Sunday, February 24, 2019

Tonto, the Man Who Saved the Lone Ranger

Tonto, played by Jay Silverheels, a member of the Mohawk Aboriginal tribe based in Canada, became a prominent part of The Lone Ranger television series in part because of his believable performance and secondly, perhaps because society was becoming more sensitive to the plight of the Native American Indian. Without him, I truly believe that the series itself would not have become as popular as it was and continues to be today. Tonto became the ever-ready, best-friend companion of Kemosahbee, which was Tonto's name for the Lone Ranger who he had met at an earlier age.

For review, the Lone Ranger himself was played by Clayton Moore (1949 – 1951, 1954 – 1957) as well as John Hart (1952 – 1954). According to the opening one-hour movie that aired by ABC, the Lone Ranger would have likely perished if it had not been for Tonto nursing him back to good health in the opening one-hour debut of what became the highest-rated television series at the time.

By the end of the second season (1950 – 1951) it had accomplished a rating of #7 by Nielsen, #18 the next.

As mentioned in 'Who Was That Masked Man? Celebrating the Lone Ranger,' published two weeks ago on the WMD Weblog (click here), the show itself began as a radio program in 1933 and it continued until 1949 when the program appeared on television.

Enter the Lone Ranger (1-hour flick)

The Man Behind the Mask

Tonto was first played by John Todd in the radio version of The Lone Ranger, which aired on WXYZ out of Detroit (1933 - 1949). Todd was born as John Frederick on August 14, 1876 (deceased on July 14, 1957). He was, by trade, an actor who, before becoming Tonto, played the part of a local sheriff on the same program.

It was in the 11th or 12th episode that he assumed the role of Tonto, although George Trendle, the originator of the Long Ranger story and apparently the owner of the radio station, assigned the role to a younger man for a short time. It didn't take long, however, for Trendle to reassign the Tonto role to Todd again, which he kept to the end of the radio series in 1949.

The 'Tonto' that most of us are familiar with was that of Jay Silverheels, born as Harold Preston Smith on May 26, 1912, on the Six Nations Reserve near Hagersville, Ontario, Canada. He was an actual Indian, alleged to be the grandson of a Mohawk Chieftain.

Like Clayton Moore, who played the part of the Lone Ranger, Silverheels was exceptionally athletic and was known for his skill in lacrosse. According to a Wikipedia account, under the name of Harry Smith, he played indoor lacrosse with the Iroquois team from Rochester, NY. In addition, he became known as a boxer in Buffalo, NY where he, in 1938, won 2nd place in a Middleweight Golden Gloves tournament.

Silverheels' Acting Career

It was in 1937, while with a touring lacrosse team, when Silverheels caught the attention of actor and comedian, Joe Brown. Brown encouraged him to attend a screen test, which launched him into a successful acting career. He began as an extra and a stunt man in low-budget movies, serials, and westerns. In the 1940s, he played in major movies, such as James Stewart's Broken Arrow, which was featured on WMD a few weeks ago.

Most decidedly, Silverheels' greatest work was that of Tonto. His part in The Lone Ranger story line was based on events that had occurred between the two men at an earlier age. The Lone Ranger had been part of a six-man team of Texas Rangers who went after a group of outlaws who had fled to the Badlands. In an ambush five of the six Rangers were killed, leaving only one critically wounded.

Tonto stumbled onto the scene of the massacre which is where he found a lone, surviving man. Tonto nursed him back to health, during which time he learned that the man he was helping was the same individual who, many years before, had helped save his own life. The relationship between the two men developed into a bond, which resulted in Tonto's decision to stick by his old friend in support of the Lone Ranger's desire to fight corruption and crime behind a mask that served to protect his true identity.

As evidence, here's the first episode of The Lone Ranger, which aired in 1949. It's one hour long and I highly recommend that you take the time to watch it. It will explain why he wore a mask, what part that the silver bullets played, and how his horse came to be known as Silver.

