The Last Half Century

When Rudolph Challenged the Wild Wild West

It was like one of those great standoffs in those old Western movies. The dusty Main Street with tumble weeds blowing across and a whirlwind whipping up a cloud of dust. Spurs clink as two tough gunslingers take their positions opposite each other; steely eyes staring each other down as they position their hand over the gun in their gun belt. This described the epic stare down I was having with my brother when I was a kid in the late 1960s. There we stood in front of our old black and white television arguing over whether I could watch a Christmas special called Rudolph instead of his show — The Wild Wild West.

To fully understand the epic nature of this gun fight, you have to understand that in the 1960s streaming, videos and dvds did not exist. When Rudolph was shown on television, that was your only chance that year to see it. If you missed it, you would have to wait a year to see it again. The same was true with each episode of the Wild Wild West, except you had a second chance to see an episode of that tv series when they showed reruns a few months later. If I missed the showing of Rudolph that night, I would have to wait until next year to see it.

So there I stood next to the television, a seven-year-old staring down my teenage brother. He had one hand firmly planted on the channel knob, (there were no remote controls in those days), the other pushing me away. No matter what I said, he refused to relent. It was as if I was staring down James West himself — the ultra cool cowboy star in the Wild Wild West played by Robert Conrad. But Mr. West didn’t stand a chance against the weapon I was about to deploy.

Locked in a stare down with my older brother, I didn’t blink. Instead I shouted, “Mom!” I told her how my second grade teacher told us to watch Rudolph so we could talk about it in class the next day (true story). My brother was getting in the way of me doing my homework. That was all it took for my mom to demand my brother relinquish the television to me. The ultra tough James West blinked. He was defeated by Rudolph. My brother left the room in defeat and I changed the channel.

The next day in class we did discuss the show Rudolph and it’s lesson about overcoming obstacles. We also learned a new song about Little Sandy Sleighfoot and how he saved the day like Rudolph, despite his sleigh-sized feet. Perhaps the bigger lesson for me was the importance of sticking up for yourself even if you are only a little reindeer facing a tough guy like James West.

© 2021 CGThelen

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