I Grew Up with Tom Mix
I grew up with Tom Mix
and Roy Rogers,
the Lone Ranger and Tonto.
The good guys always were wore
white hats so it was easy to tell them
from the bad guys. Little boys had cap
guns and six shooters with holsters.
Some of the boys
even wore cowboy vests and boots.
We believed the story. We listened
to the brown counter top radio,
made of imitation mahogany tan netting
over its speakers. We’d pull kitchen chairs
up to the counter on the built in china closet,
and in the kitchen, heated by a huge black iron
coal stove, we’d listen to the programs.
We had to imagine their horses, their white hats,
miles of open space and mountain ranges we
had never seen, our imaginations filling in the
gaps left by whatever we didn’t know,
the places we’d never been.
The radio let us leave behind that Paterson
apartment, transported us to the great valleys
of the West, to covered wagons, the saloons,
the shootouts on dirty, unpaved streets.
Our real world had boundaries built by my
Italian parents and the streets
we were allowed to travel,
the Riverside Oval on one end and Fourth
Avenue and Mastalia’s grocery store
and Burkes’s candy store on the other,
and in between, the children we played
with each day. But huddled near the radio
we could go anywhere, be anyone,
so different from our own, exciting
and dangerous, where at the end of each
program we knew no hero we loved
and admired ever died.
copyright 2012, The Place I Call Home, NYQ Books.