By Ronald Brantley


We moved away from Crenshaw Village when I was about 4 years old so they could build the Benjamin Fitzpatrick Bridge. Now, you may not believe this, but I can remember this period of time as good as I could when I was 16 or 21.

At the age of 4, I was already a cowboy. I wanted a gun slung low on my side and a chinaberry stick horse. Any kind of old hat would do. When we could get the money we went to the picture show on Saturday afternoons. In those days you didn’t have to wait for the next movie to start, you bought a ticket, went inside, stood for a minute or two until your eyes adjusted and got a seat.

If the movie was half over, you stayed until it got back to where you came in and you had seen the entire picture. I liked them all but my favorite was Gene Autry and his horse, Champion. I really liked Red Ryder and Little Beaver, Durango Kid played by Charles Starrett, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, plus the Sons of the Pioneers and Gabby Hayes. I guess my favorite sidekicks were Frog Millhouse and Al Fuzzy St. John and after I got grown I got to see them both in person. Frog, or should I say Smiley Burnette, came to the theater in Eclectic and Fuzzy came to the Mt. Vernon Theater in Tallassee.

I got a big thrill when I met Sunset Carson in Eclectic. Sunset wasn’t much of an actor but he looked like a Western hero. As thrilled as I was to meet Sunset, I was just as disappointed with Lash Larue. He had a Yankee accent and he had to be about four or five feet from you to use his whip. In the movies, he looked like he had a whip at least 20 feet long.

I would come home from the picture show with so much energy that I could hardly contain myself. I would grab my gear and get out my chinaberry horse, who by the way was called Cyclone, and away I would go. I didn’t know of anyone else with a horse named Cyclone.

Everybody liked somebody in those days and most of the boys wanted to be a cowboy. They could fall in love but not kiss a girl. No real, down-to-earth, gun-toting cowboy would ever kiss a girl on the mouth. Milk came in bottles and all mamas knew to save the stoppers because that was our cowboy money. Shooting was an art and most guns we used our mouth for sound effects. “P-ting” meant the bullet glanced off of something. “Pow” meant you were just shooting. It was very important that you have all of this down pat or you won’t be a good cowboy. We learned to follow horse tracks, Indians, outlaws and wild animals. We smoked rabbit tobacco when no grownups were around. The only thing that could break up a good time for us cowboys was a far-off call saying, “Ronald, it is suppertime!” and then this cowboy would head for mama’s hideout and a big meal. I wonder what we will do tomorrow?