March 1, 2019

Just Saying…

By Q.C. Jones

Happiness is a Warm Gun, to Shoot…

Like nearly every red-blooded American youth of my
vintage, I spent many hours of my young years “glued to the TV” watching westerns. Not the namby-pamby stuff of today, but real live shoot’em up shows where the good guy didn’t hesitate to pull out his shooting iron and give the bad guy a quick dose of lead. Don’t confuse this viewing with the sissified story of Ben Cartwright and his band of brothers. We’re talking about gun leather, gun smoke and a hero who was a deadeye. And, even though our heroes walked through the bat-winged doors of some pretty shady Wild West towns, they were never afraid because Samuel Colt or at least his famous 45 caliber invention was their pal.

Drilling down into specifics, I always took a seat of prominence next to my grandpa in the early evenings to watch shows like The Rifleman, Have Gun will Travel, Wanted Dead or Alive, The Rebel and my personal favorite Bat Masterson. Having recently refreshed on a few of these, allow me to share. In just four half hour episodes of Bat Masterson, star Gene Barry either shot or otherwise dispatched 21 bad guys. I had managed to DVR these four installments and could skip through the commercials. This 80 minutes of TV Western equated to one bad guy headed to the Pearly Gates every four minutes.

Speaking of bad guys dispatched, even the squeaky clean and relatively highbrow, Gun Smoke started off with a bang. Finnish born bad guy, Arvo Ojala was shot and presumably killed by Matt Dillon in the opening seconds of every Gun Smoke episode.

This means over 635 shootings by James Arness before the Marshall even had time to say hi to Doc, Festus or the ever popular Miss Kitty. Gunsmoke now appears on one cable channel or another 21 times a week. Doing a little math, poor Finland-born Arvo gets “offed” 1,092 times per year; now that’s a lot of gun smoke and hot lead.
Talk about violence.

Now with all the early childhood exposure to violence, one would think responsible parents would shield their young’uns from such TV viewing. Allow me to report. Not only did my parents (and the parents of every other kid on the block for that matter) allow me to watch such programs, they encouraged me to reenact each week’s episode.

I was the proud owner of cowboy guns and holsters equipped with extra bullets. I had western shirts and cowboy boots. And, as an aside, I started wearing my very first cowboy hat at age two. As you might note in the genuine simulated picture of QC in the upper left hand corner of this page, the cowboy hat thing stuck. I digress, back to the gun play and TV inspired violence. Not only was I supplied with guns and other instruments of destruction, when especially good (you know made my bed or was nice to baby brother) I was supplied with black powder caps to enhance the experience.

Applying all this to modern pop psychology, my little neighborhood should be a hot bed of violence. All those gun-related activities must have created a phenomenon of shooting sprees. Neighbors wouldn’t dare even mow the grass without a bullet proof vest snuggly covering vital organs. Based on a quick view of page 24 of the 1957 Sears Christmas catalog which featured a collection of really cool guns for both boys and girls, my little town wouldn’t be the only place where six guns were a blazing. But, strangely it didn’t happen.

Returning to my earlier mention of Mr. Arvo Ojala then fine Finnish fellow blasted millions of times by Matt Dillon on Gunsmoke. Mr. Ojala was a “shootist” with remarkable skill using the Old West quick-draw technique. His speed was clocked and verified a number of times. He could draw, fire, and hit the target in one-sixth of a second, faster than the eye can blink. According to Wikipedia, “Arvo would drop a silver dollar with his gun hand (right) from belt height, then draw and hit the coin before it could fall four inches. This was using “live”, or full-power ammunition, not the wax bullets and quarter-loads used today in so-called “fast draw” competitions. In another exhibition, his opponent (using blanks) would face him with his pistol out of the holster and cocked, then nod as he simultaneously fired his revolver, while Arvo would draw and fire before the opponent could get a shot off. He never lost.”

Sadly Arvo Ojala has passed, but his memory lives on. The National Congress of Old West Shootists (NCOWS) is an organization “founded in 1994 to promote safe Western Action Shooting including the re-enactment and promotion of the historical Old West heritage of the United States in all its ethnic, social and occupational diversity during the period 1865 to 1899.” Their national convention is being held at the Davenport Radisson March 22 – 24th. My guess is there will be plenty of gun leather and hot smoke. Quoting myself at age five and John Lennon a few years later, “Happiness is a warm gun, to shoot.” Just saying…

Filed Under: History, Humor