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 Texas : Features : Columns : Letters From North America :

Cowboys, Pirates, and Robin Hood

by Peary Perry
Peary Perry
Here I am wrapped up in some old cowboy movie, in my favorite position on the couch when my beloved says to me: "You know, those were hard times."

So, I snap back with……"What, who are you talking about?"

"These cowboy movies, it was tough on people back in those days."

To which I respond….."Naw, those guys had air-conditioned trailers, good food, medical attention, good hotels to spend the night in after they shot the film for the day…these guys had a walk in the park."

Well, you can imagine I didn't get much of a response out of her, just some bad looks and comments under her breath that I can't hear.

But, you know it got me to thinking how deceived we are by either the media or advertising in this country. Most of us have grown up thinking pirates look like Captain Hook or Long John Silver. I suppose the youngsters of today think Johnny Depp is the true picture of a real pirate, but in reality it just ain't so. Pirates didn't make folks walk the plank. They plundered more grain, wheat and other stuff a lot more often than gold and silver. Robert Louis Stevenson, the author of Treasure Island had never even been on a ship when he wrote his first book. Most of the stuff he and others wrote were just made up in their heads and taken to be the truth by the public. Being a pirate wasn't a high old adventure, it was a hard life.

Same thing about the wagon trains going West in the late 1800's. You and I have seen countless western movies where the Virginia Mayo character rides in the wagon, wearing lots of petticoats, long dresses and is always shown with her hair styled just so along with lots of lipstick and makeup. Yeah, right. The women wore sensible clothing, almost never rode and certainly didn't wear makeup or have a hair stylist to help them look beautiful. That's in the movies. Last week when I was in Germany, I heard about a guy who wrote over 70 western novels about a character named "Old Shatterhand". The author wrote all of these fantastic best selling novels before ever coming to the United States. The books themselves are filled with errors, but still sell even today and are wildly popular. As one person said "A lot of Germans have never read the Bible, but they all have read about Old Shatterhand".

Last week, we saw some movie about Robin Hood….you guessed it, everyone has rotten teeth, walking in ankle deep mud, wearing clothes that look like they came out of flour sacks. No color, everyone seems to be suffering from scurvy. Again, movie stuff. The truth was that during the Middle Ages, most people were in fairly good health since they were eating fairly decent healthy food. They were about the same sizes as we are today and they had color woven into fairly decent clothing. It wasn't until the 1600's and the growth of the cities that the health of those living in the cities began to decline and people began to get smaller due to poor nutrition. So much for the media. We are so easily fooled.

But, think about it. It isn't just us. Look at the commercials for dog and cat food. In one cat food commercial I just saw, the food is being cooked and looks like it is being served at some five star restaurant. Then it gets set down on the floor and a little silver bell causes Fluffy to rush into the room to dine on the gourmet presentation.

Consider this. If animals are color blind, then why do we make their meals look like red meat or fresh fish? Why do we pass out bags of tuna shaped or bone shaped dry food? Do we think they can look at this and say to themselves…"Hum, this looks like a bone so it must be one. Or hey this piece of tuna tastes kind of dry. What's this about?" No, I bet you could dye your cat and dog food green or yellow and they wouldn't know the difference or even care. They just want something to eat. The advertising people know that unless it looks like something we humans would eat, it won't sell.

I suppose the point of all of this is to say you really can't trust everything you see or hear to be the truth, but then we all know that's a fact. It's a hard world out there, isn't it?

© Peary Perry
Letters From North America >

September 7, 2006 column
Syndicated weekly in 80 newspapers
Comments go to www.pearyperry.com
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