Category Archives: Just For Fun

12 Angry Men get Jury Duty while Wives Vacation at the Beach

My recent involvement with the community theater group Baldwyn Main Street Players may have unintentionally started a social experiment.

In December, I signed on to direct the classic play 12 Angry Men for BMSP.  This particular show has a 13-member cast, entirely male – twelve “angry” jurors and one jury room guard, who does NOT become noticeably angry during the production.  (So the count in the title comes out right, you see.)

This latest BMSP show opens in the Claude Gentry Theater on Thursday, January 23rd, at 7 PM, and will have a total of six performances.   We expect sell-outs.  It’s a good one.

12 Angry Men - Jak SmithAppropriately enough for this courtroom drama, Jak Smith, a practicing lawyer in Tupelo, has been cast in a featured role – Juror #4.  Expect Smith, a newcomer to our stage, to masterfully deliver the character originally portrayed by E.G. Marshall in the award-winning 1954 film.  He has been doing just that, night after night, for the last two weeks.

As for the demanding lead role of Juror #8, accomplished BMSP regular Bentley Burns more than ably meets the challenge.  Juror #3, a dangerous sadist and the story’s chief antagonist, will be handled, against type, by lovable local ham Anthony “Frog” Buse.  This deadly-serious role will be the first of its kind for the gifted Buse, who’s played the more light-hearted roles of Rodney Dangerfield, Thurston Howell, and Hee Haw’s Gordie Tapp in recent shows.

12 Angry MenBurns, Buse and Smith won’t be flying solo.  Talent abounds throughout the show’s cast.  Veterans Craig Gaines, Steve Collins, David Jenkins, Greg Lominick, and Jonathan Hancock return to action for BMSP in this one, and they’re joined by first-timers Gregg Tucker, Ricky Murphy, Ken Anderson, James Rinehart and Jamie Gray.

BMSP also tapped well-known Booneville native Marshall Dickerson for the role of Juror #10, a harsh and intense bigot, played by Ed Begley in the old movie.  Dickerson told me he expected as much from a “Baldwyn” community theater group.

“Sure, you HAD to put someone from Booneville in the villain role,” Marshall lamented.  “I’ll have to have a police escort to get out of town when this thing’s over!”

12 Angry Men - Stage RightI didn’t intend it that way … but it does seem sort of appropriate, don’t you think?

“So, what about that “social experiment” thing you referred to earlier,” one might ask.

Well, THAT allusion has to do with THIS fact:  I am also directing a “chick-flick” in May – called The Dixie Swim Club – which, ironically, has a cast made up entirely of WOMEN, five of ‘em.   (Auditions for DSC will be held February 9th, a Sunday afternoon, at 2 PM … for you ladies who might be interested.)

I suspect that I will find a significant amount of material for future columns as I compare the two experiences – directing an all-male cast on the one hand and an all-female cast on the other.

Dixie Swim ClubI can already say that directing the men through a holiday-compressed rehearsal process has had a “military” feel to it.  While scripts were passed out in December, rehearsals really didn’t start in earnest until after New Year’s Day – with a production opening night of January 23rd!  That’s tight.  But we all knew it going in, and the guys have worked hard to bring out every nuance of their characters.

In contrast, the ladies of Dixie Swim Club will have more than three months to perfect their show.  The men have brought this point up to me on more than one occasion.

In the interest of full disclosure, I must say that discussions among the men have generally moved to a conclusion like this one:  “Well, of course, you know men can get done in two weeks what it will take those women three months to finish … because we don’t have to stop and talk about every little thing.”

I look forward to The Dixie Swim Club’s response to a comment like that.  I’ll keep you informed.

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A Good Life, A Great Uncle

Gabe & JackMy great uncle, Jack Hamblin, Jr., is a World War II veteran.  He saved a dozen or more men from drowning when his ship was sunk in the English Channel during the Normandy invasion.  Jack Jr. and my grandfather Mort Gardner were my employers from the time I was 10 until I graduated high school at their Sinclair, Arco and Phillips 66 service stations here in Baldwyn. 

