There comes a time at the end of the trail when every cowboy must ride off into the sunset.
I’m afraid I’ve hit that point with the Lone Ranger Fan Club. For the last eight years I’ve been riding the range with my faithful companion, Tonto (a.k.a. Sandy), bringing back the thrilling days of yesteryear to fans young and old. I’m afraid I’ve reached a season in life where it’s time to take off the mask, send Silver out to pasture (I’m keeping Tonto!) and let someone else chase down the bad guys for a while.
Actually, I never came across any bad guys. Lone Ranger fans are some of the most enjoyable, fun-loving people I’ve ever known. It’s been a real thrill to get to know so many of them, even if it’s only been by correspondence. I will always treasure my time in the saddle. To understand why I’m giving it up, you must first know what got me into it.
Back several years ago I got the notion into my head that I wanted to write a novel. At first I wanted to do a Star Trek novel, but that field was crowded and the storyline I had in mind played out one evening on my television set. Realizing that I was not going to be sending the Enterprise and her gallant crew on any missions against the Klingons, I took stock of other heroes that were still beloved but not necessarily in the mainstream. That led me to one of my childhood favorites, the Lone Ranger.
As much as I liked the character, I didn’t know much about him. At least it wasn’t fresh in my mind. I began doing research, looking for any information I could. I found an address for Clayton Moore and wrote him a letter requesting a phone interview. I also included a photo for him to sign. He signed and returned the photo, but I missed his call. A few months later he was gone.
As my research continued, I found a contact for John Hart, the actor who took over the role for a season. I did a phone interview with him and wrote a feature story for the newspaper I was working for at the time. Not long after that, I came across a website for a Lone Ranger newsletter called “The Silver Bullet.” I was sure that would be a treasure trove of information, so I subscribed.
I was right. It was loaded with all kinds of information about the masked man. A few issues into my subscription, the writer/publisher, a guy from Washington State named Terry Klepey, wrote that he was losing interest since Moore’s death and was ready to let someone else take the reigns. As a professional journalist and now a Lone Ranger enthusiast, I felt it was something I could do very easily. I talked it over with my wife and gave Terry a call.
A short time later I was running the newsletter. It’s a quarterly publication and was printed on a copier and stapled together in the top left-hand corner. I did it that way for a while, but felt it deserved more, so I upgraded it to a booklet. At the same time, I began to hear from some of the old-timers who lamented that there wasn’t a club they could belong to like they did when they were kids. That got me to thinking, why not?
So in 2003 the Lone Ranger Fan Club was formed and The Silver Bullet became its official publication. I contacted the trademark owners of the character and got their seal of approval for what I was doing. They were thrilled to have free publicity for their character. At the time there were plans announced for a major motion picture to be made, a television pilot was being filmed and several other major projects were in the works. My timing couldn’t have been better.
I got a website up (www.lonerangerfanclub.com) and the club began to grow. So did my family. I now had four kids and became the Cubmaster of a Pack we started at church. On top of that, we started a home-based business printing T-shirts, mugs and things. Then, my world fell apart. The movie was dropped. The television pilot became a movie of the week and it bombed big time.
I left my job at the newspaper to focus on my business at home, but it tanked. In the span of a few months I fell off my lofty perch atop my world and hit rock bottom with a thud. We moved to Amarillo to seek a new start in life. Through all the chaos, the fan club continued to thrive. But with an active church life and another son going into Scouts, it became a struggle to meet the publication schedule.
In 2008 we held a convention in honor of the 75th anniversary of The Lone Ranger. It was a mild success. We barely broke even, but had a ball in the process. I got to meet a lot of people I only knew via e-mail and phone calls.
About that time I took a job that was an hour away from home. The commute really took its toll on me and further hindered my ability to do the newsletter. Yet the fan club continued to grow. Disney announced that super-producer Jerry Bruckheimer was going to make a Lone Ranger movie and membership began to skyrocket.
Then came the move to the Houston area. We moved into Sandy’s grandfather’s house in Rosenberg and I accepted this job in Waller County. Almost two years later and my family is pretty entrenched in Rosenberg. We now have three boys in Scouts and a hyperactive church life. My commute is still about an hour and it’s wearing me and my car out. The demands on my time here at the paper and at home with my family have me burning my candle at both ends and melting in the middle. Something has to give.
Now, as we are just months away from the movie being filmed, it is time to let go. I’ve put the fan club up for sale. Someone else can bask in the bright lights of Hollywood. I’ve carried this ball to the goal line. Someone else can score the touchdown. I have a family that needs me. I need my sanity back. My boys need a Scout leader and a dad who will play catch, ride bikes and go fishing.
While giving up the fan club won’t shorten my commute, it will take off a lot of my stress at home. There is still a big part of me that wants to keep going with it and maybe I’ll find a way to keep my hand in it. But I have to accept the fact that I am first a family man and that’s the role I need to play. No mask required. It’s time for me to ride off into the sunset before the sun sets on me. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll find time to write my book.
If you’re interested in doing this gig, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Hi-Yo Silver, Awaayyyy!