Another Ding, Another Scratch

broken car vehicle vintage
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I saw a woman on television laughing about a dent in her car and philosophically shaking off her concern by exclaiming, “Another ding, another scratch, just another chapter in the story.” I had to laugh along with her because in truth she had summed up life quite brilliantly with that little utterance. It seems as though each of us carries dents and scars on both our bodies and our minds that ultimately contribute to becoming the persons who we are. In spite of our own efforts to take control of things, we are continually blindsided by accidents of nature and disappointments from relationships. As we travel through our individual stories we experience collisions with diseases and toxic people, along with all of the regular intersections and interactions that bring the wear and tear that is a normal part of being human.

Some of the things that happen to us are quite natural. As children we may skin our knees or break a bone or two. We form friendships and experience disappointments. We learn and dream and if we are truly lucky we get through our childhoods without too many traumas or losses and work on embracing adulthood. We search for loving friends and partners and attempt to fulfill the dreams and goals that push us to become better each day. We may choose wrong and have to rethink our plans or accept that someone that we loved has betrayed us or simply grown weary of us. If we are lucky our troubles are average, and our health is good so that we make it to our so-called golden years of retirement. We grow older and feel the aging of our bodies a bit more. We must say goodbye to departed friends and look a bit less toward the future and more at finding contentment in each day. Eventually every single one of us reaches an ending, and if we are lucky we will be able to look back on what we have accomplished and the relationships that we have fostered with a sense of contentment and maybe even a bit of pride.

The truth is that living is a bit more complex than that. We are faced with challenges at times that feel almost unbearable. It becomes difficult to write them off as just another ding or scratch. We feel as though our collision with some horrific force has totaled us out, reduced us to heaps of junk. Unless we are extraordinarily lucky each of us has faced a moment in which we might even ask God where He is because we feel so alone in our pain and suffering. I have had my own share of troubles that threatened to overwhelm me, events so terrible that they rendered me almost useless for a time. In those moments I had to rely heavily on faith, hope and love wherever I was able to find it. I was always humbled in learning who my most loyal angels were, because often they were not the people to whom I had given the biggest chunks of my heart, but instead unexpected souls who miraculously came to my aide. Of course there were also a handful of people so reliable that I was able to call on them time and again to rescue me from many difficult situations.

I recently watched a movie called Hostiles. I had not heard of it before, but it had a good cast with Christian Bale and Rosamund Pike, as well as a very decent Rotten Tomatoes rating. It is a western and thanks to my Uncle Jack I grew up loving those kinds of stories. This one reminded me a bit of the old John Wayne movie The Searchers, but with a more modern and philosophical twist. While there was plenty of adventure, the tale was mainly about people caught up in the kind of accident of life that transforms them and provides them with the answers that they have needed. It speaks to the idea that sometimes in our most tragic times we find the faith, hope and love for which we have been searching.

An event can be so unnerving that it causes us to reassess everything that we have believed about ourselves and the people around us. It rips us apart and threatens to destroy us, but we somehow find what we need to repair ourselves and come out whole again. The process of fixing our very souls can be gut wrenchingly painful and lonely. We may not even want to continue down the road because the darkness does not allow us to see what lies ahead. We may cry out and hear no response, lie down and wish it all to be over. That is when we somehow find the tiniest bit of encouragement as though the hand of God Himself is reaching down to rescue us.

We humans are fragile creatures who are nonetheless stronger than we realize. For centuries we have endured the dings and scratches and wrecks that mar our journeys, but also provide us with the character that makes our stories more real. Still there are those among us whose suffering is so intense that they cannot repair themselves alone. They need someone to help them to restore the faith and hope that they require to continue into the future. Love is the panacea that they seek. We need to be aware of them and be the person who gently demonstrates the compassion for which they have been searching.

We all have a ding here, a scratch there, and sometimes a big gaping hole. Some of our injuries are of our own making, but most come from out of nowhere like a speeding Mack truck driven by a drunken driver. We endure collisions that test us more than we believe that we are capable of handling. That is when we often feel the most alone, but in truth there is always someone who will miraculously help if only we allow them to hear our cries. As humans we have two duties. One is to humble ourselves just enough to ask for assistance, and another is to be ready to provide aide whenever someone calls. If we follow these guidelines we are less likely to wind up forgotten and alone in the junkyard of life. We have the power to rewrite our stories and those of the people around us. When we embrace our dings and scratches they take on a lovely patina that brings out the true beauty of life.

