In the old days of the Tubeworld Dynamic, the Summer was dedicated to a TV Western showcase so that I might take off for the month of August.
Part of that tradition still exists in that the July inductee for the Crossover Hall of Fame is from a Western TV series.
And because this year I'm marking fifty years on your planet, I'm bending the rules a bit to welcome those citizens of Toobworld who might not otherwise have passed muster.
So for our Western nominee, we've gone from San Francisco to New Prospect, Oklahoma, and back again, following the trail of Paladin, the cultured and ethical mercenary whose real name was 'Hec Ramsey'.
We never learned Paladin's real name on 'Have Gun Will Travel'. IAnd apparently there were viewers who thought his full name was "Wire Paladin!")
According to an origin story during the series, he was just a gambler forced to pay off a mark by attempting to kill a mercenary named Smoke who was protecting some local ranchers. The only other thing we knew about this gambler was that he had been a Union army officer during the Civil War in charge of weapons. And like so many others who survived that struggle, like 'The Loner' named William Colton, he had become disillusions with Life.
In their first confrontation, Smoke recognized that the gambler was not only ill-prepared in skill to face him, but that he also was lacking the purity of spirit as well.
And so, for some unknown reason, Smoke offered to train the gambler until he was proficient enough in all skills to properly face him in combat. Perhaps it was because Smoke knew he was getting too old to continue his line of work; perhaps he even knew that he was already dying. And maybe he saw something in the gambler which reminded him of his own earlier self. (There's no denying that there was quite a resemblance between Smoke and the gambler, which we as the viewers can probably attribute to the fact that Richard Boone played both roles.)
"We've all got a little Obi-Wan Kenobi in us."
Reverend Jim Ignatowski
Reverend Jim Ignatowski
Eventually Smoke taught the gambler everything he knew as well as instilled in him an appreciation for the finer things in Life and a thirst for education and the arts. And then he and the gambler faced off in the combat they had been forced by duty to see through to the end.
The gambler won and Smoke died - although it could be said that the gambler did call upon a few dirty tricks to gain the upper hand. But with Smoke's death, the gambler tossed aside his prior allegiances and became the new protector of those ranchers; he became their paladin. And he rid them of the enemy who had once hired him.
All through his career, based in San Francisco, it became known that if you needed help against insurmountable odds and injustices, you just had to wire Paladin at the Hotel Carlton and he would come to your aid. (As his business card stated, "Have gun. Will Travel".) His fee was hefty, in order to maintain his lifestyle, but more often than not he performed his services to see Justice upheld.
"I never draw my gun, unless I intend to use it."
'Have Gun Will Travel'
'Have Gun Will Travel'
But apparently as the years passed in the wild, wild West, Paladin must have undergone some kind of trauma or life-changing revelation that might have caused him to question his role in life. Not his convictions, nor his goals in helping others, but perhaps in the way he went about seeking to make right what once went wrong.
During this time, Paladin let himself go physically. He became fatter, less fastidious in his personal appearance. He always did have a rough-hewn complexion, but now he looked like the proverbial ten miles of bad road - on the surface of the moon.
Still his skills and his mental acuity never failed him. Paladin must have realized that he was being led inexorably down the same road Smoke once travelled, and although he would also face the end of that journey with the same sense of honor, there surely had to be another way to avoid bringing it on in such a wasteful manner.
So Paladin must have dropped out of sight for a time, casting aside the persona he had created for himself as a knight without armor in a savage land. Falling back on his true identity of "Hec Ramsey", he must have travelled East - perhaps to Chicago, maybe to New York, even onwards to a school like Harvard or Yale, - and there immersed himself in the "newfangled science of Criminology".
[Richard Boone once said in an interview that Hec Ramsey was Paladin, just older and fatter.]
When he had sated this thirst for such knowledge, Ramsey headed West again and found himself in New Prospect, Oklahoma at the turn of the century. (It could be that he was originally from that area, although the townsfolk didn't know him from the past.)
There he became the deputy to young Sheriff Stamp who was clinging to the notions of the past, perhaps fueld by the dime novel exploits of 'Bat Masterson', Matt Dillon ('Gunsmoke'), Tom Guthrie ('Bret Maverick'), and 'The Life And Legend Of Wyatt Earp'. Ramsey's use of scales, magnifying glasses and fingerprint detection also impressed Doc Coogan who sometimes did what he could in his field to help a fellow man of science.
Ramsey must have broken all contact with his former life in San Francisco when he left, because by 1906 he was considered dead by those who knew him at the Hotel Carlton. Those personal effects he left behind gained the value of museum artifacts, and it was with some reverence that his own pack of playing cards were used for the big high-stakes poker game held in the Carlton just before the Big Quake struck.
As to what might have prompted Ramsey to forsake his life as Paladin, I think it might have been the love of a woman who somehow broke his heart. Perhaps she died, or perhaps she left him without a word, without a clue as to where she had gone.
I like to think that she might have found herself carrying Paladin's child, and knowing that his life might lead to tragedy for all three of them, she left. This way their child could be raised in safety and Paladin would not have his concentration deterred in his quest for Justice.
Whether or not she kept her own name or perhaps lived her life under an alias, I think she might have raised this child by the name of Frank Hogan. (I want to believe that her last name really was Hogan, and that she grew up in the Tuscany Valley regions not far from San Francisco. Tuscany Valley is where the 'Falcon Crest' vineyards were just beginning to claim dominion over the region.)
Frank Hogan grew up to become the spitting image of his father, and in a way found himself following the same path - although more often than not down the back alleys of the City of Angels in 1946. ('Goodnight My Love')
[It's also one of my pet theories that his partner in the private eye biz was none other than the infamous Dr. Miguelito Loveless. But Loveless was suffering from amnesia and had taken the name of Arthur Boyle during this time. Those who read my summer essays about Dr. Loveless during the days of the Tubeworld Dynamic might remember why he could still look to be in his early forties by 1946 - Loveless was the illegitimate son of a Gallifreyan Time Lord by the name of Roarke ('Fantasy Island'! We already know he was descended from Alexander of the 'Star Trek' episode "Plato's Step-Children" on his mother's side.]
Well, that should keep you off-balance for awhile.... Happy trails!
'The Gambler Returns: The Luck of the Draw' (1991) TV movie (only mentioned)
'Hec Ramsey' (1972) TV Series .... Hec Ramsey
'Goodnight My Love' (1972) TV Movie ..... Frank Hogan
'Hec Ramsey' aka 'The Century Turns' (1972) TV movie pilot .... Hec Ramsey
'Have Gun Will Travel' (1957) TV Series .... Paladin (1957-1963)