Cowboy Dreams

How often do you wake up to thoughts of Hopalong Cassidy? It’s happened to me twice! Twice this month!! Twice this morning!!!

It is possible (because I’m old enough to have seen the television series) that my younger self had dreams of Hoppy, but I certainly do not remember this.

So I woke up thinking about Hoppy, then I fell asleep and woke up again thinking about Hoppy. This seems significant but I’m not sure how. My first waking thought this morning was how absolutely strange that Hopalong would be considered a name for a cowboy hero. His actual first name must have been hideous. 

My phone was nearby, so I quickly googled Hopalong Cassidy to find out that he was a character in several books written by Clarence Mulford. However, he had red hair, loved fist fights, drank hard whiskey with beer chasers, and was a general rough dude. And he had a wooden leg. Haha!! A wooden leg!! I get it, Hop-along! Hah!

So it appears that I would like the book better than the movies. And boy, were there movies, 66 of them, all starring William Boyd, who had white hair, wore a black hat, and whose character did not swear, or drink alcohol. He preferred sarsaparilla! A true cowboy hero.

So this is where I fell asleep to wake up a second time thinking about Hopalong. I was dreaming about a lunchbox with Hoppy’s picture on it. I’m pretty sure I had one, and it was the first lunchbox that was used as a marketing tool. And I was dreaming that lunchboxes were no longer popular.

So for the second time I went to Google. 

After 66 movies and averaging $100,000 a year, William Boyd was nearly broke. He used the little money that he had saved to buy the rights of the character from Mulford, and in addition he bought the rights for the movies. Now he was truly broke!

He next move was to pitch a television program. He actually just edited down several movies and the television audience went crazy. A production studio jumped at the chance and the series took off. The series only ran for two years but adding the merchandise made Boyd millions. 

What stands out to me is the the merchandising was amazing and the roadmap for hundreds of movies and television shows ever since. I think I remember my nephew had a Daisy Duke lunchbox. 

The Hopalong Cassidy show ended in 1954, and William Boyd died in 1972

Boyd’s character was certainly different from the book, but it was perfect for young America. And according to Boyd, his name Hopalong came about because a bad man once shot him in the leg. Still makes sense. Kinda weird, but logical. 

I still wonder about his real first name. 

About johndiestler

Retired community college professor of graphic design, multimedia and photography, and chair of the fine arts and media department.
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