Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Well, he had ME fooled!

I'm not sure if I should be embarrassed or not. Sure, Roy had the bad guys and the miners fooled. But did he fool most readers the way he fooled me?

 Roy Rogers and Trigger #117 (September 1957) has Roy and his horse riding into the mining town of Roaring Fork, where there's no law and everyone seems to be punching out or shooting at everyone else.

The trouble is a proliferation of claim jumpers--but most particularly two guys who are trying to jump claims in one particular area. This is despite the fact that only an insignificant amount of gold is being found on those claims.

Roy befriends an old prospector and helps drive off the claim jumpers. But he wonders what their motivation is. If the claims aren't worth that much, why work so hard to get them?

Perhaps the answer lies in the apparently worthless blue clay that runs through the claims. Roy and his friend take this to the assay office in Roaring Fork, but the assayer tells them it's worthless.

Roy has doubts, though. When the assayer is out of the office, he enters and tries to remember enough chemistry to run some tests himself. The assayer returns and catches him.

But not before Roy announces he's found the reason for the claim jumping. He escapes from the assayer, then manages to round him up along with the claim jumpers, forcing them to confess that the blue clay contains rich silver deposits.

It's a perfectly good story, written with his usual skill by Gaylord Dubois. But the twist at the end is where it turns out I was fooled as completely as were the bad guys.. Because Roy actually could not remember enough chemistry to properly test the clay. He simply pretended he did to fool the bad guys into confessing.

I fell into the same trap that Dubois would have led his young readers into when this was first published 58 years ago. Roy is the hero--we would naturally think that he can do pretty much anything. So why couldn't he do complex chemistry despite the fact that he's a cowboy and not a chemist?

After all, Roy would have been a mentor/father figure to many of his young fans during the 1950s. From a kid's perspective, dads, cool teachers and older brothers can do anything, can't they?

But I'm a grown-up. I should have seen this darn plot twist coming. But I didn't. I simply accepted the idea of Roy Rogers, Master Chemist without question. If I'd been a bad guy, Roy would have nailed me as well.

Gee whiz, I should be embarrassed, shouldn't I?

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