Jack told me a funny story several weeks ago.

Jack Hamblin Jr. & Charles Sidney SpainWhen he was a boy in the early 1940’s, Jack worked at the Union Drug Store, for Len Rowan and Archie “Fat” Frost, on Main Street in Baldwyn.  One day a local man named Bishop came in and approached Frost at the counter.  Archie, who was nearing 40 and balding, had had a long day.  He was seated behind the counter with his arms propped up, leaning forward. 

Bishop thought there was a little fun to be had.

Walking over to Frost, he clapped his hand down on top of Archie’s head, and loudly proclaimed “Archie, that feels just like my wife’s butt.”  And he laughed it up.

Archie Frost made no immediate response except to reach up and pat the top of his own head a couple of times.  Finally, he brought his hand down, looked up at Bishop, and dead-panned, “Damned if it don’t.”

Jack said Bishop never came in the Union Drug Store again. 

Certainly, Jack thought that was a pretty funny story.  In fact, he thought it was funny enough to relay it to his nephew more than 70 years after it happened.

Jack Hamblin, Jr., & Clark RicheyAs I debated this past week whether or not to write up the tale Jack had told me – I’m not sure the Baldwyn News will even publish the word “butt,” which is not really the term he used anyway – I realized I’d forgotten something.  Jack had told me what the Bishop man’s name was.  It was Claude, or Clarence, or Carl – something that started with a “C.”  But as I prepared my column this week, I couldn’t think of it for the life of me.  I had jotted it down on a piece of paper at my office, but that was months ago.  That scribble’s long since been discarded.  But I know that Jack knows it.  And I can get it from him later. 

Jack Jr. will be 90 this spring, I think.

Before Christmas, I sat with Jack at my niece’s wedding, and we talked about how he and my grandfather had started their service station business.  It was after the war, and they bought someone out – I can’t remember who he said – but he said they only had one tire tool in the place.  He told me one of the guys who had the station would wash someone’s car and then take the money and go straight to the pool hall.  He gave me the person’s name.  I can’t remember it.

Jack told me that when he and my grandfather thought about going into the service station business, people around town told them they were crazy.  Their competition – Brownie Coggins and Harless Rutherford, who in typical small-town fashion were also their brothers-in-law – had the gas business “sewed up” at Blue Top and Standard Oil. 

“But we did it anyway,” Jack said.  “Mort said, ‘I think it’ll be all right.’”

Jack Hamblin Jr., Claire & Hallie Goodson, Reggie RicheyJack told me how they saw that no one in town offered credit to black families in those days … and how he and my grandfather decided that they would.  He said they went to several solid men in the black community and told them directly that they wanted their business and that their credit would be good with “Mort and Jack.”  He called the men’s full names.  One was a Stewart, and I just can’t remember who else he mentioned.  Jack said when he and my uncle Dan closed the station 50 years later they had more business than anyone in town and that it had been basically 50/50 black and white all the way from the start.  I had never heard any of that before.

I’ve talked a lot over the past couple years with Jack Jr. and other elder statesmen around Baldwyn – Annie Laurie Arnold, Jimmy Cunningham, Wallace Pannell, Taylor Lindley, many more.  These golden souls are the ones who put flesh and bones on historic local names like Archie Frost for me.  They called him “Fat,” Jack told me.  I try hard to remember the details, to capture it all.  I don’t think I can.

But I called Jack back on Sunday anyway.  It was “Roy Stewart.”  He was the man Jack went to in the black community, in the fall of 1946, to offer credit.  He worked for the railroad.  And “Clarence” Bishop was the man who thought it’d be funny to pat Archie Frost’s bald head.  That was in 1941 or ’42, Jack thought.

At my niece’s wedding a month ago, my great uncle Jack Hamblin, Jr., told me, “You know, I’ve lived a good life.” 

Damned if he hasn’t.