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Brave Courageous and Bold

wyatt-earpI wasn’t allowed to watch much television when I was a child. My mother thought it prudent to limit the amount of time that I spent sitting in front of the box with its black and white images. She much preferred that I play outside or read. As the popularity of this new invention grew she began to relent just a bit but still insisted that she be the one to chose the programming that I was allowed to see. Being a woman she wasn’t particularly inclined to select westerns but for me those were far and away the best of the offerings.

The first adult western offered during primetime viewing hours was The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp starring Hugh O’Brian, a dashingly handsome man who supposedly was chosen for the role because he resembled an early photograph of the real Wyatt Earp. The show premiered in September of 1955 and ran until 1961. Four weeks after Wyatt Earp came on the air Gunsmoke joined its ranks. At one point in time there were more than twenty different western themed series being offered by the three big networks, many of them inspired by the success of Wyatt Earp.

I loved visiting my uncles Jack and Louie. They were western fanatics and while my mother was being otherwise entertained I was able to get my fill of those remarkable programs while sitting next to them in the dark. The lead characters became my heroes and I learned the theme songs for my favorite shows by heart. I’d ride around the neighborhood on my bicycle bellowing, “Wyatt Earp, Wyatt Earp, brave courageous and bold. Long live his fame and long live his glory and long may his story be told.” It gave me a bit of credibility with my friends to be so well versed in the more important aspects of kid life.

I had little idea that there had actually been a real man named Wyatt Earp whose story was a bit less impressive than the television counterpart. I only knew that he and the other cowboys who lit up the screen were always good looking, brave, honest and loyal men who fought for what was right. They were role models for all time. Little did I understand that in reality the men and women of the wild west hardly resembled their Hollywood posers. I innocently dreamed of their exploits and heroics and sometimes imagined that my two uncles might have made fine lawmen had they happened to live in the era portrayed on the screens each evening.

Westerns were popular at the movies as well as on television. Gene Autry was a singing cowboy and Alan Ladd was a brooding cowboy but the best of the lot was John Wayne. I loved every one of his movies and luckily so did my mom. Most people choose True Grit as his best role but I was a huge fan of Stagecoach and The Searchers. Somehow I imagined that every place west of San Antonio was filled with horse riding, gun toting heroes as amiable and charismatic as John Wayne.

Perhaps television and film producers alike created a few too many westerns back then much like the reality programming of today and the public grew weary of the sameness of the shows. Slowly but surely the old westerns were replaced with other fan favorites. Now cowboy shows are a rarity which is a shame because some of them really were quite good. Maybe we just outgrew them and began to realize that the image of the great hero of the old west was little more than a myth. We may have just become too cool for those guys with their ten gallon hats and boots.

I remembered how much I had enjoyed those stories when actor Hugh O’Brien recently died at the age of ninety one. I hadn’t really thought about him for years and I was actually surprised that he had grown so old. In my mind he was still a young lion in his early thirties with that steely eyed expression that told outlaws that he meant business. He seemed to be the perfect man to keep a town safe. Watching him in action always made me feel a bit more secure even in the real world. Hearing of his passing was like acknowledging the end of an era.

They say that what goes around comes around and I often wish that there might be a revival of the old westerns. I’ve heard that Longmire is a somewhat reasonable facsimile of those old shows so I may have to check it out soon. I still think that the viewing public might appreciate a well crafted western. Perhaps once we the audience have had our fill of present day offerings someone will think to create a really good story about the characters who roamed in the days when the western expanses of our country were wild and unpredictable.

We seem to be a bit down on cowboys and ranchers these days. I suppose that some of those of old did things that were of questionable morals but someone with a very creative mind should be able to create a character who is real and not just a cardboard caricature. It might be a compelling program that explores the complexities of that era with an imperfect but somewhat noble hero. I tend to think that Darrell of The Walking Dead is cut very much from the old western cloth. It shouldn’t be that difficult to build a story around such a man.

We’ve lost most of the actors who made those roles come to life and brought little kids like me so much delight. I for one think it’s time again to “Head ’em up, move ’em on.” We’re ready for another Rawhide.