Sunday, February 16, 2014

The Card of a Man

Troy D. Smith

Growing up in the 70s, I got plenty of Gunsmoke amd Bonanza on TV, and caught The McCahans and Little House on the Prairie from episode 1. But I missed out on getting the first-run experience of the many B&W classics from the 50s that my Uncle Horace told me about.

Then in the early 80s we got cable- 13 whole channels!! And there was this one called CBN, the Christian Broadcasting Network. I wasn't very interested in their daytime programming, such as the PTL Club -though Jim and Tammy Faye did get very interesting by the time the decade was out- but nighttime and weekends, that was something else. At night they showed old sitcoms from the fifties, and I watched 'em all. Which is why, at 45, I can converse knowledgeably about YOU BET YOUR LIFE, OZZIE AND HARRIET, LIFE OF RILEY, MY LITTLE MARGIE, and THE JACK BENNY PROGRAM.

And Weekends? Weekends were for westerns! Still are, in fact, as CBN morphed by the end of the decade into The Family Channel.

WYATT EARP, BAT MASTERSON, THE WESTERNER, RAWHIDE, MAVERICK, there were slews of 'em, and I loved 'em all.

But my favorite was that dapper soldier of fortune based in San Francisco, the one they called Paladin.

You know him -though we never learned his actual name. Paladin was a persona he assumed, this erudite former cavalry officer with a taste for poetry and a gift for classical languages. He was like James Bond, but more sophisticated -and always ready to slap leather or throw a punch for justice. Justice that was foreshadowed at the beginning of every episode, with the camera trained on his hip as he drew his gun and his off-screen voice lectured the villain like a schoolmaster.

Gee, wonder why I liked him so much?

Like him I did, for a lot of reasons. I liked what he stood for, what a paladin was- a knight without a master, ever seeking a righteous cause to which he could lend his sword.

I took to heart the character's words in the episode when he explained the chess knight which was his symbol: the knight is the only piece on the board which can move over any obstacle, and change directions in the middle of a turn.

Much later, around 1997, I started jangling amongst the internet tubes, particularly hanging out in the Books and Literature chatrooms of Yahoo. And of course, you had to have a chat-name- mine came pretty easily. Paladin. (Except when I wanted to fly under the radar, then I was Hec Ramsey.) After all, I was trying to make a living (or at least part of one) as a writer, so I literally was a paladin- a free-lance. Later still, when I decided to get a tattoo, it was that chesspiece.

How about you- was there ever a western character you wanted to be like, just a little?


  1. In reality I'm more a Chester than a Marshal Dillon, but I loved all those old shows. Still do, as a matter of fact, but my favorite, hands down, was THE LAWMAN. If I could have been anyone on the tube it would have been John Russell.

  2. Good post, Toy. I wonder who didn't want to be the Lone Ranger? My pen-name Clay More says it all. But I think I wanted to be lots of them when I watched them on our small 9 inch black and white TV. Range Rider, The Cisco Kid, Paladin, of course, then Bret Maverick. Oh, and then Trampas in the Virginian (the TV show, not the book's character!).

    And how could I forget Doc Galen Adams - really, I did! What a doc.


  3. Great post, Troy, as always! I loved Paladin, too, and I always think of those boys in Stand by Me going down the road to see the dead body, singing it as they walk along. LOL Well, since there weren't any truly admirable ladies of the west (yes, I could have wished to be Miss Kitty, I guess, but she missed out on so much of the action!)when we played cowboys and Indians, I always wanted to be Adam Cartwright (so calm and collected at all times, but dangerous!) Loved Paladin, too--as you say, he was like a western James Bond. And was very partial to Johnny Yuma and Rowdy Yates. Talking about this makes me realize that as youngsters, we mixed our westerns as we played. I never thought about it until now, but we came up with scenarios that might have The Lone Ranger, Johnny Yuma, Bret Maverick, and Matt Dillon all in the same story. LOL Working together, as cowboys and lawmen do...LOLLOL

  4. Paladin was cool but I identified with Johnny Yuma because he was frequently stuck between a rock and a hard place, the way a noir protagonist is.

