Way back, when I was just a kid, the television airwaves were filled with Westerns. There were only three channels available for viewing, not like today when even without cable, there are almost too many choices with a vast array of subject matter. I would spend hours with my feet almost touching the base of our big black and white console television set, enthralled by the cowboys and horses that galloped across the screen. I was so young; I actually believed that if I put a hole large enough in the set’s glass front to fit through, I would be able to take part in the shows and live in the old west. Only knowing the severe rebuke from my parents stopped me from carrying out my plans.
Being so young when I first discovered cowboys and horses, my love at first was not with the handsome cowboys, but with their horses. When I laid my head on my pillow at night, my last waking thoughts were of “High-ho, Silver!” I could picture myself on the back of that white horse as he reared and pawed at the sky. I always wondered how the Lone Ranger managed to stay on. Much later, I rode a horse that would perform the same trick and discovered that although it looked impressive, it was pretty easy to stay on board. I even loved Tonto’s horse, Scout. Since I couldn’t own a real horse, I started collecting the plastic ones. My collection started with Silver and the Lone Ranger and the second addition was a Breyer pinto pony that I, of course, named Scout.
Who didn’t love Trigger? I really wasn’t that fond of Roy Rogers, and Dale Evan’s horse, Buttermilk was definitely nice, but Trigger was not only beautiful, he was also smart! He could perform over 100 tricks and the palomino’s tack was stunning. I can’t say I was pleased when I learned that Trigger was stuffed and put on display after his death. To me, it was a discourteous demise for such a magnificent animal.
About the time Trigger trotted out of my life, color television was becoming more popular and so were weekly westerns. We didn’t have a color television when they started showing up in the local appliance stores, but my grandparents did. It was a special treat to be at their home on Sunday night and watch “Bonanaza” in “living color”. I was starting to take an interest in the cowboys as well as their horses. You might think I would have been a “Little Joe” (Michael Landon) fan, but my sister laid claim to him. For some reason that I still can’t explain, I liked “Hoss”, (Dan Blocker). When it came to the Ponderosa horses, I chose the buckskin that Ben Cartwright (Lorne Greene) rode. Buckskins were popular on the old westerns and I liked Ben’s horse as much as I liked the buckskin on “Gunsmoke”. Who knew that they were the same horse!
When “The Virginian” and “Laredo” hit the airwaves, we finally owned a color television set. I don’t think there was a girl around that didn’t love either James Drury or Trampas (Doug McClure). The Virginian rode an Appaloosa and Trampas was mounted on a buckskin. I never did catch the names of either of their horses. Laredo provided more teenage heartthrobs with the likes of rangers Chad Cooper (Peter Brown) and Joe Riley (William Smith). Once again there was a buckskin in the series ridden by Joe Riley. Chad Cooper’s horse was actually owned by actor Peter Brown. But the only one whose name I knew was the horse ridden by Reese Bennett (Neville Brand). Reese would frequently talk to his horse, so I learned its name was Cactus.
I believe the last western to capture my fancy was “The High Chaparral”. The show was well written and is still a favorite of mine. I fell for “Buck” (Cameron Mitchell) and his horse, Rebel. Buck was a bit rough around the edges, but had a sweet nature that shined through. His bay horse was of mixed breed, as were most of the horses used on the show. I loved Rebel’s headset and arched neck set of by a bridle adorned with some feathers. Manolito (Henry Darrow) was a close second with his fun loving character and rode a pretty sorrel horse, Mackadoo, tacked up with a Spanish flair. I am happy to report that this show, along with a many more of my favorites, is currently available for viewing. During one episode of “The High Chaparral” I was impress by a stunt involving Rebel & Mackadoo. Apaches were chasing Buck & Manolito. They stopped behind some bushes, dismounted and had both horses lie down, hidden until the Apaches gallop by. The horses rise and are quickly remounted.
For the longest time, I had decided that the name “Sirocco” would be a splendid name for a spirited horse. I never owned a horse that it would fit, but I stored it in my memory just the same. It was during a recent airing of “The High Chaparral” that I discovered where the idea originated. Blue (Mark Slade) had captured a wild stallion. I don’t think a western existed where someone, at some point, didn’t capture a wild stallion. He was struggling for a name when his father, Big John Cannon (Leif Erickson), suggested “Sirocco” explaining that it meant a hot wind. I was very surprised to realize I remembered that name for so many years without connecting it to its source.
I recall the names of many of the television horses I have loved through the years. I know they played a major role in my attachment to horses throughout my life. I have a plaque hanging on my office wall that reads, “Dogs leave footprints on your heart”. Given that sentiment, I have to add, “horses leave hoof prints on your soul”.
© 2013 Kristie Allison
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