Reins in my teeth, I’m clinging to the myth

Guess who was the first person I ever heard cuss on TV?
John Wayne.
Yep, it’s true. Folks today may not remember their ‘first? TV swear word because everybody swears on television these days. It’s commonplace. Old news. Not memorable. But, back a few years it just wasn’t so. So, late one night in the 1970s, as Dad and I watched the Duke in True Grit, my face turned red when I heard the ‘B? word. It wasn’t that it was a new word to me, I had heard my father swear (never in the house or in front of Mom) many times. Too, I had already suffered the slings and arrows of a young lad who used the ‘F? word only to be ratted out by a cousin. My ears were not virginal. But, I had never heard a swear word from the TV and especially not from the mouth of John Wayne!
(It happened near the movie’s end — right before he put his horse’s reins between his teeth and took off shooting the bad guys with a six-shooter in one hand and a Winchester rifle in the other. The Robert Duval character called Duke’s character a ‘one-eyed fatman.?)
For a long time, thanks to Dad, I have been a John Wayne fan — I openly admit it. And, on occasion I have been known to write about my attempts to walk down the John Wayne Path of Living. On this path of life there are a few important virtues. Virtues like self-reliance, knowing right from wrong, God, family and country; integrity and honesty; being slow to anger, but not afraid to fight for what is right, appeal to me.
Gol-darnit. You can only turn the cheek so many times before you have stand up and fend for yourself!
The fact that Marion Morrison did not live up to his silver screen persona means less to me than the fact John Wayne could and did. The Duke wasn’t a womanizing, hard-playing and hard drinking man. John Wayne, whether riding a horse, piloting a fighter jet or slugging it out on a nameless beach in the Pacific, was always in the cowboy way.
The wonderful, mythical cowboy way.
Upon reading this, some of you are now saying, ‘Don, you Pilgrim. Wake up and smell the stable — it ain’t 1950. Things have changed. We’re a more ‘cultured? society these days.?
And, I know that some soccer-mom types are tut-tutting my stubborn support of the cowboy way, instead likening it to common thug mentality.
Being decent is not a generational thing. Those Cowboy Ways transcend the ages. (Well, if they don’t they ought to.) I hope to teach my boys self-reliance and honesty and integrity and all that stuff, not just by letting them watch old John Wayne movies (which they do), but by living it.
Dear Wife Jen said it best (and I bet she never would have thought I could turn her words into a column about John Wayne) when she said, ‘As a parent you have to be the person you want your kids to be.?
You want them to be good, your best shot is to be good yourself.
That statement doesn’t mean you are not human, that you have no past — it is a statement of the present, of the now. You lead by example for the future.
I’m gonna? hop down from the saddle now because I didn’t intend to preach. I had planned to pen a column about the ‘nice? 28-inch by 22-inch, reproduction portrait of the Duke that mysteriously appeared on our home’s fireplace mantel. It’s big. It’s bold. It’s colorful. It’s, well, it’s big.
‘Mysteriously? isn’t the correct word because the every vigilant and alert Jen Rush caught the culprit in the act passing along the flea-market genre portrait — her friend Jen Roberts. It was all a big joke. I am sure they giggled like 12-year-olds. Don would take the — how did ‘my? Jen describe it, scary — portrait downstairs to the workshop and that would be the end of it.
Don took the Duke to work with him.
The Duke sits behind Don all day long. Whomever mosies on in to visit Don can see the Duke, too. (I love writing in the third person about myself.) Thus endeth the story. It’s time for me to ride into the sunset.
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