My Swiss cheese memory occasionally surprises me by turning up a useless little nugget of info amidst all those empty holes. A good example would be what happened today when I ran across an old song, “I’m an Old Cowhand (From the Rio Grande).” It was written by Johnny Mercer for a 1936 Bing Crosby movie titled Rhythm on the Range, and the lyrics comically describe a cowboy who is anything but a traditional cowhand — in fact, he ‘rides the range in a Ford V-8’.
You can see a scene from the movie in the video below, which not only features Bing Crosby and Martha Raye, but also the Western singing group, the Sons Of The Pioneers. If you watch closely, you’ll also get a quick glimpse of the group’s lead singer, Leonard Slye, who would later change his name and become world famous as Roy Rogers.
Unfortunately, the sound quality of the video isn’t very good, so you can also hear the song as performed by one of my favorite modern groups, Riders In The Sky. Be sure and listen to all the lyrics.
And about that Swiss cheese memory of mine; what jumped into my mind when I heard the song was a dim memory from my childhood of seeing a skit on a TV comedy show. I don’t remember the specific show, but everybody was dressed as cowboys and they also had a guy in a cow suit. As they sang the song, whenever they’d get to the line about being an ‘old cowhand’, they’d pause and the guy in the cow suit would sort of do a Jack Benny-ish thing with his hand — er, hoof.
Maybe it was even Jack Benny himself in the suit, although I doubt it. Whatever the case, it was hilarious and made me roll on the floor with laughter. But — as is always the case — it doesn’t sound nearly so funny in the telling. Guess you had to be there.