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The Six-Gun and the Cross

By Dr. Jeff Mirus (bio - articles - email) | Jul 13, 2009

Working vacations are dangerous. Insofar as it’s a vacation, one might read just about anything—Bruce Alexander’s Death of a Colonial, for example, which is a Georgian mystery (i.e., set in late 18th century England), or perhaps a Western by the incomparable Louis L’Amour. Did you know that Louis Dearborn L’Amour wrote four Hopalong Cassidy novels under the pen name Tex Burns? I thought you didn’t.

L’Amour was asked by Hopalong’s creator, Clarence E. Mulford, to be the one to continue the series when the publisher wanted more stories in the wake of William Boyd’s incredibly successful movies. Apparently Boyd’s character was a highly sanitized version of the original. Those of us who grew up watching Cassidy on television in the 1950’s also got the sanitized version. I liked the Lone Ranger better, and now I know why (the original Cassidy TV series was made out of recut old movies). But you can’t argue with success, and it was old Hoppy who was featured on the first lunch box to bear an image in 1950.

Anyway, insofar as it’s a working vacation, stuff like this will creep into the blog. It’s one of the things that makes vacations dangerous. Still, I can easily imagine myself out-drawing Modernists and littering the streets with their sorry carcasses, protecting the innocent from their evil schemes. So simple. (The big question in the Western genre is not the body count but whether the hero will have to ride off into the sunset without the girl.) life is seldom so simple (and, dare I say it, seldom so satisfying). The triumph of our ideas, even when there is a triumph, is invariably sullied by our own sins. For this and many other reasons, the cross remains a better symbol of success than the six-gun.

Funny, the reflections that make us Christian. But perhaps this particular reflection is too easy, for in the end it is pretty hard to be carried away completely by a guy named “Hopalong”. So here’s a more promising name: Without using a search engine, can you identify Rowdy Yates? And can you tell me how the same actor recently “died”, and whether his death (on screen) reminded you of the six-gun or the cross?

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