In the 1950’s, TV was fast becoming a babysitter for working moms, or even moms who wanted a break. Red Ryder and Little Beaver, his Indian Boy sidekick and sneaky informer, were a personal favorite, taken from the comic book about this auburn-haired cowboy. At one point I made it up that Little Beaver lived over my bedroom with his thirteen friends, and I required anyone entering my room to walk around the imaginary staircase. People laughed, and I know that they also talked among themselves of my wish for siblings (other than my half-sister and -brother, who were 19 and 16 years older). A part of me really believed that there were fourteen little guys up there above my bedroom. I could see them in my mind, at least. Little Beaver went shirtless and wore a cloth headband with a feather sticking out of it. Some cartoonist’s creation, but for me, he was the epitome of cross-cultural romance. A wild boy who stuck by the hero cowboy and often facilitated solutions, he was independent even though he was young, and was making things happen. Smart, cute, and darkish… though of course on TV this was all in black and white.
And there was – be still, my beating heart – the Cisco Kid. Cisco and Pancho, Cisco handsome and Hispanic, Pancho paunchy and meant to be the stereotype of a friendly Mexican. As I see it now, Cisco was the brains in his white hat, fancy black embroidered shirts and pencil-thin moustache, and Pancho was the chubby cheerful brawn in unkempt clothes and a sombrero. Cisco always initiated the plan, Pancho often screwed it up but somehow retrieved the scheme in the end. I wonder if the guy who played Pancho got tired of being the second? Probably just glad to be working in Hollywood in that decade. It’s clear that both these shows with their cowboys, Indians and Mexicans, were allowing me to live some wild and foreign dream of handsome dark heroes, escaping my own brace-wearing, need-to-rest-in-the-afternoon reality. “Oh, Cisco!” “Oh, Pancho!” they’d say at the end, and ride off into the chaparral.
I wanted to be some kind of kid with a capital K, but really, I knew I was known as The Crippled Girl or The Crippled Kid.