In Conclusion

According to several accounts, Jay Silverheels raced horses. He was married in 1945, had three girls and one boy, Jay Anthony Silverheels, who himself went on to become an actor. Jay Silverheels was later inducted into the Hall of Great Western Performers, which is located at at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City. In addition, he was named by the Western New York Entertainment Hall of Fame.
Tonto, the Man in Front of the Mask

In 1976, Silverheels suffered a stroke and he eventually passed on March 5, 1980 at the age of 67. He lived in Calabasas, in Los Angeles County, California. After his cremation, his ashes were returned to the Six Nations Reserve.

For those of us who watched Tonto on The Lone Ranger on television, Tonto occupies a special place in our hearts. I will never forget the most ethical, moral, and upstanding way that both Tonto and the Lone Ranger lived their on-screen lives, as theyh continue to do yet today.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The memory of Clayton Moore, John Hart, and Jay Silverheels is kept alive through Internet-based organizations like The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fan Club, a fan page on Facebook (

Tonto, from Amazon


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Saturday, February 16, 2019

Why We Use A Hackamore Bridle

Gary Miller, Author

Other than in events where the rules or customs call for a bit in the mouth of the horse, my question would be, why 'not' use a hackamore bridle?

The hackamore (sometimes called a bosal) as applied to horses, can be traced back in history to about 4,000 BC. And they were most likely used on camels even prior to that. A hackamore bridle, properly fitted and properly applied is a more humane means of controlling a horse than most all forms of the conventional metal bit placed in its mouth. And it is most likely a better way of communicating with a young or green horse during early training. And let's face it, communication between the horse and rider is a prime necessity in horsemanship and training.

The horse’s mouth is very sensitive. It does not take much pressure on the horse's jawbone (bars) to cause intense pain. And when a metal curb chain is used under the chin, along to the metal bit in its mouth, the bone and soft tissues of the lower jaw are basically clamped between two pieces of metal. Even with a leather curb strap, a rider who is a little ham-fisted can cause excessive pain to the horse.

A simple hackamore which is based on the old bosal nose band, should be considered as an option in training and riding. If a horse is too reluctant to stop with a bosal, a mechanical hackamore with a leather curb strap applied under the chin for leverage will usually suffice. But the BEST way to stop a reluctant or runaway horse is to turn its head and force the horse to come around 180 degrees or in a full circle, or as many circles as it takes to get it stopped. And that means that even before a horse is ready to be ridden, the ground training should have included the required time to teach the horse to give its neck to a gentle pull from either side.

This takes time, but the procedure is just the simple application of rewarding the horse's 'give' by instantly releasing the tug on the lead when it complies, and then repeating the process in small increments until the horse will calmly allow you to pull its neck all the way around in both directions. A horse trained in a similar manner can eventually be ridden bareback with only a rope and halter. Yes, leg commands and rider balance play very important parts here... not to mention the state of the horse's health. But those are separate topics to be addressed possibly in other articles.

And even a conventional bridle with a metal bit is no guarantee it will stop a horse who has learned to grasp the bit between its teeth and lock the bit. This puts the horse in the driver's seat, so to speak, unless the horse can be turned around in a circle as I mentioned before.  

I'm surprised that even as most modern horse trainers have adopted the more humane 'communication' methods in training, that there are not more of them who prefer to use a hackamore bridle. I worked with an old time Texas-born cowhand who like me, learned the benefits of the hackamore rather late in life. Except for buggy horses, the hackamore and / or bosal became our go to bridle for training and riding. It just made sense, especially since about 90 percent of western riding is done by neck reining which allows the rider to use just one hand on the reins rather than the two hand (direct rein) method of English style riding.

