I couldn’t believe it when my friend Pete told me that the Lone Ranger was coming to the southside, where I lived. The Lone Ranger was one of my favorites, first from radio and comic books and then from his weekly program on TV, and when I ran home to ask my mother she said yes, she’d read in the paper that the actor who played the Lone Ranger would be making what she called a guest appearance at Powderhorn Park, which was a big park that took up several city blocks and even had a small lake in the middle of it. She said that maybe a few of my friends could get together the next Saturday and walk to the park, but that I should also plan to take my little sister, who was only in kindergarten but who had her own Lone Ranger billfold and cowgirl hat.
Much to my relief, it turned out that my sister went with her friend Donna and her mother from next door, so it was just Pete and me and a couple of the other boys from our class at school, but when we got to the park on Saturday afternoon it was already filled with what seemed like thousands of kids, most of them with their parents, and a lot of them wearing Lone Ranger masks, sixguns and holsters, hats, boots, and whatever else the Lone Ranger people had been selling. After we all waited about an hour without being able to see much of anything, a roar started to go up from the part of the crowd nearest to the lake, and suddenly there he was, the Lone Ranger on his big white horse, Silver, riding along the far side of the lake—which the police had roped off from the crowd. He kept waving his hat as everybody cheered, and a lot of the kids and even some of the grownups started pushing to get closer to the lake so they could see better. But it didn’t really matter because all the Lone Ranger did was ride back and forth a couple of times and then he was gone someplace where we couldn’t see him any more.
One of the boys from my class at school said he heard a bunch of workers had loaded Silver into a truck and driven off in a big hurry, probably to some other city, some other crowd of kids. They also said the Lone Ranger himself had jumped into a big white Cadillac and been driven away, right behind the truck. At first I couldn’t believe that a hero like the Lone Ranger would have done that when there were all those kids waiting just to hear him give a little speech or say “Hi-yo Silver” or whatever, but I somehow found it hard not to believe that kid from school. I decided to tell my little sister that there was big trouble in a town not far away and someone had made a special emergency trip to ask the Lone Ranger to come and help, so he really didn’t have much of a choice. She thought that was probably okay, even if she didn’t get to see him at all because Donna’s mother had decided to drive her car and couldn’t find a place to park and by the time they went back to her house and walked back to the park, they were at the back of the crowd and couldn’t see anything.
The Lone Ranger was really pretty neat, I told my little sister, but I also said I’d heard he’d be back real soon because he felt so bad about having to leave early. As much as I hated myself for all those lies it was better than the feeling I got in my stomach whenever I thought of that masked man, whomever he might have been, over on the other side of the lake where we could barely see him, riding back and forth for two for three whole minutes while all of us in the crowd just stood there and cheered our stupid heads off.
From Man of the House, Scenes from a Childhood in the 50s,
by Mark Vinz, to be published by New Rivers Press, 2017
Mark Vinz is the author of several books of poems, as well as a prose poem collection, Late Night Calls, and the co-editor of The Party Train, A Collection of North American Prose Poems, both from New Rivers, which will also publish his prose poem memoir, Man of the House, in 2017.