Nancy Roman

Cowboy Memories

It was my husband’s turn to choose which Sirius channel we listened to on our last ride. So naturally, he picked Willie’s Roadhouse – very old-fashioned country music. By very old-fashioned, I mean Grand Ole Opry old-fashioned. I mean twangy guitars and twangier voices. I mean boots and barefoot and nothing in between. I mean men wearing sequins and fringe. I mean high hair on both sexes.

But to my enormous surprise – and delight – they had a special program. Theme songs from TV Westerns!

Oh the Memories!

I LOVED TV Westerns. And I watched them ALL.  And by all, I mean spurs and saddles up the wazoo!  If you are younger than I (and almost everyone is) – you have no idea how many westerns there were. You could watch cowboys every single night of the week – sometimes several in one night.

I only have a vague recollection of “Hopalong Cassidy,” “Wild Bill Hickok,” “The Lone Ranger,” and “The Cisco Kid” – they were pretty much before my time. But my husband loved them, so I would wager a guess that they had lots of shootouts and no ambiguity on who were the good guys and who were the bad guys. That’s the way he still likes his shows.

The first TV Western I remember well was “Roy Rogers”. I was not impressed. It was set in modern times, and Roy and Dale had telephones and vehicles. For chrissakes, if you are going to do a Western, I want to see you ride Trigger and Buttermilk – stay out of the friggin jeep.

Here’s a summary of JUST SOME of the Westerns I remember. I didn’t use Google or Wikipedia because I want my memories and my impressions to be the ones of my childhood – unsullied by today’s adult opinions. (So I could be wrong on some – or many – or all – of the facts.)

“Wyatt Earp” – “Bat Masterson” –  “Yancy Derringer” – these were all fancy-dress dandies. My Grandma liked these shows. I preferred my cowboys a little grittier even then. I didn’t want lace shirts. I wanted dusty from the saddle.  A small aside: about twenty years ago I happened to meet an actual descendent of Bat Masterson. I had the song (“He wore a cane and derby hat. They called him Bat. Bat Masterson”) stuck in my head for weeks. And now I do again.

“Death Valley Days” – an anthology series narrated by Ronald Reagan. Brought to you by twenty-mule team Borax. Borax was a soap. A twenty-mule team made it a very strong soap, I guess. Or very smelly. Maybe both.

“Tales of Wells Fargo” and “Iron Horse” – same actor; almost same show. One was a stagecoach and one was a train. Other than that…

“Sugarfoot” – another of Grandma’s favorite. She thought he was very cute and sweet. He was blond. Grandma liked blonds.

“Cheyenne” and “Bronco” – two very big men. I think these shows alternated time slots. Cheyenne was a man of few words; it would have been a difficult show to watch if you were blind. The strong silent type. But the producers probably saved a lot of money on dialog.

“Maverick” – this is where the dialog budget got spent. Very snappy and clever. Maverick liked to talk his way out of trouble. There were three (or maybe four) Mavericks, but I only liked James Garner. I liked him a lot. Like, a LOT.

“Wagon Train” – heading west. Never getting there.

“The Rebel” – a confederate soldier out west. I think he had a big secret. I never understood any of the plots. He had a sporty little cap though.

“The Rifleman” – Strong-jawed Chuck Connors who was a fast-draw with a rifle. Noisy. The Rifleman had a cute son, but the son called his dad, “Paw.” Unacceptable.

“The Deputy” – “Lawman” – “Laramie” – I enjoyed these shows. I cannot tell them apart now though. I probably couldn’t then either.

“Wanted Dead or Alive’ – Young Steve McQueen. Everyone thought he was handsome but I always thought he was homely. But even at eight years old, I appreciated the way he filled out a pair of jeans.

“Gunsmoke” – This was Great Aunt Lora’s favorite. She told me she wished she were Miss Kitty – she would have liked to run the whorehouse and drink with the boys. I thought Matt Dillon and Miss Kitty were a little long in the tooth.

“Have Gun Will Travel” – with Richard Boone as Palladin, a hired gun. My father, who never ever disparaged anyone’s looks, once said, “That is about the ugliest man I have every seen.”