Be sure to watch the movies this week!
A neck reined western horse is trained to respond to the light pressure of the reins against its neck. (To turn left, the right reign is laid against the right side of the neck). And generally, heel pressure would also be applied to the left side of the horse. Just reverse the process for a right turn. The heel pressure here is sometimes described as the 'inside leg' in the turn. The horse will soon respond to this light pressure on its neck, and side. And riding with one hand only on the reins gave an advantage to the cowboys of the old west, as it now gives our modern cowhands, pleasure riders, and western competition riders the ability to use the other hand to throw a rope, fire a gun, or accomplish other tasks while riding. And for me, it seemed that my balance was much better while riding on a neck-reined horse... both from a saddle or while riding bareback. The video we've inserted below shows briefly how to convert a horse from direct reining to neck reining wile using a hackamore bridle: * Note... The horse in the video was apparently trained to neck rein previously. *
Beginning Neck Reining

And like they say on TV... never try this at home. As with horses or guns, or learning to drive a car, you need to start out with a qualified instructor. My views here are merely to relate to you how I personally managed to ride a horse or two. You and your instructor may adopt different methods to develop your own best horsemanship.
Happy Trails,
Gary Miller

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ComfortTac Ultimate Belly Band Holster for Concealed Carry, Black

My apology but the ads on this page have been removed.

Allan Colombo, publisher

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Saturday, February 9, 2019

Who Was That Masked Man? Celebrating the Lone Ranger

‘Who was that Masked Man?’ and ‘Hi-Yo Silver, Away!' are two familiar declarations to anyone who grew up watching the Lone Ranger. This one was among the greatest moralistic television shows that I watched as a boy in the 1950’s.

For those of you who do not know what this television series was about, here’s one of the Lone Ranger television movies entitled “The Letter Bride.” It’s designed to fit into a 30-minute program slot on television. Do yourself a favor and watch it before you continue reading: .

Lone Ranger On the Radio

The show itself began as a radio program in 1933 and it continued until 1949 when the program appeared on television. Here is a sample of one of the radio programs entitled: ‘The Lone Ranger, Old Time Radio, 380506 Billy Garrett Kidnapped,’ made available on YouTube by The Classic Archives (

In this radio episode, a rich rancher’s son, Billy Garrett, is kidnapped and a ransom note was sent to is folks for $10,000. Despite the fact that the note specifically stated that the boy would die if the law was brought into it, the local sheriff insisted on assembling a posse in an attempt to catch the culprits, which they assumed to be the BlackJack gang.

Interesting enough, the posse encountered the Lone Ranger, and because he had a black mask on, the Sheriff and his men sought to arrest him. Thanks to his horse, Silver, he was able to get away. In a day or so, the Lone Ranger made contact with the rancher and together they created a plan to trap the gang. Part of the plan led the Lone Ranger to speak with the head marshal of that territory so he could get the Sheriff to disband the posse to assure the safety of the boy.

Here, you can listen to this episode of the Lone Ranger for yourself:

Who is That Masked Man?

The story of the Lone Ranger is that he was part of a group of six Texas Rangers who were ambushed. There was only one survivor, the Lone Ranger. In order to hide his identity, he decided to wear a black mask, and thereby dedicating the remainder of his life to bringing bad men to justice. His efforts in this regard was funded by a silver mine, which incidentally made the pure silver bullets that he so famously became known for. Not only that, the horse he rode and the name ‘Silver’ were also given to him by the Silver mining operation, at least this is how I remember it from my precious time with him in my living room.

Perhaps you’re wondering who that masked man really was in real life. The actor that most of us identify with in the television series was Clayton Moore. He played the Lone Ranger from the show’s debut in 1949 to 1952, then from 1954 through 1957.

The program was nominated for an Emmy in 1950, but despite the good ratings, Moore was replaced by John Hart in 1952. The reason given for Moore’s departure was that of a wage dispute. But Moore later said he was never really given a satisfactory reason for the dismissal but he believed it to be a difference of opinion in matters to do with the show.

Hart played the part for two seasons, and then was replaced. Despite the mask to hide either Moore’s or Hart’s identities, the new Lone Ranger did not receive wide acceptance. In fact, after Hart left the show, his version of the Lone Ranger did not resurface until the 1980s.

There was a change in production ownership the same year, in 1954. The Lone Ranger production was originally owned by George Trendle who sold it to Jack Wrather in August of 1954. It was at this time that Moore was rehired to play the part until the show ceased to air in 1957.

