And, as has been the case throughout dramatic television history, the good guys, in this case the brightly dressed Rangers, were currently on the short end of things. It's awfully hard for a 4 year-old to grasp the theatrical concept of ''The good guys always win.'' This little guy, like millions of others before him and the millions who'll follow, never seems to connect the fact that the ultimate evil standing over the seemingly down and out hero just 12 minutes into the half hour, will be vanquished just before the final credits roll on the living room screen.
Thinking back on it, I, like just about everybody else since the advent of the television in this society, learned a lot of what I know of life from that little box of electrical circuits, wires, plastic and tin. And perhaps the greatest lesson, and the one the great Gods of TV had in mind all along, was my sense of good and evil. But, much like the confusion of my grandson, Jake, it probably took me a while to add it all up. In fact, I can't quite remember just when it occurred to me that good had a much better winning percentage than evil.
Looking back on my recollections of The Lone Ranger, easily the super hero of choice in my youth, evil was never the conqueror of good. The Ranger, often cloaked in one of those disguises that fools only those on the immediate set, was going to overcome the bank robbers/cattle rustlers/land grabbers and do so without ever having to kill anybody. It's amazing that I can never remember a single instance where the man in the black mask, who left silver bullets as calling cards, ever shot and killed a single lawbreaker.
Unfortunately, that seems to be a lesson too many in my generation never quite picked up on. However, I'm sure it took me a few episodes to figure all that out. And, come to think of it, that's probably another wise calculation on the part of all those writers, actors, sponsors and broadcasters who put on those programs. I mean, how many of us would have watched past the second or third episode if we'd have known that nothing was ever going to happen to the masked man or his Indian companion? But that's not true either. Even after we grew a little older we continued to tune in each week to watch a cloud of dust and listen for that ''hardy Hi' O Silver.''
We seldom missed an opportunity to see Boston Blackie corner the bad guy, Hopalong Cassidy coral the rustlers and Superman carry an unsuspecting and I always thought a somewhat near sighted Lois Lane to safety. Was it just me or did anybody else ever wonder why it was that nobody on the Daily Planet -- the publication employing Clark Kent, a.k.a. Superman -- seemed struck by the fact that the Man of Steel was simply Kent without the glasses? Makes you wonder about the powers of observation on that newspaper staff, now don't it?
Oh for the days of the Ranger, Tonto, Lash LaRue, Red Rider, Hoppy, Roy and Gene. They all gave way to the likes of Wyatt Earp, Matt Dillon and Paladin, the so-called adult westerns, where the only demarcation line between good, evil, life and death was who was fastest with the flash of a hand. Justice was too often dispensed in ounce doses of lead and powder.
Well, I wasn't about to let my grandson have to wait to the final reel to figure all this out. So, I told him, in one of those grown-up authoritative voices grandparents only seem to take on very rarely, that he needn't worry. In short order his colorfully garbed heroes would be sending their nuclear-powered enemies back to wherever those nightmares seem to come from.
Allow me one observation about the heroes of my grandson's generation. They seem a lot more politically correct than my day. Captain Planet's obvious concerns for the environment are a far cry from the cigarettes that used to hand out of the mouths of a lot of characters in my day. However, I'd like to talk to somebody about all this ''mutant'' crap. Seems to me just another way of packaging ''Injuns,'' ''gooks,'' ''gangsters'' and the ''commies'' of my time.
Oh well, a mere 15 to 18 minutes later Grampa Rich was riding high in one little boy's estimation, as Jakey looked at me again, shear amazement in those same eyes that had seen only doom a short time before, and said; ''You were right Grampa!''
But I have that sinking feeling in my gut that this euphoria of a grandfather standing tall in the eyes of a little boy can only last a few years more. Somebody's going to have to explain the part about this good triumphing over evil only seems to work with any regularity on television. I'd just as soon not be around to tell that story.