Childhood Memory #8

I watched Gunsmoke reruns with my grandfather most days—he loved everything about it, and I loved Miss Kitty, the beautiful owner of the Long Branch Saloon (and also maybe brothel?) Plenty of afternoons we would act out the episode once we turned off the television, with me playing Kitty and my grandfather playing Sheriff Matt Dillon.We had one toy gun in the house—a 1950s model made of real wood and metal—and in our role-playing, Matt Dillon never got the gun. He never got to save Kitty from kidnappers or outlaws. He got kidnapped or imprisoned or shot or whatever, and Kitty filled her gun with baby powder (which made a very satisfying cloud of smoke when you pulled the trigger) and came to rescue him. He called for help from underneath the dining room table, and she told him not to worry as she chased off the bad guys and then helped him to his feet.

I love my grandfather for many reasons, including for teaching me to love Westerns. But also for teaching me that stories are malleable things—if you don’t like the narrative, change it.

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