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Batman versus Superman: Geek Food for Thought

I have long been a comic book geek.

Finally, at 45-ish, I have reached the level of self-confidence sufficient to combat any ridicule I might receive from hunters, athletes, mechanics or other stereotypical roles of masculinity regarding my love for the superhero genre.  Therefore, I am at last comfortable revealing that I know the difference in “a cyborg,” a being who is part-man and part-machine, and “Cyborg,” a member of DC Comics’ Justice League who is … well, part-man and part-machine.

Batman and RobinI can tell you the secret identity of almost any costumed, comic book hero – a gripping game I like to play on long road trips.  Believe it or not, my family very seldom wants to join me.  My youngest child Maddux WILL occasionally indulge me in a “name ‘em” game where we spread out a drawing of multiple comic book characters and then try to call the correct names of each one, no matter how obscure.

Look, I already said I was a geek.

One must admit that Hollywood, over the past decade, has validated MY position – that comic book heroes are the modern-day analogies of ancient mythological characters like Hercules and Beowulf.  Inarguably, Tinseltown has discovered that my fictional, spandex-wearing, new titans are very, VERY marketable.

I was way ahead of the curve on that one.

From pre-school days, I’ve been a fan of Batman.  Like many from my generation, I became aware of the caped crusader by watching him on television in the BIFF-BAM-POW campy creation that ran on ABC back-to-back weeknights from 1966 to 1968.  Even today, the show’s star Adam West, in his gray and blue long underwear, defines the Batman character for millions.

I was in elementary school before I found out that Batman was not just a TV show.  There were these picture books called “comics” for sale at Hopkin’s Big Star or Cunningham’s Grocery that painted a much fuller picture of the Batman and his teenage sidekick Robin.

RobinBatman was more, I found out, than a melodramatic, goody-two-shoes who chit-chatted with celebrities as he climbed Gotham’s buildings via the bat-rope.  The Dark Knight was a brilliant detective and a vicious but virtuous vigilante who could find ways to succeed regardless of the odds stacked against him – not comically like on television, but semi-realistically.  The bottom line:  comic-book Batman was cool.

Apart from the dynamic duo, I also discovered “others” out there, a whole DC Comics’ “universe” of characters.  And in that universe was, of course, the ultimate superhero, Superman, the granddaddy of ‘em all.

The red-caped, Kryptonian Man of Steel had a TV show of his own, too, I later learned – The Adventures of Superman – but his series was gone from the airways, along with its star George Reeves, long before my time.  I did eventually pick it up later in childhood, syndicated on Saturdays, but the strange visitor from another planet never could penetrate my psyche like Batman.

Frankly, I think it all came down to the idea that a regular person – if he was driven enough, talented enough, crazy enough – could theoretically BECOME Batman, at least as much as he could become Tarzan, or James Bond, or the Lone Ranger.  Because Batman was a man.

On the contrary, no matter how much Popeye spinach I forced down, I would never be able to defy gravity and fly or shoot red laser beams out of my eyes.  To be Superman was simply unattainable.

In the comics, I discovered another difference between Batman and Superman, more subtle but just as profound.

Superman sees human beings as inherently good, while Batman views mankind as untrustworthy, at best, and psychotically depraved, at its worse.

BatmanThat’s geek-food for thought.

One would want to see it Superman’s way.  From his vantage point above squeaky-clean Metropolis, a pinnacle of human civilization in the DC Universe, Superman looks down on people as generally noble beings, who in their heart-of-hearts desire to do right by one another.  It’s only the few bad apples – Lex Luthor, Toyman, Parasite, etc. – who are out there actively trying to spoil the bunch in the Man of Steel’s worldview.

On the other hand, Batman, whose parents were gunned down in an alleyway in gritty, dirty Gotham City, views mankind quite differently.  People are selfish, belligerent and dishonest or far, far worse – take the homicidal lunatic the Joker, for instance.

