A Horse, of Course
with Don Blazer
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"Come on, pardner…let's make tracks!"
"I don't want you to say that to me anymore. I don't want you to say, 'okay paint, let's get where we ain't,' or 'giddyup,' or 'move it, Dobbin," Walter, a horse, of course, informed me in no uncertain terms.
So I asked, "And just what do you want me to say to you?"
Walter reared and pawed the sky, "Hi, ho, Walter, awaaaaay!" he intoned.
"I can't say that."
"Why not?" he queried.
"Because that's what the Lone Ranger said to Silver."
"Silver's name was Walter?" he asked, his eyes wide in surprise.
"No, of course not. The Lone Ranger said, "Hi ho, Silver, awaaaaay" to his movie horse who's name was Silver. Millions of people heard him say that; so I can't say that."
"Okay," Walter replied, "But I want you to say something nice to me. After all, I'm a movie horse too."
Walter was featured in one, little, 3-minute, silent movie that was a student project for the college theater arts course. "That film hardly qualifies you as a movie star," I said. I told Walter that real movie horses made literally hundreds of movies.
According to Raymond E. White, writing for Western Horseman Magazine, during the western movie's "hay" day-1920 to 1950-the more than 50 cowboy stars each had a horse with a specific name and personality.
The most identifiable horses were Tom Mix's Tony, Roy Roger's Trigger, Ken Maynard's Tarzan and Gene Autry's Champion. Walter felt Dale Evan's Buttermilk and Hopalong Cassidy's Topper should be included. (Personally I think Walter has a bit of crush on Buttermilk.)
According to White, Tony knew 20 tricks, jumped over walls and fences, raced through fire and plunged over cliffs into raging rivers. His popularity was so great that Fox Studio featured him in two films, Just Tony in 1922 and Oh You Tony in 1924.
Tony had two stockings behind and a blaze, stood 14 hands and weighed 1,000 pounds. Walter interrupted my discourse to remind me that he has two white socks behind, a blaze and stands just over 14 hands. I pointed out that he is black, unlike the talented Tony who was Chestnut.
White reports that Tony stumbled over some rocks during a shoot in 1932 and due to injury was retired. Tony died in 1942, two years after Tom Mix died.
A $600 pale palomino, Ken Maynard's Tarzan was such a big hit that often movie reviewers said more good things about his acting than they did about Maynard's. Tarzan appeared in 31 films from 1932 to 1940, and although he was getting old, White reports that Maynard kept the horse chasing runaways, jumping off cliffs and performing a multitude of stunts and tricks.
Of course the true work horse was Trigger. Trigger appeared in more than 80 movies and in all of the 100 Roy Roger's television shows. According to White, on occasion Trigger Jr. would be a stand in, especially in public appearances. But Trigger himself did more film and television work and made more public appearances than any other B-western horse.
"What's that," asked Walter…perplexed. "B-western?"
"B-westerns were low-budget, second level films," I explained.
"Well, forget them, and remember me," Walter snorted. "My movie might have been short, but it earned an "A" grade, and was considered the best of the class." He reared, pawed the sky, and galloped off yelling, "A horse of black, don't cut you no slack."
I don't think he ever saw the cliff; too bad we didn't get it on film, it would have made a great movie stunt.
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