News and Tribune

June 27, 2013

MAY: Even the Lone Ranger has friends

By TOM MAY
Local columnist

On a perfect day, the school bus would pull up to our stop at 3:12 in the afternoon. A fast dash into the house would find the television flipped to channel four just as the commercials were ending and the second half of the old black-and-white western adventure “The Lone Ranger” was beginning.

Like many of the early television shows, “The Lone Ranger” actually had its start as a radio serial program. The show first aired in 1933 on station WXYZ in Detroit. The idea came from station owner George Trendle and Fran Striker, who became the primary writer for the show. 

Trendle had wanted to fill a 30-minute time slot aimed at children, but adults actually made up more than half the audience, causing the program to be an immediate success. The series was soon picked up by radio’s Mutual Broadcasting Network, allowing it to be simulcast to stations across the country. In 1942, NBC’s Blue Network, which later became ABC, began airing the program. The last new episode was broadcast on Sept. 3, 1954. 

The Lone Ranger, his horse Silver and his faithful Indian companion Tonto made the transition to television in 1949. The series starred Clayton Moore as the Ranger in most of the adventures, with Jay Silverheels portraying Tonto. The show was broadcast for eight seasons, though only five touted new episodes. The final season was shot in color.

The basic storyline has stayed the same in its various incarnations. A posse of six Texas Rangers is pursuing a band of outlaws led by Butch Cavendish. An ambush occurs, leaving five of the Rangers dead, a lone lawman barely clinging to life. 

The gruesome scene is stumbled upon by an Indian who recognizes the survivor as the man who had befriended him earlier. After the gang is brought to justice, the Ranger and Tonto continue to fight evil and crime under the alias of the Lone Ranger.

In recent columns, we have been spending some time looking at characteristics of heroes — focused particularly by a handful of this summer’s blockbuster movies. We noticed from “Iron Man” the importance of a vulnerable heart. In “Star Trek” we remembered the vital nature of loyalty. In “The Man of Steel,” we learned that sometimes things aren’t what they seem and the hero must be discerning. 

If there is a lesson to be learned from the story of “The Lone Ranger,” it is the incredible importance of our choice of friends.

Radio owner Trendle, in creating the Ranger, wanted a hero who could be a role model for the children who would listen. He developed a “Lone Ranger Creed” that every actor who lent their voice or image to the story had to endorse. The first line item in the creed stated that “to have a friend, a man must be one.” 

The lesson would serve adults as well.

In his book “Wild at Heart,” Christian author John Eldredge encourages men to support each other through strong friendships. Dee Brestin, in “The Friendships of Women,” describes the friendship between women as “intense, intimate, powerful, painful” and crucial to maintain stability in an increasingly impersonal world. C.S. Lewis wrote that “friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one.’”

Choose your friends wisely — even if they tend to wear paint on their face and have an eagle stuck on their headdress. It’s important that at least one person knows what you look like behind the mask.

— Tom May is the Minister of Discipleship at Eastside Christian Church in Jeffersonville. He is an adjunct instructor in the Communications Department at Indiana University Southeast.