In black and white pre-school terms, Batman and Superman are both certainly out there vanquishing evil.  But the difference is Superman believes that ultimately he can win, that he can expunge evil completely.  The Batman, for his part, understands his quest is a never-ending battle against depravity which can spontaneously recreate itself anywhere human beings exist.

Batman’s realism versus Superman’s idealism is just one of the heady philosophical considerations that keep my status as a comic book geek intact after four decades as a fan.

Of course, I also like to see Lex Luthor and the Joker just get punched in the face.  So there’s that, too.

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Readers, Ping Pong & Pee Wee Football

Coaching pee wee football is currently my favorite thing to do.

I have been assigned a group of 5th and 6th graders in a league at Saltillo, and we’ve notched two division wins so far in 2013 against only a single, out-of-division road loss at Tishomingo County (5th and 6th graders are still fed on cornbread in Tish County).

Three BroncosWe’re the Broncos.

My 10 year old son Maddux plays quarterback, flanker and outside linebacker … with gusto and confidence.  He almost perfectly reflects what I look for in a player.  He studies the game, he plays in the yard every day, he is aggressive far beyond what his 85-pound frame suggests he should be, and he has talent enough to succeed.  He has already run for, thrown for and caught multiple touchdowns, and if he doesn’t lead our team in tackles, he’s close.  I’m very proud of him.  You probably picked up on that.

But beyond being able to spend time with my youngest child, I just generally like coaching.  To see a group of varied and unique individuals come together for a common purpose is satisfying in itself.  To have that group be successful is more.  To gather up a team from a “park league” environment – always a hodgepodge of budding athletes, non-athletes, and those who are frankly unclassifiable – and somehow win football games is the ultimate.

Park leagues take all comers.  If your child wants to play football or baseball or soccer, you simply go fill out a registration form and pay a fee.  Soon, your offspring will be roaming a field at the W.K. Webb Sportsplex in Saltillo, in Baldwyn’s Latimer Park or in some other municipal venue.  It’s a great community service.  Kids need it.

Sports teach things that you don’t get anywhere else.

Wanting something does not guarantee you will get it.

A good friend off the field, where life sails along smoothly, is not necessarily the guy you want with you in a conflict.

Sometimes you can pick your battles, but sometimes they pick you.

When you get knocked down, the proper response is not to cry, but to get up.

How to win with grace (if you have a good coach).

How to lose with dignity (if you have a good coach).

Learning is not confined to the players.  I contend that it is impossible for even coaches, at least open-minded ones, to go through a season without gaining new insights.  If nothing else they will get to know the kids who play for them.

Football is a loosely-controlled, physical battle for the acquisition of territory, and the bodily stress of such a demanding sport reveals what a person is made of.  Over the course of a single football season, a coach will likely learn more of a person’s true nature than a classroom teacher will see through years of instruction.

Now, the parents on the sidelines are the real hard-cases.  It’s hard to teach old dogs new tricks.  Mom’s and Dad’s protective parental instincts almost always override visual evidence, sometimes comically so.

Lee County Bronco Pre-Game“He’s holding him!  He’s holding him!” said the mother, whose son was being tackled … while carrying the football.

If you don’t realize why that’s funny, don’t fret.

I was games director at a children’s church camp a couple years ago, and I mapped out an elaborate schedule of games for 1st through 6th graders.  Each group of boys and girls would go through “stations,” where an assigned camp leader would manage their activity.  While Group A was playing Noodle Hockey on the softball field, Group C would be playing Frisbee Golf along the hiking trail, and so on.  One of the stations I set up was Ping Pong.

I assumed that playing Ping Pong – table tennis – was universal.  Generations of my extended family had long battled in pursuit of made-up “championship belts” in my parents’ carport.  The competition was always intense.  My son Gabe and his cousin Grant garnered reputations as paddle-throwers.  My brother Clay and I broke many a table by diving on top of it, trying to prevent some cousin’s game-winning point.  Even my mother would join in on occasion before finally, intentionally losing to some pre-teen family member, who none of the rest of us would let win.

