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The Short, Painful, Five-Minute Ride When I Turned Into “Rowdy Yates”

I was born in the south. I live in the south and will die in the south. This is only a small part of the memories I share.

Ladies and Gentlemen, here's Frankie Laine!

It Was Wonderful

once upon a simpler time. The years of 1959 through 1965 have always rated as THE Best Years that a young boy could have without spending a lot of scratch or going to Reform School.

Now let’s take a good look at my favorite TV Western: Rawhide was an American Western TV series starring Eric Fleming and Clint Eastwood. The show aired for eight seasons on the CBS network on Friday nights, from January 9, 1959,to Sept. 3, 1965, before moving to Tuesday nights from Sept.14, 1965, until January 4, 1966, with a total of 217 black-and-white episodes. The series was produced and sometimes directed by Charles Marquis Warren, who also produced early episodes of Gunsmoke.

Spanning seven and a half years, Rawhide was the sixth-longest-running American television Western, exceeded only by eight years of Wagon Train, nine years of The Virginian, fourteen years of Bonanza, eighteen years of Death Valley Days, and twenty years of Gunsmoke.

Pardon the nostalgia, but when I was six, life itself was new, America was prospering in the Industrial Sector and we had finally said our farewell’s to The Korean Conflict, WWI and II, and the military personnel were so happy to be home with their families that, and now I am giving some credit here, they alone are to be thanked for helping to build our industries (automotive, steel, etc.) and they were there to help keep them running.

Clint Eastwood: my childhood idol.

Clint Eastwood: my childhood idol.

I Still Recall When

my sister and her husband were living with my parents and me because they, my sister and husband, did not have a home until a company that they hired came to their plot of land to build the “Dream House” that the two had dreamed of for years.

But my sister and husband, the “Dream House,” and other pertinent facts about this piece can be left alone. The main subject of this hub was the Philco black-and-white TV that they bought and let us watch it as much as we wanted . . .until they left to be married folks and leaving us with a Wizard tube-type radio that my dad had purchased from a Western Auto store in Hamilton for around five-dollars and sixty-cents.

Oh, what good times we had when the TV was on. When I was home from school, I wanted to lay on my stomach and watch Rawhide and the adventures of Eric “Gil Favor” Fleming; Clint “Rowdy Yates” Eastwood; Paul “Wishbone” Brinegar; Sheb “Pete Nolan” Wooley and many other character-actors to round-out this highly-successful CBS show. I loved the show. I loved it to the extent that I began pattering my six-year-old life after “Rowdy Yates,”--from the way he always looked upset with his top lip in a snarl to how he took care of the herd when “Mr. Favor” was sometimes called on to head to the nearest town to purchase needed-supplies or to do necessary banking business when he and the rest of the drovers were to drive this huge cattle herd into town. It did not take an economical genius to figure out that in the Wild West, the best business to be involved with was raising cattle.

The drovers did not make a fortune, but they could sleep well at night. I cannot say that about another group of men (who were always wearing black) who loved to steal cattle in the dead of night and sell them to someone else who was as mean and greedy as they were.

Like I was Telling you

I loved “Rowdy Yates,” but back in those days, guys did not walk around telling their buddies how they “loved” a famous man on TV, because if he did, his buddies would turn on him (similar to a pack of wolves) and beat him senseless—then get rough about it.

No. I was very sly about my devotion to “Rowdy Yates.” I would walk up to my dad, mom, sister and brother-in-law, or whomever would pay attention to me and do my best
“Rowdy Yates” impression—from the upset look to how I would answer a question such as:

“Kenny, would you like a cob of fresh corn?”

“Grrrr! Hey! I did NOT ask for THAT corn because I do NOT eat corn! Got it?”

Sometimes my mom or dad (and anyone else) would forget that I was only acting and give me a serious reprimand causing me to apologize until peace was restored.

I have to admit it that I came off like a million dollars as I did my “Rowdy Yates” impression and soon, I was watching more Rawhide to collect as many things that “Rowdy” would say in anger or if he were courting a pretty dance hall girl—and use these sayings when it became convenient.

Clint Eastwood always made people fearful of his gaze.

Clint Eastwood always made people fearful of his gaze.

This Serious Segment

is very sad. So I just wanted to let you down easily. I do not want your depression on my conscience. Okay. Let’s get on with the “The Short, Painful, Five-Minute Ride When I Turned Into “Rowdy Yates.”

The big day had come to reality. I was through with the dreaming of being “Rowdy Yates,” so I wanted to prove to myself that someone like me who lived in the sticks could make it on a big TV show such as Rawhide. Was I right to go right to proving my intentions? I mean there are always going to be talkers, but at age six, I was doer.

I had already received a straw cowboy hat that I got for Christmas a few years ago, so with the hat, my Wrangler jeans, and a holster and gun that my parents had bought for me at our local Ben Franklin Five and Dime Store in Hamilton, Ala. Sad to say that the only two items were cowboy boots and chaps, that would be sure to give people that “Rowdy Yates” look, but I worked with what things that I had.