“Rawhide” – by far the best theme song EVER. A never-ending cattle drive with two extremely tall cowboys, Eric Fleming and Clint Eastwood. Clint Eastwood had a lot of sex appeal, I guess. I liked the other guy. I remember lots of stampedes and hot tempers. And nights by the campfire sort of like the farting scene in “Blazing Saddles” – without the farting. (I think.)

“The Virginian” – a 90-minute Western. Plenty of time for plot-development and selling Alka-Seltzer. The show was loosely based on the novel.- very loosely, since Trampas was the bad guy in the book and a good guy in the show. He had curly blond hair though and very good teeth, so he couldn’t be a bad guy. The Virginian, like in the book, had no name, which made it very difficult to get his attention out on the range.

“Bonanza” – the biggie – the Ponderosa of Westerns. Rich cowboys. Pa and his sons were always falling in love, and their women always died. If I met a Cartwright, I would run for the hills.

“The Big Valley” – A version of Bonanza with a matriarch instead of patriarch. I liked the premise though. The dead rich father’s bastard son decides to join the family. My little brother had sort of a crush, not on the beautiful Linda Evans, but on 60-something Barbara Stanwyck. My brother knew a real beauty when he saw one.

“Laredo” – Texas Rangers. One of the Rangers had quite a spectacular body and took off his shirt in almost every episode. My sister Claudia enjoyed this.

“Kung Fu” – Weird. Just. Weird.

“How The West Was Won” – “The High Chaparral” – “Alias Smith and Jones” – late entries in the Western drama. I was becoming old enough to appreciate a hot cowboy on a big horse. These shows had plenty.

And I could use me some now. I think I’d like to go back and get another look at Steve McQueen’s jeans.



  1. I’m just a little younger than you are, Nancy. And I remember most of these shows, although I don’t remember Steve McQueen or Clint Eastwood. I loved them all, too. How many folks these days could say that about what’s on TV? Anybody?

    And because I love you, here you go:


    • The Blues Brothers could do not wrong… but they still could not come close to Frankie Laine for real “Yee-Haws!”


  2. You brought back lots of memories! Rawhide was my favorite. Watched it with my dad and I still love Clint Eastwood! ~Elle


    • He was pretty cute. I still like his movies… his politics, not so much.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I cut my teeth on Sugarfoot but Little Joe from Bonanza was my all time favorite!


  4. Deb

    So many memories from this post, and so many shows that I had tossed into the ancient memory files. A secret…I definitely remember The Rifleman, and loved the way he could flip his rifle around and how he shot so low from the hip, but my favorite part of the show was his son Marcus. I had a huge crush on Johnny Crawford.


    • Johnny Crawford was so good looking… and great hair too. But I considered “Paw” to be just too babyish for me!


  5. I had completely forgotten about Sugarfoot!!! And even if Johnny did call his dad “Paw” in The Rifleman, I was in love with him.
    Those were the days.


  6. I did love Bonanza. The theme song still gets stuck in my head sometimes. But besides that, I was just never a big western fan. I have learned to appreciate some older western movies though because my husband has always been a fan. And you’re right, there isn’t anything comparable out there today (tv or movies).


    • I have been stuck on Bat Masterson for hours now. “Out when then west was very young… there lived a man named Masterson…..”


  7. Ray G

    Though your dad thought Richard Boone was ugly, I think he was the classiest of the bunch, whether in S.F. or on the trail. He knew his stuff, could be surprised, and I don’t recall him ever to have any self-doubt.
    Though not a series, have you ever seen “Silverado”?


    • Of course… “Silverado” is one of my favorite westerns!


      • Ray G

        With Costner and Kline, it can’t be any less than pretty good!


  8. We had limited TV watching at my house, but I remember almost all of these. Maybe the restrictions were loosened or removed at some time. I can’t remember t.h.a.t. 😀 😀


    • If you watched any TV at all, you were have seen a good deal of these westerns.. you couldn’t miss them!


      • I certainly managed not to and that surprises me. 😀 Thanks for the look back on memory lane. ❤


  9. I vaguely recall a show called “Branded.” We, as kids, all sang the theme song as: Stranded. Stranded on the toilet bowl. What do you do when you’re stranded … and you need another roll.” Was that a cowboy show, or a prison show?


