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August 22, 2013 8:49 am

The Amend Corner: Paladin, Paladin, where do you roam?

Written by Don Amend

Being in an extended state of forced physical inactivity, I have been left with considerable time to improve my mind, or at least keep it active. I’d hate to have my brain turn into the proverbial couch potato from lack of stimulation.

So, with the help of the old iPad, I have been reading a lot of non-fiction books and have watched several old movies that I missed when they were new, including an early Alfred Hitchcock film from the 1930s. More recently, I have discovered academic programs available online, and have listened to 24 lectures on the book of Genesis.



Currently, I have been studying some great paintings in an effort to learn a bit about art. Oddly enough, given that I have an art teacher/artist brother, I am pretty much an illiterate when it comes to art — I’ve never heard of most of the paintings in the course — so this is a whole new field for me.

Still, sometimes the temptation to become a mental potato becomes irresistible, which accounts for my becoming distressingly proficient at launching a variety of angry birds accurately at a bunch of green pigs.

It was that same impulse that lead me to surf the ’Net last week, where I found the opportunity to watch episodes of some old TV shows. One in particular caught my eye, and more experienced readers of this column will recognize the title of this essay as the closing line of the theme song of “Have Gun, Will Travel.”

For those of you too young to remember, the show was a half-hour drama about a stock western character, the hired gun.

Paladin, though, was not your off-the-shelf gun-fighter. He lived in a fancy hotel in San Francisco where he dressed in white suits or embroidered smoking jackets, only changing into his standard outfit of head-to-toe black when his gun was actually hired. He didn’t really like being a gunfighter and usually tried, often unsuccessfully, to solve his clients’ problems without killing anybody.

He detested injustice and discrimination, although his condescending attitude toward his Chinese servant betrayed the racism endemic to 1870s society.

Back in the ’50s, when this show was new, a lot of my friends watched it, but, being part of a TV-less family, I did not. I only caught a few episodes toward the end of its run and found them rather interesting. So watching a couple of episodes one afternoon was a new experience.

Unfortunately, I got hooked. The next night I watched three or four episodes and repeated that performance the next night as well.

My wife, as wives usually do, tolerated this new quirk of mine for a few days, but one morning, she complained that the theme song, especially that last line, kept running through her head and keeping her awake at night.

But she was also curious about where I found those shows. She shares my affection for old movies and TV shows, and she is always on the lookout for something she can watch while her hands are engaged in knitting or sewing.

So, rather than tell me to stop watching “Have Gun, Will Travel” in the interest of her beauty sleep, she found the source of my new addiction to see if it had a similar package for her.

Well, it didn’t take her long to find a show she remembered from those good old days, and since she likes police and detective shows, she was drawn to the old “Dragnet” series. We have spent a couple of evenings since listening to multiple announcements by Jack Webb that, “This is the city, Los Angeles, Calif.”

Well, you might not believe this, but watching these two old video fossils has actually been rather educational. Contrasting police procedures as they were in the ’50s with those practiced after the Supreme Court decisions of the ’60s and ’70s was a study in how our society has changed, and the gunfighter’s adventures had me thinking about the place the mythology of the West occupies in our culture now as opposed its influence to back in 1959 or 60.

It was also fun to try to spot well-known actors in bit roles. On one show, Lee Marvin got the third degree from Sgt. Friday, for example, and James Coburn crossed paths with Paladin in another. There was also a bad guy who bore a remarkable resemblance to a current member of the Powell City Council, which I found rather amusing.

Both shows, low-brow though they may have been, in the end vibrated my brain cells and kept them from turning into broccoli. I hasten to add, though, that I always listen to an art lecture before I tune in the old TV.

High culture should always come ahead of pop culture.

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