You may be thinking that the “Rowdy Yates” impression was kid stuff, forget it! This was serious business because I just didn’t want to act like “Rowdy Yates,” but wanted to BE “Rowdy Yates.” I know that this is serious, so are you shedding tears yet?

I know that you have read about my dad having a white mule named, “Gray Bones,” because this wonderful animal is key to this hub as well as me pulling-off the greatest impression ever of TV’s ram-rod, “Rowdy Yates.”

I used my two dogs, “Baby Dog,” and “Button,” to serve as my cattle herd. What did you expect, me to run up and down the highway that ran parallel to our house and try to beg the neighbors for their dogs and I would even use a sad story to tell them, but I was NOT going to “tip my hand,” about how much I loved my hero: “Rowdy Yates.” You can understand, right? I know that some, maybe all, of these neighbor-folks would think something was going on for me to stand there in my “Rowdy Yates” get-up asking to use their dogs for my cattle.

I knew that “Gray Bones,” was very obedient. But I also knew that if I had been a mule and this dumb-clod-of-a-kid was acting like a fake such as “Rowdy Yates,” I would want a treat or two to help him keep this act going. Mules are NOT stupid, folks.

This is not "Gray Bones,"but this mule is from the Dunnieh Mountains.

This is not "Gray Bones,"but this mule is from the Dunnieh Mountains.

My Final and Only "Cattle Drive," Ended

not without incident. I almost forgot to tell you that I was going to be THE “authentic,” hero of Rawhide—none other than “Rowdy Yates,” and in the place of actual TV make-up, I had to improvise.

First I got a few handful’s of water and threw it on my face. Then, without my parents watching what I was doing, I found this huge sand pit that was just right for me to toss a few handful’s of sand into the air and hope that the sand would stick to my face—to give me that look of a hard-working member of “Gil Favor’s” drovers on Rawhide. I did not dare to go into the house to check if I had enough sand on my face, so I just went with it.

I took this tasty cob of yellow corn that my dad had used to feed “Gray Bones,” and she gladly went with me into her stall into the barn in hopes to get to eat the corn that she loved. So far. So good. “Gray Bones” went to the corn like ticks on a dog and I took advantage of the opportunity and climbed on one of the halls of her stall and with a lot of faith, I jumped right on her back. And she did not even flinch.

So “Gray Bones” with me on her back slowly walked out in the barnyard with my two dogs acting as drovers and to tell you the truth, they did a tremendous job. Then what I had worried about happened. On one episode of Rawhide, I watched “Rowdy”and “Pete Nolan,” as they ran their horses at full-gallop because they were chasing two bandits who had stolen “Wishbone’s” food money that he kept in the chuck wagon.

So I thought if these two guys on Rawhide could ride fast, so could I. And these are the famous words of a fool! I used my heels to lightly kick into “Gray Bone’s” sides and she went off like a Space Shuttle when it lifted off, but she was the one that lifted ME off of her back and me into a clump of big roots that ran from this old Walnut Tree.

“Gray Bones” jumped and bucked several times just to show me that I was NOT “Rowdy Yates,” not a cattle drover and certainly not a cowboy as it were. Even my drover’s “Baby Dog” and “Button” had this Dog Intuition thing and bailed from the barnyard as I flew from “Gray Bone’s’” back—leaving me all alone on that big Walnut tree root. I couldn’t have felt more foolish.

It hadn’t worked. And I think that even my fake make-up (the sand on my face) was gone. All that I walked home with was my cowboy hat, Wrangler jeans and my pistol and gun-belt. And a big load of Humble Pie.

When I got into the living room, I sat down and did not try to explain what had happened. Mom just kept on working in the kitchen and I knew that soon, my dad would be coming home from work and I knew that I needed to come clean to him about being bucked-off by “Gray Bones.” Believe me. This was probably the saddest moment that this now-humbled six-year-old kid ever had . . .till then.

Dad came home and got his cup of coffee and cigarette and sat in his chair and did not say anything. I asked him about his workday and he grinned without saying that much. Then he asked THE question: what I had been doing?

I was completely-honest about everything—the impression of “Rowdy Yates,” the incident with “Gray Bones,” and cattle: “Baby Dog”and “Button.” I even told my dad about hitting the root of this huge root of this Walnut tree that had grown in the corner of the barnyard.

When I wiped the blood off of the back of my neck, he laughed out-loud. So much so that he did not chastise or whip me. Some dad’s are like that. When their children do something dangerous and live to tell about it, the dad’s are angry, but not angry enough to chastise the kids.

But my deal was foolish and dangerous. No wonder that my dad laughed and let me off the hook. Did I ever do my take-off of “Rowdy Yates,” the cattle that I drove to town, “Baby Dog,” and “Button,” and how “Gray Bones” bested me with little or no effort . . .

Are you nuts?

March 28, 2019___________________________________________

© 2019 Kenneth Avery


Liz Elias from Oakley, CA on March 29, 2019:

LOL! You've painted a great picture of that short-lived adventure! It reminded me of a couple of my dad's stories about his childhood scrapes (usually involving his younger brother)!

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