    • Great lyric!!!!! I forgot “Branded” – Chuck Connors!


  10. And I think my mother had a thing for the actor who played Shane in some show.


  11. You brought back a lot of great memories! Heck…you HAVE a great memory! I would never have remembered half of them ! And you are so right about the Bonanza Boys. Kinda like James T. Kirk. Fall in love and die.


    • Captain Kirk was as fatal as the Cartwright Boys!


  12. I do remember a lot of these, mum loved a cowboy and I think Rawhide was her favourite although she liked Wagon Train too. Totally agree Rawhide was the best theme song of any western, with Bonanza coming in second.
    I do remember “Branded” which someone mentioned. From memory it was about this guy who had been falsely accused of something and drummed out of the army. He roamed the West doing good deeds for people and trying to clear his name. Was this Chuck Connors too? Not too sure.


    • Yes! I forgot “Branded”- possibly because Chuck Connors was not exactly a favorite of mine… but that doesn’t mean I didn’t watch every episode!


  13. June

    I’m older than you are but I loved all those westerns. Thank goodness, there are some tv channels that show old shows. And there’s one cable channel devoted to westerns. I can still watch Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, Wanted Dead or Alive and a lot of those memorable shows. I fell in love with James Garner and Steve McQueen. And how about those ’60’s police shows….77 Sunset Strip, Streets of San Francisco, The Rockford Files are only a few I remember, off hand.
    Wonderful shows…unfortunately, tv isn’t getting better!


    • I loved the detective shows too! Especially Rockford Files and Streets of San Francisco.. but the old ones too 77 Sunset Strip, Hawaiian Eye, Surfside Six, and later … omg, The Mod Squad!!!!


  14. I remember all of these Westerns – fondly. I wanted to BE Linda Evans’s character in The Big Valley, marry Clint Eastwood’s character in Rawhide, and live on the Ponderosa! They just don’t make ’em like they used to!


    • I thought Audra was very beautiful, but I thought Heath was even more beautiful.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Here’s a bit of post-Gunsmoke history: in about the mid-80s, a local Austin councilman married Amanda Blake (“Miss Kitty”), whom he met on an airplane. It was the proverbial “fag-hag” arrangement–an older woman marrying a gay man. My then-husband knew the councilman and we were invited to the wedding reception and I met Amanda Blake. Sadly, both the councilman and Blake died of AIDs.


  16. I remember a fair few of these too. I remember Little Joe’s horse from Bonanza because it was so pretty!


  17. Oh my goodness…The Rebel! I was under 5 when it was on, but the instant I saw the title the star’s name popped into my head. My (much older) sister was dating a boy at the time who I was convinced was Nick Adams. 🙂


    • He was a good actor, but from what I understand a troubled soul.


  18. All those are good, I remember many of them since my dad was a real lover of the western both good and bad. But Nancy, how could you forget the best one of all.


    • I loved “F Troop!” I think I forgot it because it was more or a comedy than a western! – I especially liked Chief Wild Eagle – probably uncomfortably politically incorrect today.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Terribly politically incorrect, probably why I still have fond memories.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Chris

        F Troop lives on at the Deep River Ancient Muster in Connecticut, where fifers who are not a part of a corps, and even those who are, gather at the end of the parade en masse and march together. Apparently one of the rules for being part of this large homogenous group that “brings up the rear” of the parade, is that you must know the theme song to “F Troop.” – and the group is referred to as F Troop. I’ll have to get a video of it this year.


  19. Chris

    Davy – Davy Crockett – King of the Wild Frontier! Not exactly a “cowboy” – but a frontiersman.


  20. Tom Dube

    Nancy’s little brother here. I still like Big Valley, but I don’t remember ever having a crush on Barbara Stanwick. I really like the Chuck Connor series Rifleman and Branded. Poor Lucas, he just wants to be a simple farmer and raise his son, and they keep pushing him too far. Recently, we have been watching Kung Fu, Cain is like Lucas but looking for a non-violent solution (until they push him too far). For strange, you forget Wild Wild West.


    • I totally forgot the Wild Wild West. Bad guys always captured James West but then they tied him up and then intended to kill him some time later, giving James plenty of time to escape. It was Batman 100 years earlier. Only Batman was really short.


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