Who needs heroes nowadays?
Occasionally, there’s a blurb in some big-city newspaper about a lack of heroes in today’s world. I don’t know who’s tallying up the numbers, but apparently someone “knows” that we have fewer heroes today than we did awhile back. I’m not sure what comprises a hero, or how someone who puts his pants on the same way as the rest of us is a person to be looked up to. When Zeno Colo won the FIS downhill and giant slalom races here in 1950, he became an instant hero for many of America’s skiing youth. Some years later, it set the stage for my buddies and me to latch onto Colo as a hero, just by virtue of the fact we were skiing the same FIS courses on a regular basis and figured we might as well hope to be skiing them as the champion would. We knew nothing of Zeno Colo other than he was the Italian winner of ski races in Aspen. There were a few photographs of him hanging on the walls of the Sundeck, just enough to give us a reference point. When we were around 8 or 9 years old, one of the teachers down at the old red brick school got hold of a documentary about Jackie Robinson’s first years in the major leagues of baseball. My friend Cecil Lowderback and I wangled our way into that production at least twice, and for several months, a black man was the hero of a couple of white boys.While I was still a kid, my granddad was of hero stature to me. He was everything I ever wanted to be, at least back then, and probably mostly today. He was rugged, handsome, the big boss, rode a horse to work every day, had a girlfriend in town (he was a widower) and enjoyed ranching in a big way. Most of all, he liked me, which made him really great. Had he asked, I would have galloped my horse into the fires of hell for my grandfather. Not that many years later, I had the dubious good fortune to hook up with a group that included John Wayne, an acknowledged hero of the land, for the first of several nights (over a couple years) on the town, most of them ending in the old Eagles Club at 310 S. Galena St. (Prada today). If I recollect, the “Duke” had on slacks, a short-sleeved shirt, and a pair of loafers. It was a rush, at first, hanging out with him, but by closing time, I was happy to be leaving his whiskey-fueled brand of politics behind. Granddad, who was dead by then, kept his lead on the “hero” list. My closest neighbors began raising a family about 12 years ago, and the youngest of their two boys took an interest in the goings on over at my place. Every time I went out to feed, catch, ride, or otherwise mess with my horses, young Logan (3-5 years old) would holler, “Hi, Cowboy,” from his second-story balcony and we’d sometimes exchange a few sentences. One day, I ran into Logan and his mother in the grocery store. He gave me a quizzical smile as she explained who I was and it became clear that Logan liked me better when I was “bigger than life,” across the fence taking care of my horses, and didn’t think nearly so much of me “up close and personal.” If one ponders it, giving someone the status of hero is like giving up a part of ourselves, letting someone, usually a stranger, run with our best aspirations. Maybe we have fewer heroes now because we’re learning that it’s more important to prop our own selves up than it is to carte blanche believe anyone is that much better than us. More likely, though, is that kids today may realize heroes are better found over backyard fences – people you can talk to but are still far enough away to stir the imagination and are not fictions of pseudo infatuation as created by the major media markets.Tony Vagneur still likes Zeno Colo even though only one photo of him remains at the Sundeck. Send mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
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