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Ring and the Cowboys

Story ID:6963
Written by:Charles Dishno (bio, contact, other stories)
Story type:Story
Location:Dillon Montana USA
Year:2011
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Another story from my early days and my dog Ring.


Ring and the Cowboys
Chuck Dishno
2010

In 1939 or 40, entertainment in my hometown, Bly, Oregon was limited. Bly did have a two-lane bowling alley, and at one time had a roller skating rink but that was about it for most of the people. The hard working loggers and mill workers of course had the pool hall and about 5 or 6 beer joints. These “sin” places were always hopping but off limits to us kids.

Our salvation came on Friday and Saturday evenings when a man named Art Fiddler, came from Klamath Falls with a portable movie projector. When Art first started showing movies in Bly he had only one 35mm projector. The problem with this was that most of the movies were 90 minutes in length and came on 18 to 20 minute reels. This meant that every 20 minutes the projectionist would have to shut down and change reels. Of course, Art was ready in the lobby with hot popcorn and bottled pop.

After a good couple of years, Art bought another projector which greatly speeded up the show but cut into the popcorn concession. I don’t think he was too worried tough since he could run two shows a night and a matinee on Saturday.

Bly was an early day frontier town and the theater where Art put on the shows was originally an old saloon, called “The Bucket of Blood”. It might even have been a dance hall or civic building since it had a stage and auditorium. I have no idea who owned it but I’m sure the rent was reasonable. I also remember the building being used for other functions such as plays, talent shows and minstrel shows. In fact, I won first place in a talent contest there, but that’s another story.

The theater had a few folding chairs but mostly the front rows were wooden benches. Art had a fondness for Cowboy and Indian movies so there was always one on the agenda.

Bly wasn’t the greatest place to show Cowboy and Indian movies since it was located just a few miles from the Klamath Indian Reservation and the Indian town of Beatty. This caused some excitement at times with the kids rooting for the Cowboys and the Indian kids rooting for the Indians. To my knowledge though no fights broke out and I never heard of a scalping.

My house was directly across the street from the theater and my Mom would put Art up on occasion. This was great as it gave me many free passes to see the movies.

On Saturday afternoons Art would usually run a couple of Cowboy movies, most likely starring Gene Autry or Roy Rogers. I think the admission was 11 cents and kids would spend all week collecting beer bottles to be sold for a penny each. We all had our sources and on Saturday morning you would see kids lining up at one of the beer joints to sell their haul. That was the only time we were allowed in those places.

The afternoon matinee started about 1:30 pm and Art would always include a couple of cartoons to set the mood for the afternoon.

Bly and Beatty had about a hundred kids at that time so it was important to get there early to get your favorite seat. The closer to the screen the better. My favorite spot was on the front bench directly in front of the screen. I had the advantage and as soon as I would see a few kids heading toward the theater I would run across the street and get my seat. My dog, Ring would usually be right on my tail, hopping along on his three good legs.

Art liked Ring but drew the line at letting him into the theater. He would scold him and send him home. This didn’t stop Ring though and as soon as the lights went down, I would open the side door and let him in. Ring would hop up on the bench with me or sometimes lay under it at my feet. All would be OK during the cartoons and previews but as soon as the main feature started Ring would sit up and watch the screen. He seemed really interested in the show and as soon as the horses started galloping across the screen and the shooting began, Ring couldn’t contain himself. He would start get really excited and start barking. This always brought Art on a dead run from the lobby and I would have to take Ring back home. I would miss a few minutes of the movie but it was necessary if I were to get any more free passes.

Mom would lock Ring up on the back porch but it didn’t take him long to figure out how to escape.

I wouldn’t be back at my seat more than 15 minutes before one of my buddies would say they heard Ring scratching at the side door. I tried to ignore him but invariably someone would open the door a crack and Ring would slip in and take his seat beside me once again.

As much as I tried to keep him quiet, he just couldn’t contain himself and would soon be barking at all the action that was up on the screen, much to the delight of all my friends. I think they coaxed him into some of the barking and they would howl with delight. Of course this brought Art back on a dead run and I would have to take Ring back home again. This would happen several times during the afternoon much to the delight of all, with the exception of Art Fiddler.

Art continued to bring his projectors each weekend until after the end of WWII. I think he was getting tired of the long drive and when he decided to quit the movie business, a close friend of my brother, Bud, decided to build a nice theater.

It took over a year to build and he named it Arch Memorial Theater. The first movie in 1948 was “The Yearling” staring Gregory Peck, Jane Wyman and Claude Jarmine.

My old dog Ring had died in 1947 at 13 years of age so he never got to go to the new theater. I’m sure he would have loved “The Yearling” and would have barked his head off at that deer and all the action.

I am sure dogs go to Heaven and someday I will meet up with him and maybe we can take in a good old-fashioned Cowboy and Indian movie.

I will be sitting in the front row and Ring will be right beside me ready to goad on the action. Hopefully, Ring, will have all four of his paws and a set of little “doggie wings”.

I don’t think God will mind if Ring lets out an occasional bark or two.