At church camp, the deacon’s wife I had assigned to Ping Pong duty came to me holding her score sheets.

“I’ve got this ‘Ping Pong’ thing, Clark.  How do you play that?”

In response to the stunned look on my face, she continued.

“Now, Clark, you know we are not ‘athletes’ at our house.  We’re readers.”

Maybe it goes without saying.  Maybe it doesn’t.  But I do not consider Ping Pong an “athletic” endeavor.

However, I do very much appreciate “readers.”  I have a few playing for the Broncos.

But when they button on their chinstraps and jog onto the field next Saturday to take on Marietta, they’ll be football players.

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Don’t Let Fatigue Make a Coward of You

Baldwyn-Booneville Football is a game of aggression and pain.

I have a co-worker, a Booneville alum, who routinely spouts off – as is their nature – insincere tidbits of Blue Devil “wisdom” for the sole purpose of riling me into a fit of anger and retribution. While I, being the bigger man, discard most of his biased ramblings, generally derogatory towards our beloved Baldwyn Bearcats, out of hand, he does occasionally stumble upon an acorn of truth.

“The winners in football are the ones who can endure the most pain. That’s what it’s all about,” he professed this week. And on this point, I felt compelled to pause and agree with him.

I played organized football for 13 years – from the spring of 6th grade through a 5-year collegiate career that included 3 seasons in Division I. Nowadays, I may be getting old and overly opinionated, but the way I see it, kids are simply not as tough as they once were.

They are pampered and petted and told how good they are based on how fast they run a 40 yard dash or how much they can power clean, but on a good night, about 50% of them, maybe, get through an entire game without having to come out due to “injury,” or cramps or – I choke as I say this – fatigue.

I looked up at the starry sky, as I lay on my back in a grassy Tippah County field in 1981, unable to breath. One time, in one game, playing left defensive end for the Bearcats against Walnut’s Wildcats, I had to come out – hurt.

I had herded and trapped one of their tailbacks against the Walnut sideline. In front of the home crowd, I maneuvered and prepped myself to force him out of bounds – or I’d clean his plow if he stayed in – when all of the sudden he cut back towards the field … and me. What he saw, that I didn’t, was Walnut Wildcat fullback Willie Poole sprinting at my right side, my blind side.

Poole buried himself under my ribs and ejected all the air from my right lung. When I hit the ground and slid under the feet of the Walnut scrubs, most of the air from my left lung also made its way to parts unknown. I have no idea what happened on that play after that moment. I remember blinking my eyes and seeing strobing images of smiling Wildcat B-teamers.

“Way to hit, Willie Poole!” I distinctly remember hearing, with laughter.

I did not immediately get up. I just closed my eyes and waited for air and Coach Willie Bender.

59 BearcatsCoach Bender showed up and used the time-tested method of grabbing my belt and lifting my butt off the ground several times to somehow pump air back into my lungs. It must have worked, because after about 20 seconds, I got to my feet and wobbled to the sideline. My pain had just started, however. By the time I reached mid-field, I saw defensive coordinator Bud Reynolds, glaring at me, arms folded, and I seriously considered returning to the Walnut sideline, where people were smiling and happy.

Coach Reynolds only said one word to me. I can’t put it in print. And I jogged back on the field the very next play. I did not come out of that game or any other ever again due to pain.

There’s a difference in pain and injury. I’ve had two knee surgeries, both caused by football, and I certainly realize that players break bones and can’t go. I understand, too, that kids tear ligaments and cartilage and get concussions, and when those things happen, they must come out. But I also know that my dad, whose teams won over 900 high school basketball games, said, “Don’t let fatigue make a coward of you.” He could have coached football on that line alone.

My opinion on this subject doesn’t really matter in any substantial way. These days, I only coach a pee wee park league team in Saltillo. But when I’m working with those kids, including my 10 year-old son Maddux, I want them to realize that to go forward, when you feel like you can’t, is itself a true and great measure of success.

I hate it when a Blue Devil is right about anything, even accidentally.