The movie was filmed in black and white right from the beginning in 1949 through 1956. The last year of production, 1957, it was filmed in color. The television network, ABC, would only pay for black-and-white film, so the new owner paid the additional money out of his own pocket.

Clayton Moore: the Man Behind the Mask

One of the things that I enjoy about writing these stories in WMD is the fact that I often think back to shows like this and I wonder “whatever happened to this person or that person?”

Although Clayton Moore ended up in Hollywood, he was actually born in Chicago on September 14, 1914. It’s funny how five short years can actually define the remainder of a man’s life, but this is exactly what happened to Moore as he played this part over and over until his death on December 28, 1999.

I’m afraid I’ve gotten ahead of myself here.

Moore came from a fairly prosperous family. He was the youngest of three sons to a real estate broker who lived and worked in the Chicago area. Because he was athletic, he started out at the age of eight working in a circus as an acrobat. After graduating from high school, he worked at modeling. Then, in the late 1930s, he moved to Hollywood were he became a stuntman, although he continued to model.

Clayton Moore was actually a stage name given to him in 1940 by movie producer, Edward Small. His real name was Jack Carlton Moore, It was then that Moore was cast in B Western movies. This led him to accept parts in four Republic Studio cliffhangers and two additional films for Columbia. And then, when World War II came along, he enlisted, appearing in a variety of military training films.

As I mentioned earlier, Moore’s five years as the Lone Ranger ended up defining the remainder of Moore’s life. He made many television guest appearances, commercials, and attended a variety of events. Tonto, his sidekick in the movies, played by Jay Silverheels, appeared along with him at Lone Ranger reunions during the 1960s. Incidentally, Silverheels was a real-life Indian as part of the Mohawk Aboriginal tribe in Canada.

On December 28, 1999, the Lone Ranger suffered a fatal heart attack. He is survived by his wife Clarita Moore (his 4th wife) as well as an adopted daughter, Dawn Angela Moore. He was cremated and now his public resting place is in Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California.

Clayton Moore At Forest Lawn In Glendale, CA

“Welcome to Famous Grave Tours. Thanks for joining me as I visit the cemeteries, grave sites, memorials and final resting places of the famous (and sometimes infamous) people who have touched our lives. From movie stars to world leaders, from those whose died before their time, to those who lived to be centenarians--they may be gone, but they're not forgotten.

“In this video tour, I visit and tour the graves of actors Clayton Moore and Errol Flynn, at the Forest Lawn Memorial Park cemetery in Glendale, California. Both actors are buried in the Court of Freedom, Garden of Everlasting Peace courtyard” (FAMOUS GRAVE TOUR: The Lone Ranger Actor,

In conclusion, in honor of Clayton Moore, the world’s first and last Lone Ranger, we’ll be featuring Lone Ranger videos in the WMD Hot Box all week long. Every day or so we’ll add another one to the box, starting tomorrow morning, Monday, February 11, 2019. Thank you for tuning in to the Western Magazine Digest, a publication of TpromoCom of Canton, Ohio.

Author: Allan Colombo

From the Hot Box, Lone Ranger videos!

The Lone Ranger 1949 Pilot

The Lone Ranger Gold Train

The Lone Ranger A Broken Match

The Lone Ranger | S01 E03 | The Lone Ranger's Triumph

The Lone Ranger | 1 Hour Compilation | HD

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Stainless Steel His & Hers Cowboy Coffee Cups

After viewing one of the movies on WMD, I got to thinking, "How cool would it be to have a set of those old metal coffee cups, like the ones that cowboys used on the trail?"

I went in search of those coffee cups, and instead of finding some old, dented up steel cups, I found some nice stainless steel coffee cups. Well, I figured that if I was thinking about it, perhaps you might be, too.

If you ever thought about it, perhaps now's the time to do something about it (click here). We'd be ever obliged, and thank you!

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Saturday, February 2, 2019

Dick Fellows - the Horseless Outlaw

Bank and stagecoach robbers of the old west "always" have a horse to make their getaway on, right? Well, not always! Not at least in the case of repeat offender--Dick Fellows.

