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SEPTEMBER 2016

Howdy Foks! When Rick Smith’s store in Glen Cove, NY, isn’t too crowded with pianos and antiques, he makes room for his slew of buddies to come watch classic flicks and short subjects, including Betty Boop. She was hot! On my birthday one night he pulled a fast one. He screened a “Gunsmoke” I’d worked on in the ‘60s, “Blind Man’s Bluff”. I’d never seen it. The director told me it might turn into a recurring role. That’s all he told me. I played it straight. Later, my agent bawled me out for not hokin’ it up. They were looking for a replacement for Chester Goode. Reckon ol’ Ken Curtis was better than Goode as Festus Haggen. It was a fun shoot. Jim Arness would gather us in a circle before a scene and cut-out all the fat. I liked that. Less lines to learn. We’d rehearse. Jim would josh around, reading his lines like the mustachioed villain in a footlight mellerdrama of yore. I liked that. Made it fresh, when the camera rolled. If I were a director, I’d shoot the rehearsal. Sometimes, it’s better than the take. I was ok, I guess. No one walked out. No one snored. I felt sorry for Big Jim’s horse. Maybe the punch-out scene looked ok on TV, on Rick’s big screen The Pow! Sock! Ouch! sound effects failed to disguise the wide-open spaces ‘twixt fists ‘n’ faces. Where was Neil Summers when we needed him? This October, at the final meeting of “Friends of Old-Time Radio” in Newark, NJ, I’ll work in a re-creation of “Gunsmoke”.

Cindy Peery of Toano, VA, is one grand gal, by gar. One June, she invited me down to her Shangri-La to help celebrate Roy Rogers’ centennial. She’s been showing westerns for her posse of pals for over 25 years! That’s right, and they Pow Wow three times a year! Wonderful horsepitality.

So, I amscrayed on Amtrack. Have you ever ridden a train smack dab down the middle of a town’s Main Street? That was my e-ride in Ashland, VA. Wheee! Folks out on the street paid us no never mind.

That night, we watched Ray Milland in “A Man Alone”, directed by one R. Milland. Next morning, breakfast in a Greek Pancake house. Best grits I ever ate. Not instant grits. True grits. We were treated to Roy Rogers in “Days of Jesse James” with Don “Red” Barry in the title role, “The Far Frontier”, a “Happy Trails” episode of Lee Majors’ “The Fall Guy” with The Sons of the Pioneers and Cindy tossed in a couple of “Range Rider”s. That Jocko Mahoney defied gravity. So did Peter Pan, but he used wires. Sweetie Pie Cindy included a couple of “Sugarfeet” with Jack Elam as Toothy Thompson. Terrific scripts by Warren Douglas. It was unanimous: Elam shoulda won an Emmy for ol’ Toothy.

The 17 year cicadas picked one night to come out of the ground and the boys serenaded us. I yelled to the gal cicadas, “Succumb already, so we can get some sleep!” Ray Smith cooked bar-b-q, led us in prayer, Mc’d, and read us his cowboy poetry. 15 year old, self-taught banjo player Michael Burnett strummed, and we hummed. Michael me lad, you show a lotta pluck. Cindy’s house is a wonder, partly a museum of hundreds of western movies. I’d love to be snowbound there. Her property is like a beautiful dream. I asked her the name of her land. Ours is Limberlost. She hadn’t named it. I suggested Rancho Costalotta.

       —Adios