The Big Valley, starring Barbara Stanwyck and a young Lee Majors and Linda Evans, captivated me as a child. How I loved that show. It was on in reruns most afternoons(had to check the TV guide to know which days) and on random Saturdays as well.
The Big Valley was a western with a strong female as the head of house, or lead character, which wasn’t seen a lot in the ’60’s. And to have Lee Majors introduced in the first episode as the…gasp…illegitimate son…of Stanwyck’s dead husband, well, my boots were a-shaking at that.
So Imagine how I felt when I spotted this spine-out on one of the few bookshelves in my favorite thrifty store—
I know, right?
Happy dance down the aisle, a screech of joy perhaps? Or maybe…a bit of panic that a book based on a TV show could possibly ruin some childhood memories so a shaky hand slipped that volume back when it came from. I wanted to keep my happy memories intact. Wouldn’t you?
I found out that Gene, one of the Barkley brothers who appears for a few episodes and the leaves for “medical school back east”, was actually drafted and that is why he left the show. The show aired during the mid to late ’60’s, prime Vietnam war time. Young me didn’t even realize he was gone. However…
I already knew that my favorite, heart throb of my tender years Peter Breck who played Nick, the dark-haired son who was always getting into fights, had passed away a few years back. Not only that, but he had dementia. That saddened me somehow, because in my mind he was, and will be, forever young and wild and unmarried and handsome up on his dark brown horse named Coco.
That said, this is not a sad reflection, but a happy one filled with good and precious memories. Here are a few…
I would watch this show in my basement, which had a vintage maroon chair, a bar, and a fireplace just like my friends in the tv. We also had an old rocking horse but I didn’t take it that far.
Sometimes there would be a fire crackling in the fireplace, and a pepsi in a glass by my side, with me pretending it was sarsaparilla because, you know, that’s what the children all drank in the saloons of Stockton.
Once in a while, usually for the Saturday shows, I’d be allowed to eat down in the basement at the bar, sitting high and swinging my feet as I chewed on my sandwich. I’d try to plan it for eating while the Barkleys were either at a barbecue or picnicking, because it felt more real to young me than when they all sat in their cowboy gear at the white tableclothed table with crystal and fancy coffee cups in china saucers.
Isn’t that the best though? Inserting your child self into a show or a book that you love so much? Haven’t you done it, or at least thought of doing it?
I know I could never have watched The Big Valley upstairs in my house. Not that it wasn’t allowed, of course it was, but because it felt wrong. Child me needed the pine paneling in the basement and the big squares of dark tile on the floors and even the support column, that I could swing around if i felt like it. And don’t forget the fireplace. It was essential. And the old pine shelving around the fireplace? it helped with the whole western feel as well.
Comment away with how a tv series captivated young child you…let the memories roll…
Now, you’re wondering what happened with The Big Valley book, aren’t you?
A month later, I returned to that store, went right over to those bookshelves, and found that book. it how sits happily atop my writing desk.
You know, for memories’ sake.