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Don Locke: Looking Through Bifocals

They hung all five of 'em. I jumped up and clapped and hollered "good!" They hung them from a big tree limb . . . Robert Duvall and Tommy Lee Jones, in an episode from the TV movie, LONESOME DOVE. There were five of them. They had stolen a bunch of horses off of Duvall and Jones---not only that, they had spotted a couple of farmers plowing in a field. The head low-lifer, who could have eaten off the same plate with a snake, stopped and shot the farmers dead---simply, he hated "sodbusters." He then hung the bodies up on a limb and set them on fire. Duvall and Jones and their drovers caught the horse-stealing murderers. Before Duvall whipped the head snake's horse out from under him, he said the him, "I've hung some people in my time, but you of all give me the most pleasure." When the snake swung I jumped up and clapped again. Don't click me off, this is going somewhere---I promise.

We sometimes merge fact and fiction in our minds. Maybe some have heard of the older lady at prayer meeting who called for prayer for a person on a SOAPIE who was dying of a terrible disease. My great Aunt Lena tried to order her groceries off of TV when she saw the commercials. She was getting up in years.

One Saturday afternoon when I was ten or so, I was in my usual spot down at the Palace Theater watching Wild Bill Elliot fend off a bunch of hostile Indians. The kid beside me was only a year or two younger than I. He said, "You know, if they were real Indians they would come out from behind there and kill us."

An old guy over at Brownsville got caught-up in a Gene Autry flick. A bunch of bad guys were about to catch Gene . . . right on his heels. When Gene got off his horse to go through a gate; after he had ridden through he was fumbling around trying to close it. The old fellow couldn't stand it any longer. He jumped up and squalled to the top of his voice, "Good gosh Gene, go on! I'll get the gate!"

During the Great Depression years of the 1930s people continued to go to the movies, if they could rake up a few cents for a ticket. They needed a respite---time away, from the real world outside. We watch movies and read novels today for the same reason---time away from the grind . . . "Come ye apart, or you will come apart."

Sometimes make-believe does affect our thinking. I know folks who do not like certain movie actors, simply because of the unpleasant roles they play . . . all the while knowing nothing of the real person. For years I did not like movie actor, Jack Palance. In the movie SHANE, he shot an innocent man in the street in front of a saloon. Jack Palance (Jack Wilson) was a hired killer; he enjoyed killing. When the hero, Alan Ladd (Shane) out-drew Jack in a gunfight and put his lights out for good, I hollered, "Shoot him again!"

I changed my mind about Jack Palance when I found out that his ugly face was a result of his being in a fiery, bomber crash in World War Two.

Now it makes me sad to see some of the old movie heroes I knew, playing villainous roles. I suppose they need the money to live on---some did not know enough to file legal claims on future re-runs. Skipper (Alan Hale Jr.) of GILLIGAN'S ISLAND fame died virtually broke because of neglect to file legal claims on future re-runs. To make a living he took a job as a "greeter" outside a fancy restaurant in Hollywood. A job above reproach however I suspect it didn't pay a lot of money.

Roy Rogers used to say some lame-brain was always trying to pick a fight with him---they say him fight in the movies. He did, for real, throw a guy through a glass door one time at a restaurant.

World War Two hero and Medal of Honor winner, and later cowboy actor, Audie Murphy would fight at the drop of the hat. Small in stature, he wouldn't cull "nuthin.'" Once three ruffians tried to run an old lady off the freeway. Audie pulled around them and ran them off. Then he proceeded to put all of them in the hospital. They were steel workers all wearing hardhats. An ambulance came and hauled them away. This bunch of jerks had met a tough East Texas farm boy . . . who became the most decorated soldier of World War Two---I hear or read recently that indeed Audie Murphy may in fact have been the most decorated soldier in history.

There is a local connection to Audie Murphy. Most of you may remember Hike Vance (Yes, "Hike"). Lieutenant, later captain, Audie Murphy was Hike Vance's commanding officer in combat in Germany. Hike said he was a "soldier's soldier . . . He (Murphy) never got any sleep. When we were dug-in at night, he went from foxhole to foxhole checking on each man." Hike went on to say that Audie was the first person to visit him in the field hospital after he (Hike) was wounded.

Hike came back from the war and finished high school. Audie Murphy later met an untimely death in a plane crash.

The passing parade till now . . . I apologize, I didn't intend to write a "whole book" when I started. I still miss Hike Vance.

Kindest regards . . .


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