  5. Always was partial to Josh Randall and 'the deputy' growing up. Still I could have picked any of the heroes and some of the villains and I was happy as a child. Still enjoy all those shows, even have DVD's of Wanted Dead or Alive and Have Gun Will Travel. Oh the memories. Doris

  6. Troy,

    Johnny Yuma and that title song by Johnny Cash, swept me away. Troubled actor Nick Adams took his name from a Hemingway short story character. Who could not watch it and be mesmerized?

    I go back further to a time when there was no television and we lay on the carpet in front of the big vacuum tube radio with the 27 knobs and listened to it hum as it played "THE LONE RANGER---rides again."


  7. When I turned 16, Pop finally allowed a TV in the house. He liked Gunsmoke and Paladin. I loved the Maverick brothers and Sugar Foot. There were so many Webster's in those days. I wish there still were.
    You had a computer with internet access way before me.
    So nice to reminisce with you today.Paladin is on cable now and my nephew is deeply into it. I guess it's become a classic.
    Fun post today.

  8. Lucas McCain. There were Western men, and then there was Pa. His carry card was his son, his work, his ranch. It wasn't all about the rifle. The rifle, he said, was a tool, like an ax or a crowbar. Born female, I still sifted through the appropriate characteristics and summed it up as he did: living by certain principles. Women of the West were well represented among the female characters on "The Rifleman". It remains the home place of my heart.

  9. When I was growing up, Saturday night in my house meant Lawrence Welk, HAVE GUN WILL TRAVEL, and GUNSMOKE. Not much of a Lawrence Welk fan, but I still love the other two. The Lone Ranger is my favorite Western TV character, but Paladin is a close second.

  10. I watched them all. Have gun will travel was tops. Gunsmoke, the Virginian, Sugarfoot all bring fond memories.

  11. You young whippersnappers. I was born and raised in a mountain town, Show Low, Arizona. No television. No broadcaster close enough to reach our secluded White Mountain town. But as a young boy, my favorite radio program was Gunsmoke, and William Conrad saying, "I'm the first man they look for and the last they want to see." I was terribly disappointed that Conrad was not the TV Matt Dillon. Later, when I saw him as a PI, I understood. I also listened to Lone Ranger. But I never was a TV brat, even after I got to a place the broadcast waves reached. So, my westerns tended to be movies. Still, if I were pressed to pick a black and white TV character as my role model, I reckon it would be Johnny Yuma.

  12. imabrassy1@yahoo.comFebruary 16, 2014 at 10:22 PM

    I loved the Paladin, Bonanza, Wagon Train, Maverick. and the Virginia. I'm afraid I was in love with the Virginian (on the TV show) I finally read the book when I was i high school. I was a youngster when I saw these but I loved westerns still do. I really fell in love with Little Joe's horse. Loved Hoss too.

  13. A mention should be made here of the HGWT radio program. I believe it was the LAST "new" radio drama series of radio's golden age. The radio program debuted in 1958, a year after the TV show began. John Dehner did a fine job of playing Paladin. The fat lady had not sung for radio in 1958 but she was waddling toward the platform. On Thanksgiving week of 1960 CBS, the only network still doing radio drama, axed all of their drama programs except for two. HGWT left the air at that time but the 106 episodes are available on CD. They make for great listening.
    Jim Meals

  14. Troy, you've lost weight!!!!!


  15. Paladin, Lucas McCain. They had the look.

  16. I have ALWAYS been a big fan of Paladin. Back when I was a kid I had a toy six gun with a knight's chess piece on the handle and it came complete with HAVE GUN, WILL TRAVEL business cards.

    My grandparents bought the gun for me one Christmas and I prized it highly.

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  18. Easily Paladin, Troy. I didn't get the tattoo but his character is tops with me too. I liked Heath from VALLEY because of his quiet nature. And, of course, James Arness and Matt D.