I really doubt that it was a fear of horses that plagued him. Outlaw Dick Fellows just didn't get along with those critters very well at all. In the few times he attempted to ride, it most always resulted in a short jaunt with Fellows planted on the ground. Whether he was thrown from the horse or not, bad things would happen along the way.

I heard of one account related to his bad luck with horses where one of them that he stole was poorly shod because when it's owner apparently ran out of regular horse shoes so he put a mule shoe on one hoof. This time, Fellows managed to stay on the horse, somehow; but after what would have otherwise been a successful stagecoach robbery, the unique shoe pattern made it very easy for lawmen to track him, and he was promptly arrested. But we'll get to more of those stories later.

"I've never heard of a robber from the old west who couldn't ride a horse," says Al Colombo, WMD. "Until now!"

The outlaw, Dick Fellows (born George Lyttle in Kentucky in 1846) was from a good upstanding family. And he apparently did well in school, as he fully intended to become a lawyer like his father was. But the eruption of the Civil War put those plans on hold. And while only in his teens, he joined the Confederate Army and served in combat until his capture by the Union forces in 1863. He remained a prisoner in a Northern prison camp until the war ended. George returned home after the war and tried to take up where he left off in obtaining his license to practice law. But like many who suffered the hardships of the war and especially imprisonment by the enemy, he let alcohol get the best of him.

In 1867, Lyttle thought that maybe moving as far away as California would somehow provide some better opportunities for a fresh start. But nothing in legitimate vocations panned out for him. So, out of desperation, George Lyttle changed his name to Dick Fellows and began robbing stagecoaches. He made pretty good money at first, but the law was often getting too close on his heels. He tried again to go straight by going into the hog farming business with an acquaintance. So they went out and bought 600 hogs. But before they could make any money at all from their venture, a fire burned their whole enterprise to the ground.

The Outlaw Who Couldn't Ride a Horse

So, it was back to robbing stagecoaches again for Fellows. He heard one day that a Wells Fargo's chief detective was going to be riding the next coach into town, and that meant that there was likely a whole lot of money or valuables on board. And he was definitely right about that money part. There was $240,000 in cash on that coach. But there was this one little (big, actually) problem. The horse that he had stolen threw him off and the fall knocked him unconscious for a few hours, and as you have already guessed, he missed the stagecoach.

Apparently having more guts than brains, fellows stole another horse and managed to stay on it long enough to actually rob another stagecoach and grab the strong box from it. But since he had forgotten to bring along any tools to pry it open, he decided to load it on the back of the horse. While he was struggling to put that very heavy box on the horse, the horse bolted and ran away. And with the darkness of night falling, Fellows managed to lose his way and his footing, and stumble over a cliff, which knocked him out cold for the second time.

But worse yet, when he woke up, he found that his left leg was broken and that the heavy strong box had also crushed his left foot. He somehow managed to limp and crawl in what must have been severe pain, all the way to a construction camp where he made himself a pair of crutches and stole the axe that he later used to finally break open the strong box. His take in cash was about $1,800. Not a bad haul back in those days, but nowhere near the $240,000 that he missed out on when the other horse dumped him. But he never even got to enjoy his booty this time because the Wells Fargo detectives caught up with him, and he ended up in San Quentin prison until he was pardoned in 1881.

Fellows later tried working as a Spanish language instructor, and even worked for a newspaper for a while. But the pay from those occupations was not enough to satisfy him, and were probably just too boring. So, (you guessed it) he went back to robbing stagecoaches. And once again it cost him his freedom as he was identified as the robber and was sentenced to a life term in Folsom prison. But while in prison, Fellows became a model prisoner, and spent many hours teaching a course on (wait for it)...... Moral Philosophy. Finally in 1908, Fellows was pardoned at the age of 62. After that, he seemed to just fade into the sunset and out of view of the historians.

But even with all his sometimes humorous shortcomings and character flaws, the outlaw Dick Fellows deserves a lot of credit at least for his wholehearted persistence and determination to become a stagecoach robber.

Author, Gary Miller


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