Willie Poole, the Walnut Wildcat, who knocked me out of a game in north Tippah County in 1981, played his high school career, and at Northeast Mississippi Community College, with one arm.

Don’t let fatigue make a coward of you.

 

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Mrs. Putt Called, Cow’s Out Again

As our group of friends drove to the Como Steakhouse last Thursday, we encountered a bull, free-ranging along the two-lane road between Holly Springs and Senatobia.  His herder/retriever, stick in hand, was not happy and trailed a good hundred yards behind the well-horned Angus-mix that had decided to go on the lam.  I felt his pain.  Loose livestock was one of the banes of my childhood.

Loose Cows In the early 1970’s, to hear it said that ‘So-and-So’ had just called and our cow/horse/pig was out again meant that, in short order, I would be joining my father, brother, uncle and grandfather in pursuit of some dumb beast who felt the other side of Gordon Road had more to offer than did his home pasture.  Hours later, we would finally shoo the escapee through the gap in the barbed-wire, pull it closed and walk the entire fence to find the weak spot.  We weren’t farmers, but most of the males of our clan did like to have a few animals on hand to try and trade for a small profit every now and then.  This male – the sweaty, fat kid in the Husky blue jeans – had no such desire.

We slowed and moved to one side as we motored past the black bovine.  “Uh oh, somebody’s cow got out,” my lovely wife pointed out from the back seat.  “Yep,” I said and sped away towards Como.

FFA MississippiAs a freshman in high school, I was a full-fledged member of the Future Farmers of America, even participating with the FFA parliamentary procedure team that won district.  I was on the dairy judging team, too.  I knew nothing about dairy cows, but the other choice available to me was poultry judge, and although I liked large eggs, I had no desire to manually confirm which hens could produce them.  Our Ag class had two teachers – C. Q. Hoover taught shop, hands-on, and Mr. Earl Lofton was classroom instructor.

The class’s all-male environment, coupled with the shop being located a significant distance from the main school building, led to, shall we say, shenanigans.  The best stories about Ag under C.Q. Hoover and Earl Lofton – goats in the library, etc. – can only be told by “career” Ag guys, not the students who took only the mandatory 1st year class but the lifers who followed it up with Ag 2, Ag 3 and Ag 4.  Nevertheless, here are a couple of tales in which I was either involved or had a front-row seat.

#1:  A close friend, who I won’t name, thought it would be a good idea one day to casually set a broom on fire and slide it under the tables where we sat during Mr. Lofton’s lecture period.  The slow burn became a blaze while we all sat there as though nothing was going on.  Finally, Mr. Lofton, sniffing, spun around from the blackboard to find a dozen blank-faced innocents with smoke boiling up between their legs.  I can still see his wild eyes as he slung the table to the side and stomped the broom out.  “Whatever [expletive deleted] did this is lower than a [expletive deleted] lizard’s belly!  I’m going to find out who did it, and I’m going to tear his [expletive deleted] up!” he gracefully pointed out.  True to his word, two days later, Mr. Lofton did find out, and he did tear his [expletive deleted] up.

C. Q. Hoover and the Ag boys working on a rat control device#2:  On a field trip to prune a local farmer’s fruit trees, this same friend, in either a bold act of defiance or a blatant act of stupidity, got our entire class, including Mr. Hoover, physically ejected from said farmer’s property.  As we sprinted away from the farmer, who ran after us yelling curse words that I didn’t realize adults knew, I looked back over my shoulder to see the tree my friend had “pruned.”  It had been a peach tree.  It was now a “pole” with a single, naked limb about 6 feet off the ground on its right side.  There was not a leaf, nor even a small branch, left on it anywhere.  I picked up the pace and dove through the doorway of the old yellow school bus, just as Mr. Hoover scratched off.  I think the farmer actually threw rocks at the bus until we were out of range.

