Me and Little Beaver…

by forrest fenn

Many of the objects in my collection are significant in a very small depiction of world history. Most are more interesting than they are important. Nevertheless, it is necessary for me to remember that each piece represents who we once were in a time that used to be, and that I will never be anything more than its temporary custodian. 

 

rryderIn 1938 a new comic strip appeared in the newspapers. It was called Red Ryder. He was a crime-fighting cowboy who wore a white hat and rode a fast horse. Little Beaver was his young Indian sidekick and I dreamed of riding with them through the mountain passes as we chased bad guys who wore black hats. My name was Luke Revolver and every time I saw a man wearing a black hat I’d tell Little Beaver to watch out.

Each panel in the cartoon had a taste for overstatement and seemed to bounce at me with six-gun bluster. It was great make-believe.

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That’s when I was eight. That same year my father bought me a Daisy air rifle. It had “Red Ryder” etched in big letters across the wooden stock. I liked it so much I kept it under my covers at night, loaded and ready or action.

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The gun could hold about 250 BBs and it fired without making much noise. That meant I could shoot again if I missed a meadow lark the first time. Meadow larks don’t like noise and I needed to get five on Saturdays so each member in my family could have meat for supper.

About forty-years later I met Fred Harman who drew the Red Ryder cartoons. With 750 newspapers and 40 million readers, it was the largest syndicated comic strip in the country.

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In later years Fred became an important cowboy artist whose work sold for a lot of money. When our gallery advertised one of his paintings full-page color in Apollo, he came in to thank me, and I showed him my BB gun. He said he had one just like it but he had to pay for his. But he laughed when he told me that the Daisy Company gave him a 5-cent royalty for every gun they sold with his Red Ryder logo on the cheek plate. Sometimes success comes in small denominations.

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Fred Harman 1902-1982

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I related to Fred Harman. He was a link to my hunting days as a small boy in Texas and to Red Ryder with whom I rode vicariously across the prairie looking for rustlers.

I have willed my BB gun to Shiloh, but he can’t shoot meadow larks now because it’s against the law. Little Beaver wouldn’t like it.

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