One Name Stands Out of All the Rest; or, Bat Masterson’s Song of Myself

Every night that I remember to pray (after a good slug of whiskey to provide the appropriate gravitas), I pray for my family, my friends, my Urban Cowboy, my godless country (for if more Americans prayed, for example health insurance execs, we would have better health care). On good days I sprinkle in a.) when it’s time for my cat to go please let her just keel over and that will be that; b.) that I someday finish my novel revisions without cutting off my ear; and c.) that I get my  own theme song.

The last came after I watched an episode of Bat Masterson (American TV series 1958-1961) and, knowing a little about the historical Bat (1853-1921), decided that if that shameless self-promoter could get a theme song with the words “The trail he blazed is still there,” then by god, I want one too.

The TV series starred Gene Barry in a dapper turn that emphasized the cane that Masterson purportedly used after a bullet wound. Dressed in his gambling finery and bowler hat and sometimes a grungier frontier style, Barry brought a whimsy that was probably a welcome prime-time addition to 1950s TV fare. He “batted” people on the head with a cane rather than shoot them, although, of course, being a western hero and all that, he was as excellent with guns as he was with the ladies.

The real Masterson would have been very pleased.

He was a buffalo hunter, a Comanche killer, a gambler, a ladies’ man, a lawman (who just missed the O.K. Corral gunshow), but he died well, like I hope my cat will someday when it is time for her to go, just keeling over, while typing his newspaper column at his desk. (He was typing, not that my cat will, of course.)

Yep, after a lifetime of derring-do out in the frontier West–OK, some of the derring do was just plain doo-doo, tall tales he told avid biographers–Masterson lived and died as a coastal elite in NYC, writing. Yessssss.

He didn’t kill all the people he was supposed to kill, but Bat Masterson slayed as a very successful columnist for the New York Morning Telegraph. I’m assuming he would have sung Mike Stewart’s rendition in the tub.

Back when the West was very young

There lived a man named Masterson

He wore a cane and Derby hat

They called him Bat, Bat Masterson!

A man of steel the stories say

But women’s eyes all glanced his way

A gambler’s game he always won

His name was Bat, Bat Masterson!

The trail that he blazed is still there

No one has come since to replace his name

And those with too ready a trigger

Forgot to figure on his lightning cane

Now, in the legend of the West

One name stands out of all the rest

The man who had the fastest gun

His name was Bat, Bat Masterson!

His funeral was at Campbell’s funeral parlor (believe me, very hoity-toity Upper East Side), his grave site resides in Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx (road trip!), but his trail’s blazin’ on everywhere, thanks to Gene Barry. Here’s the theme song–I chose this ending segment because I heart that clearly Bat has just finished a tryst with a beautiful woman, who, as he is a western hero and all, is utterly satiated and happy and will never be content with mere mortals again. Were women out in the West as beautiful as she was? Hmm, maybe not. But men were rarely as handsome as Gene Barry, so there. And Bucko? Well, let’s just say, dear god, may my name stand out, just a little bit. And may this effing novel get done.

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