Our group finally arrived at the famous Como Steakhouse.  I wouldn’t have made a very good farmer, I concluded, but I did wonder if the guy back on Highway 4 ever got his bull up.  “What would make that darn cow want to get out anyway,” I pondered as I bit into an excellent 10 ounce filet, medium rare.

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Up, Up and Away, Kemosabe!

When I was kid in the 70’s, there were three channels on television – ABC, NBC and CBS – plus ETV, which nobody watched. Every fall, there was a prime-time special on each of the three big networks previewing the new Saturday morning cartoons set to premier that year. I distinctly remember great excitement around my house surrounding first episodes of “Batman Meets Scooby-Doo,” “Inch High, Private Eye” and “Hong Kong Phooey.” There was no Cartoon Network. Kids had to get out of bed early on Saturday mornings if they wanted to catch the best hours of television the week had to offer, at least if they wanted to hear Jonny Quest’s sidekick Hadji say “Sim Sim Salabim” as he put his magical whammy on the villain-of-the-week.

The Lone RangerWhen cartoons ended at about 11 AM, the networks would shift to live original television for a show or two – The Shazam!/Isis Hour comes to mind – before local stations moved on to syndicated programs they deemed capable of holding the attention of kids but which were also attractive to adults across North Mississippi, those who were either 1) independently wealthy and just getting up or 2) working class folks, like my grandparents, who would be returning home from a half-day’s work at the service station or factory. Tarzan, Flipper and Lassie were regularly served up mid-day on Saturdays to uplift the masses with escapist adventure.

Saturday afternoon television in those days may best have been represented by two syndicated shows that on the surface appeared dramatically different, yet upon closer analysis were nearly identical in format and moral message – The Adventures of Superman and The Lone Ranger.

SUPERMAN and LOIS LANEThe Adventures of Superman originally ran from 1952 to 1958 and starred George Reeves as Clark Kent/Superman. I may have realized that the show wasn’t being filmed live in 1974, when I was 10 and watching, but I didn’t get hung up on it. You would hear the rushing wind, and suddenly the Man of Steel would burst into some mob hideout to save his damsel, Lois Lane. A pair of glasses and a fedora were sufficient to keep Kent’s identity secret, the key to his ability to righteously fight crime while keeping those he loved safe from evil-doers. Superman pulling a door from its hinges or using his X-ray vision to peer through a wall (NEVER Lois’s skirt) were all the special effects required to solidify the fact that this strange visitor from another planet was the guy we wanted fighting for truth, justice and the American way.

The Lone Ranger and his faithful Indian friend Tonto were as altruistic as the guy from Metropolis who could leap the tall buildings. They just did their thing in a “Wild, Wild West” setting. Clayton Moore played the masked Texas Ranger who suffered the loss of ALL his compadres, including family, in an ambush by the evil Butch Cavendish gang. The Lone Ranger donned a mask to strike fear into those who would operate outside the law. He shot silver bullets, and he rode a white horse, named Silver, whose intelligence was equal to that of any human.

Jonny QuestRemembering Superman and the Lone Ranger makes me yearn for simpler days, when I was a kid and right was right and wrong was wrong and there were heroes out there, somewhere, who could and would step up, ride/fly into action, on behalf of the oppressed.

This summer, The Man of Steel and The Lone Ranger are big budget motion pictures (“re-imaginings”) already released and seen by millions. Surprisingly, to me, each has received negative critiques from the elite Hollywood press. Now, I’ve seen both movies, and I unequivocally, absolutely LOVED them. I guess I’m just an idealistic fool who still lamely idolizes heroes and escapist adventure, or maybe, just maybe, I’m a guy from Main Street America who believes that good guys can still win, in the end. And that’s what I like to see on the big screen. And maybe the Hollywood elite and the media elite and the national elite just don’t get me/us anymore. Maybe they think the latest angst-filled, controversial topic du jour, wallowing in moral ambiguity, is what’s best for me. Well, I don’t. And as God is my witness, I still think for myself.

So, for my part … up, up, and away, Kemosabe! Go see a GOOD movie this summer.

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