Sunday, March 3, 2013

Cowboys and Indians

Given the distractions offered kids on long car trips these days in the form of phones and tablets (*editors not: updated for 2020 from "flip down tvs, dvd players and handheld game systems" in original 2013 post), it's hard to imagine how they would have tolerated the cross-country drives my siblings and I took during the 1960's and 70's.  Back then, the trip was part of the experience and it wasn't the interstate race to your destination that it's become today.

In fact, one of my favorite aspects of a classic roadtrip was the stop at various tourist trap gift shops where one could pick up a rubber tomahawk, faux leather-covered tom-toms or a dyed chicken feather headdress.  These were common items you could find in any gift shops in the far western states such as Tennessee or North Carolina (sarcasm implied; I live in Missouri).  While all 50 states can certainly lay claim to occupation by Native Americans, one normally associates such accoutrements with the plains states tribes.  I grew up watching cowboy and indian movies and televison shows and had more than a little fear of meeting an actual "indian", although I knew some were friendly like Tonto.  I have a vivid memory of being in Cherokee, North Carolina and spying a  Native American sporting what in my memory looked more like a Hollywood interpretation of native dress than traditional Cherokee.  I imagine he was offering  to have your picture taken with him for a donation, but I thought he might attack at any moment.  Noticing my apprehension, he looked down at me and smiled and I gathered the courage to ask, "Are you a good indian or a bad indian?"  He laughed and assured me he was good.

Sorry for the rambling story, but this really does lead to nice little find I acquired at an estate sale a couple weekends back.  I recall seeing figures like these at tourist gift shops on these trips.  I never bought any though, always opting for the more action-oriented items mentioned above.

They are stamped Hong Kong, but the only makers mark I could find is on the cowboy's horse's leg which is marked with an S and W inside what might be a crown and the number "2152".  Each stands nearly 8 inches tall.  They remind me a little of the Hartland figures I found a couple years back.

I stopped in at the Mule Trading Post in Rolla, Missouri last summer to pick up a Route 66 coffee mug as a replacement for one I had broken.  I noted they were still selling rubber tomahawks and chicken feather headresses.  I wish I could have shown my kids, but they were in the van watching TV.


  1. does that indian have blue eyes? that would be a feat. i remember loving this stuff as a kid (and especially the red/yellow/green sets you'd get in bags, typically at the grocery store), but now it all makes me cringe. the broad-brush cultural insensitivity is just too glaring for me now.

    1. >does that indian have blue eyes?

      Have you not heard of The Mandans? ;)

      >i remember loving this stuff as a kid (and >especially the red/yellow/green sets you'd get >in bags, typically at the grocery store)

      Funny you should mention that. There's a reason this is titled "Cowboys and Indians Part 1". Stay tuned.


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