I have a vague memory of the show, but I don't think it was popular in the UK.

Davis said...

Okay - another one just passed into the ether - James Garner - Maverick. Early heartthrob, and a fine human being.

Tim said...

Yes, so sad. He always seemed to be smiling, a great guy.

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