There were not a lot of job openings for a kid of 8 back in 1957. Some of my friends wanted to be firemen and a couple wanted to be professional baseball players. Maybe a cop, a teacher or a soldier or two. And the weird kid up on the corner wanted to be president of the United States some day.
Dreamers, all. Thinking way above their heads. Me, I was a realist.
I wanted to be a singing cowboy.
Cowboys were my heroes. I’d be glued to the TV set every Saturday morning watching all of their exciting adventures. I couldn’t get enough of it. I loved the outfits. The shiny spurs, the birds-of-paradise embroidered shirts, the big leather belts, the wide-brimmed cowboy hats (white ones, of course). Great stuff. Their holsters would hold trusty six-shooters which would be employed at the drop of a hat (usually a black one) when the bad guys came in to stink up a town.
I thought I’d make a great cowboy. I was big and I had a pure heart (for an 8 year old). I’d ridden a horse a couple of times at the Catskill Game Farm. I even had names for me and my horse: “Chuckie of the West and his trusty horse Rocket.”
Plus I had one other thing going for me. I could sing.
Whoever came up with the notion of the singing cowboy in the first place? OK, I get it. Let’s put William Boyd or Gene Autry or Roy Rogers or Tex Ritter up on a horse and send him out to chase down varmints and rascals who were robbing banks and stealing cattle. Fine. But, wait! Let’s have them sing while they’re doing it!
It just seemed such a jarring juxtaposition to see these guys thundering off after bad guys in black, a six-gun blazing away in each hand all the while singing or whistling or yodeling a happy tune. These guys made singing a masculine profession. These were no skinny-necked Frank Sinatras, or wimpy singing barbers like Perry Como. These were as far away from the tweed-jacketed pipe-smoking Bing Crosby type as you could get. These were men, real men out saving the West from itself. This was the stuff that my dreams were made of.