Saturday, March 23, 2013

popes, rodents and black cowboys

In the news, what caught my inattentive eye was ...

-- In Castel Gandolfo, Italy, the current Roman Catholic pope, Francis, had lunch with his predecessor, Benedict. The meeting prompted all sorts of interpretations, suppositions, and machinations in the mind. What dangers lurked? What confusions growled? What implications could be gleaned? When anyone's old pope gets together with anyone's new one, sparks are bound to fly... but in the end, it's just a couple of old guys getting together.

-- From Ohio's point of view, Pennsylvania's Punxsutawney Phil is in deep shit. Prosecutors allege, with good reason and a healthy dose of humor, that the beloved, prognosticating rodent deliberately misled believers with his prediction that 2013 would see an "early spring."
"Punxsutawney Phil did purposely, and with prior calculation and design, cause the people to believe that spring would come early," wrote Mike Gmoser, Butler County prosecutor, in an official-looking paper.
Ohio suggests the death penalty is warranted. Pennsylvania will fight extradition.

Bass Reeves, one of the first
African-American lawmen
-- Not to say there wasn't racism, but black cowboys in America -- a group seldom if ever acknowledged in the lore of the Wild West -- benefited from what historian Mike Searles refers to as "range equality."
"As a cowboy you had to have a degree of independence," he says. "You could not have an overseer, they had to go on horseback and they may be gone for days."
But ...
Not only did Hollywood ignore black cowboys, it plundered their real stories as material for some of its films.
The Lone Ranger, for example, is believed to have been inspired by Bass Reeves, a black lawman who used disguises, had a Native American sidekick and went through his whole career without being shot.
Interesting to think how many ways bigotry and bias and beard-stroking wisdom can be thrown into a cocked hat when in-your-face-circumstances are brought to bear.

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