It was a time for the sawdust.
The announcer said, “Ladies and gentlemen …”
And there I was, not being either one.
McNeese Arena, 1967. Michael Landon came out of the gate riding a bronco, just like a real cowboy.
His left hand flailing in the air, right arm gripping saddle for dear life.
My mother leaned to me, “That’s Little Joe. You know Little Joe, don’t you?”
I knew him quite well. He was on a Western show and always did good things.
NBC wanted to connect with the small town people.
Dan Blocker did comedy with the clowns, wearing his white hat.
“There’s Hoss,” my mom said.
She didn’t have to tell me. I knew him quite well.
All the boys at school wished he was their big brother.
He didn’t take no lip from nobody, and always did good things.
The sawdust. The sawdust.
It was a time. It was.
NBC said, “Let’s take ‘em on the road. Make people think they’re just like real people.”
I was in my elementary school hallway when I heard Hoss died.
Everybody talked about how sad it was.
Hoss just couldn’t be dead. It wasn’t possible.
A good man who did good things.
As he told us later, with that great, gruff voice and Michael Rennie as guest star, “Everybody thinks it means ‘Horse,’ but it’s really Hoss. Always has been.”
Landon went on to a successful career in television.
Got hit by cancer. Choked up the usually unwavering Johnny Carson.
A tear. The sawdust.
The sawdust. A tear.
So there we were. The rodeo.
As was Little Joe, thrown in the dirt by a giant, bucking thing.
And Hoss to the rescue, like the good man he was.
We left the arena. Everybody waved goodbye.
And I still remember those curling, hazed clouds of biscuit sawdust.

About Robert Hankins