Phyllis and Bob enjoy diet of oaters

Phyllis and Bob enjoy diet of oaters
Phyllis likes oaters. That's what they called horse operas or Old West Movies.

I used to watch them at Moon Theatre. For 10 cents I could see a Silly Symphony, Pathe News, a short-short, featuring Zasu Pitts, and (if we followed the story) an episode of a serial they were showing.

Stars included Ken Maynard, Hoot Gibson, Tom Mix and I forget the rest. Maynard was my hero with his horse what's-his-name. I practiced quick draws with a six-shooter for hours when I got home. (Actually it was a cap gun.)

Phyllis went to the movies, too. Her small town had two theatres; and needless to say, she went to the one which showed the cowboy pictures.

Meanwhile, her oldest sister went across the street where they had the love scenes. (I still don't know who made the better choice!)

But getting back to the movies I saw, they were real shoot-?em-up jobs. They always saved the ranch from the evil fellows; and you had no trouble knowing which was which.

The bad guys always wore black hats and the good guys wore white Stetsons!

They were always "heading then off at the pass," too; and that's when we knew that everything would be all right.

Of course, we had to have a saloon scene. The bad guy would come swaggering in through the swinging doors; and our hero would put his glass (filled with sarsaparilla, no doubt), draw his Colt .45 and shoot the monster down.

If there was a bar maid involved, they would look at each other (no huggin' or kissin' allowed) and ride off into the sunset together.

That's an exaggerated version of the unusual scenario, but then cowboy movies were notoriously the same.

We usually had shots of Boot Hill where the bad guys were buried. And once in awhile we witnessed a hanging when the desperados would get their comeuppance. The screenwriters always inserted a goof ball sidekick of the white hat fellow. They said it was for giving the movie a bit of humor – but the galoots the directors chose were not too laughable. They mostly rode their horses awkwardly or they said stuff which was not very funny.

Then there was the "singing cowboy" pictures. In them, every now and then, the plot would be interrupted and the star would pick up his guitar and croon a tune like Empty Saddles in the Old Corral.

I was hooked on the Westerns and would wash extra whiskey bottles to get a dime for my admission. (I washed the bottles in an old tub for the second-hand man who sold them to the boot-leggers. But that's another story.)

Phyllis finds the black-and-white oaters on our television set when she isn't watching the news or Animal Planet.

If she finds an old Ken Maynard picture, maybe I'll join her. After all, I like those horse operas, too.

© 2006 Robert F. Karolevitz

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