Three Short Stories

Three Short Stories

Barb’s Mystery Illness,
Great Western Movie Stars and
TV Series of the 50s and 60s,
and “Tribute to the Dog”

I had a personal upset in late July and August that made me realize we are never truly in control of our life, regardless of all the grand plans we may be making. We take so many things for granted, forgetting that our life can turn on a dime. And when it suddenly does, we are thrown off balance.

In my "Personal Musings" post this month—“Being in God’s Waiting Room”—I talk about the “mystery illness” that stopped me in my tracks on July 23 and blasted my plans to have a huge garage sale in mid-August. I describe the malady affecting my voice, throat, and lungs that took two weeks to recover from, even though I have a strong immune system. The doctor didn’t have a name for what I had, only said “It’s running through the community.” My sister in CA said a friend in her church had the same symptoms I did, so this “bug” may well be showing up in other parts of the country.

In searching the internet for clues about what I had, this essay in Time resonated with me: “Pandemics Don’t Really End—They Echo.” It made me wonder if the vaccines and shots we got affected our immune system or left us vulnerable to “strange maladies with no name.” 

One positive thing my illness did was make me realize I needed more time and help than I thought I’d need to pull off the big downsizing garage sale I wanted to have. I’ll share this unique experience in my October Bulletin because I’ve already learned some new life lessons and figure I’ll learn more after talking to shoppers. Because we all live differently now than we did before the pandemic, the products we want or need today are also different. Many families in my affluent community are hurting financially, so I think folks will appreciate the wide variety of products and the good bargains I’m offering. To fit their budget, many items will be offered with a tag or sign saying, “Make an Offer.”

Email me if you live near Naperville and would like to come to my garage sale on 9/15-16 or 9/21-22. I’m offering hundreds of individual items related to all areas of my life and my late husband’s as well. Sad to say, many of them reflect activities I once did but will never do again, either by choice or necessity.

Great Western Movie Stars and
TV Series of the 50s and 60s

My mother loved to read paperback novels about cowboys and outlaws in the Wild West in the 1880s. Her love of the West endured throughout her life, and some of it rubbed off on me. Growing up in the fifties, my sisters and I looked forward to going to the Onarga Theatre on family night when it cost only fifty cents for a double feature and a bag of popcorn (which must have been free since we had no money for this kind of luxury).  Many of those movies were the same classic Westerns that are now enjoying new popularity on cable TV, YouTube, and a host of streaming networks. Along with these great movies—featuring stars such as Jimmy Stewart, Joel McCrea, Randolph Scott, John Wayne, Glenn Ford, Gregory Peck, Gary Cooper, Audie Murphy, Alan Ladd, and dozens more-—came the TV series of half-hour Westerns in the fifties and sixties. 

With so little to see on TV this spring and summer besides news and politics—neither of which I can abide anymore—I tuned out the world and began to get my evening entertainment on the GRIT channel, which features both Western movies and most of the related TV series. It’s amazing to me that most of the series had 30 to 40 or more episodes each year. Among the most popular shows were Gunsmoke, Bonanza, The Virginian, Rawhide, and Wagon Train, all of which I have enjoyed in years past. Lesser known, perhaps, but loved by me this year are Tales of Wells Fargo, Laramie, and Dick Powell's Zane Grey Theatre. 

All of these shows reflect a time when most folks believed in God and the Bible. In some shows, even an outlaw or a killer worried about going to hell and repented on his deathbed. While these entertaining shows feature fictional characters, they reflect our country’s history and the lives of lawmen, cowboys, and outlaws of that era. Two of my favorite shows based on historical facts and real people are Tombstone Territory and Death Valley Days.

Do you realize how many actors got their big break in TV Westerns and went on to be huge stars outside of the genre? They include James Garner (Maverick); Clint Eastwood (Rawhide); Steve McQueen (Wanted Dead or Alive); Michael Landon (Bonanza); and Lee Majors (The Big Valley). Other stars I've enjoyed in the old TV shows are Charles Bronson, Dale Robertson, Richard Boon, and Jack Elam. You might enjoy reading 10 Actors who were Pioneers of the Western Genre. 

What I love about seeing these old Westerns in my older age is that they are the same movies and movie stars I saw in theaters in the 50s and 60s. How sweet it is that all these memorable actors are still riding the trail today as their films roll on television, all over the internet, and on DVDs.

"Tribute to the Dog"

A recent episode of Death Valley Days (based on facts within the legends and lore of California's Death Valley) touched my heart because it was a story about a lonely boy and a dog named Old Drum, who was his only friend. One day the dog was shot by a churlish farmer because they were once again racing home on a shortcut across his property after being told to stay off. Brokenhearted to have lost his best friend, the boy and his dad visited George Graham Vest (1830-1904), then a lawyer hoping to soon be elected to Congress.

Ronald Reagan played the role of George Vest, who agreed the boy had a case and issued a warrant to sue the man for $150. He won the case because his closing argument brought all the jurors to tears. They awarded his client $50, and later Vest won the appeal to the Missouri Supreme Court. Today, a bust of Old Drum resides in the Missouri Supreme Court building in Jefferson City, Missouri. Vest went on to become a famous orator and a U.S. Senator.

If you've ever loved a dog, your heart will be touched by Vest’s eloquent and classic words about man’s best friend. His speech is now preserved for posterity on The History Place—Great Speeches Collection. Click to view and print a PDF of “Tribute to the Dog.”

First published as a Brabec Bulletin on September 7, 2023.

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