WESTERNS: The Six-Gun Galahad

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I've labored long and hard for bread

for honor and for riches

But on my corns too long yov,e tred

You fine haired Sons of Bitches

let come what will 'I,ll try it on

My condition can't be worse and if there,s money in that Box

Tis munny in my purse.

The author of these desperate verses, a notorious California road agent known as Black Bart, removed "that Box" at the risk of life and limb from a westbound stagecoach on the afternoon of July 25, 1878—and found inside it a mere $600 in cash and kind. Poor old Bart. He was born a century too soon. In 1959 he would have found, in nearly every parlor in the land, a box from which any man with enough strength to pull a hair trigger and enough chin to hold a hat string can apparently remove as much as a million dollars a year.

Tail over dashboard, wild as a herd with heel flies, the U.S. television audience is in the midst of the biggest stampede for the wide open spaces since the California gold rush. TV's western boom began four years ago, and every season since then, the hay haters have hopefully predicted that the boom would soon bust. Yet every season it has been bigger than the last. Last week eight of the top ten shows on TV * were horse operas. The networks have saddled up no fewer than 35 of the bangtail brigade, and 30 of them are riding the dollar-green range of prime night time (from 7:30 to 10 p.m.). Independent stations too have taken to the field with every wring-tailed old oat snorter they could rustle out of Hollywood's back pasture. This season, while other shows, from quizzes to comedies, were dropping right and left like well-rehearsed Indians, not a single western left the air. Indeed, 14 new ones were launched, and the networks are planning more for next year. Sighs a well-known writer of western scripts: "I don't get it. Why do people want to spend so much time staring at the wrong end of a horse?"

They have more than that to look at, including some of the most exciting new faces—and figures—that U.S. show business has produced in many a year. James Arness (Gunsmoke), Ward Bond (Wagon Train), Richard Boone (Have Gun), Hugh O'Brian (Wyatt Earp), James Garner (Maverick), Chuck Connors (Rifleman), Dale Robertson (Wells Fargo), Clint Walker (Cheyenne)—one day these he-manly specimens were just so many sport coats on Hollywood's infinite rack. The next, they were TV's own beef trust. Their teeth were glittering, their biceps bulging, their pistols blazing right there in the living room; it was more fun, as they say in Texas, than raisin' hell and puttin' a chunk under it.

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