My first recollection of watching television was when I was about six years old. I, like a lot of young children, wanted to be a cowboy. Roy Rogers rode his horse Trigger, expertly used one of his two chrome plated six-shooters to wound, not kill, evil doers and bonded with Dale, her horse Buttermilk, and their friend Pat Brady.
After watching only a few episodes on our small black and white television I was absolutely certain that I wanted to be a cowboy when I grew up. I imagined that I would have colorful and interesting friends, ride a magnificent and intelligent animal and save the innocent from the most sinister and dastardly black clad villains. But, how would I begin; Where could I get the specialized training for that job; Where would I find a six-shooter that fired nine shots and most importantly, would I have to change my name to something more in character and befitting a cowboy hero?
When I was young, time was measured in days and months, not years. Years were far too far away. After devoting my limited attention for several months to Roy Rogers, Gene Autry and his horse Champion and other television cowboy stars, I decided to broaden my horizons and explore other possible occupations. I was certain that my future career path would be found on one of the thirty minute television programs but my search should not be limited to the cowboy hero profession.
I always watched with great anticipation as Mayberry Deputy Barney Fife’s fingers reached into his uniform’s shirt pocket searching for that lone bullet, knowing the ensuing and unintentional discharge of his police service revolver was inevitable. Andy, while expressing a look of displeasure, would then ask for Barney’s pistol. Andy always placed the revolver in the upper right-hand drawer of the sheriff’s desk.
Lucy, Desi, Fred and Ethyl seemed to have fun filled and carefree lives. Fred and Ethyl owned an apartment building in New York City. Ricky, whose use of the English language was sometimes laughable, owned the thriving Babalu Nightclub where he sang and beat on a conga drum. Lucy routinely came up with harebrained schemes that Ethyl reluctantly became an unwitting party to.
Rob and Laura Petrie lived in an upscale New Rochelle, New York neighborhood. Each morning Rob navigated the commute to Manhattan where he, Buddy and Sally wrote comedy routines for the Alan Brady television show. That profession required nothing more than the ability to tell jokes. I put that job on my mental list of possibilities as I knew how to make people laugh.
My mother once asked if I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. I told her I had narrowed the choices from many to only a small few professions which I believed required very little training or talent. I expressed, in great detail, my concerns for some of the possibilities giving her both the pros and cons for each job. My mother said nothing more but merely gave a look of boredom and walked away.
My mother frequently accused me of being far too persnickety. One day, and after hearing her speak the word persnickety many times when referring to me, I asked her for the meaning of the word. She responded to my request by saying, “look it up”. I asked her for the spelling of the word and she again responded by saying, “look it up”. How ridiculous and illogical her instructions seemed. How could I be expected to locate a word in such a voluminous publication as a dictionary without knowing how to spell it?
I dusted off my rarely used hard bound Webster’s Dictionary and after spending quite some time searching for the word persnickety using various spellings I finally located the word. My mother was not known to be particularly insightful however, it turned out that her astute characterization of me was spot on and I had to, although somewhat reluctantly, agree with her observation. I was most assuredly too persnickety.
As I watched television throughout the years a plethora of various advertisers beseeched me to procure their life improving products and, occasionally, I succumbed to their demands. I regularly delayed the purchase of shampoo as I understood the new and improved version would be on the market soon. I tried the laundry detergent that got clothes brighter but after holding freshly laundered shirts near a bright light, no sparkling reflection could be detected. I did once buy some breath mints that promised to compulsively entice glamorous women into kissing the user, but that also, and quite sadly, never performed as advertised.
It came to pass that I grew out of childhood and began to live in the more practical adult world. The singing cowboy heroes are now gone as is the Mayberry crime fighting duo of Andy and Barney. Dizzy and Pee Wee no longer call the play-by-play for baseball’s game of the week and the “really big shows” that were once televised from the Ed Sullivan Theatre are now only a fond memory.
Is life better today than it was when I was young; not to my way of thinking. Leonard Slye, Roy Roger’s given name, and his dog bullet are now only a part of what I believe was a better and simpler time in my life. Persnickety, I don’t believe that I am persnickety any longer, although I may place far too much emphasis on the trivial or minor details. Wait a minute, maybe that’s the same thing.
To all you buckaroos I say so long for now and happy trails to you until we meet again.