When your childhood hero dies


Rex Trailer died last night, and that probably doesn’t mean much to people in Minnesota, but I can tell you this: Every kid had a Rex Trailer.

For me and thousands of others in New England, he was the hero of children’s TV programming.

He was a cowboy, a real rootin’ tootin’ cowboy, with a horse — Gold Rush — and a sidekick — Pablo, until Pablo died — and he brought us cool things, like songs he played himself on a guitar. And he lived in a magical place — Boomtown — which we believed existed, because we didn’t know anything about dark TV studios that made up stuff.

And we’d get up early on Saturday mornings, sneak quietly downstairs so as not to wake the parents, and turn on the TV and stare at a test pattern (ask your parents) until Boomtown — that was the name of the show — came on.

And if your father was a hero, chances are part of what made him larger than life is that when he had the grand opening of his grocery store, Rex Trailer and Gold Rush came. Right! My dad knew Rex Trailer!

And when you went to college many, many years after watching him ride and rope and do a trick or two, who was one of the adjunct professors teaching television? It was Rex Trailer! And did I mention he flew his own helicopter?

And when you were 59 years old and couldn’t remember where you put your keys or the year your oldest kid was born, you could still sing the Boomtown theme song. If the hundreds of people who turn out for his funeral don’t rise as one to sing it, well, then there’s no such thing as cowboys.

A kid’s life couldn’t have been more wonderful with such heroes.

You kids today, I feel bad for you. But not as bad as I feel for all of us kids who wanted to grow up to be cowboys.