In the early winter of 1954 at the Cow Palace in Denver, CO, I shook the hand of Gene Autry—I didn’t think it could get any better than that. Then some three or four years later, I again had a similar chance and managed to shake the hands of Roy Rogers and Dale Evens at the Houston Fat Stock Show Rodeo—my life could have ended that day and it would have been complete; at least I thought so at the time. I guess that my one failure in this area is that I never had the chance to shake the hand of Matt Dilon from Gunsmoke fame. Matt was not initially a hero but his impact wore on me as time moved on and finally won me over.
Heroes are very subjective beings. They often come and go throughout our lives. Our desires and interests change or we move on to the next phase of our lives. It was after the second summer that I spent roomin’ with Dutch that I finally got around to figuring out just who were my real heroes. I remembered back: that guy that took me to work with him in the fields of Colorado, Montana and later Texas; that guy that managed to have Santa leave my first bicycle in Colorado the Christmas of 1953 and spent time helping me learn to ride over the next several weeks it in the ice, slush and snow; that guy who played pitch and catch in the yard in front of our trailer house when it came time to join me up for Little League (he also spent every game in the stands watching me play when he was in town); that guy that would knock off work early some afternoons when I tagged along with the crew just so we all could try our luck in a farmer’s pond or stock tank; and that guy that bought me my first shotgun and insured that I knew the rules and found me a place or two to see that I did. That’s the guy that later turned out to be my real hero—I had figured out that the TV and movies were just play-like as he used to remind me.
Howard H. "Dutch" Hatfield (1911 - 1993)
I bet you had heroes also. Who were yours?