[ *Warning: Ghost writers prohibited from this property.]
The Rifleman is playing re-runs on AMC.
As a young girl, I refused to miss a single episode of this black and white.
We had no television in our house, but my aunt Dora Mae had a small one that she’d acquired through a rental during the moon landing. Mum worked in the machine shop on Wednesdays, so I would milk-flavored tomato soup lunch over Art Fleming’s “Jeopardy” at my aunt’s linen-clothed diningroom table, right across from the silver tea set sitting on the server, the tv nesting in the corner by the window. After school, she’d let me return, to watch my Rifleman while she prepared supper.
The duality in my nature manifest early on. I loved Chuck Connors inner strength, steely jaw, and protective care over his adopted son, played by Johnny Crawford. Because, you see, I also adored that boy. Reaching puberty, did I not deface the corral style cedar fence of a nearby neighbor with indelible scratches: “[ my name ] + Johnny Crawford”. Were any such pre-teen to destroy my own property like this today, I’d have likely already taken an entire family to court.
Funny, how our perceptions change over time, informed by experience. The Rifleman, adopting this sweet little Mexican. Now, the metamessage suggests far more than just affection for a child. Perhaps this boy was the strapping rancher’s own, the mother no longer able or even alive to care for him?
What strikes me most is the suggestion of my own father’s stories of his childhood. Also a slight, wiry, brown skinned boy, he had neither father nor mother to speak of, being tossed from foster care to the Massachusetts orphan’s home. How he would have welcomed a single parent “Paw” like Chuck Connors, equally as proud and mutually respectful.
Johnny Crawford grew beyond the old western series, to star in an evangelical film sponsored by the Billy Graham Crusade. I was over the moon that my childhood crush had “found Christ”, and followed a path that would have forgiven me even the devotion of my neighborhood vandalism.
Am enjoying these memories, on a Saturday morning that promises an end to yet another heavy winter. They layer like pastry, one fine strata at a time, sending my thoughts across the vista of a past sown with the richest seeds of gratitude.
© Ruth Ann Scanzillo 2/20/16 All rights those of the author, speaking from her own experience. Thank you for your respect.