Speaking of childhood memories…
My mom has a picture of me in the same “Have Gun Will Travel” shirt, along with a cap gun and a couple of other cowboy-related toys, taken in front of our Christmas tree in our own living room. But I don’t seem to have a copy of it.While I have no recollection of Have Gun Will Travel, the show I do remember, which was on the air those same years (both of them aired their final episode in April of ’63) was The Rifleman. I have a lot of very vivid memories of that show, even though I was only three when it went off the air. I don’t remember the plots of any episodes, but I have a lot of memories of the star, Chuck Connors, and the many times he appeared shirtless on the show.
While there is still some debate about how much genetics play in sexual orientation, the overwhelming evidence has shown for a long time that what arouses us emotionally and sexually is pretty much set in stone by the age of two.
Let me repeat that: by the age of two.
This seems weird and a little creepy, but it makes sense when you remember that we are fundamentally social creatures. We are definitely hard-wired to form various kinds of bonds with the people around us. When a little boy exhibits the signs of having a crush on a girl or woman in his life, we think it’s cute and adorable and a nature precursor to other feelings that will come along later in life. That’s all we’re talking about here, except the fact is that for some of us we developed crushes on males.And if the adults around us noticed, they freaked out and tried in various ways to redirect those impulses. That redirection is doomed to failure. The closest anyone gets to success at that is that some non-heterosexual kids become fairly good at faking it later in life (though most seem to be pretty bad at it, cf Aaron Schock or Marcus Bachmann).
I have wondered why I don’t recall this show that my parents and grandparents all say was my favorite, while I do have memories of the other show. It’s possible that the adults around me noticed that my enthusiasm for Chuck Connors wasn’t the same as the way I talked about the other show, and so they were discouraging my interest. I suspect that it is more likely that Have Gun… was also the favorite show of one of my grandparents or parents, so the shared enthusiasm made it a stand out. I have some vague recollections of Dad commenting disparagingly about Chuck Connors when one of his movies came up on TV a few years later, so maybe I only got to watch the Rifleman occasionally, and it was safer not to talk about it around Dad.
I don’t know when my parents first began worrying that I was queer. The Easy Bake Oven wasn’t the only toy that I got told I couldn’t have because it was a girl’s toy… But I should point out that when I finally did get the oven, I quickly converted it to a device for amateur chemistry experiments. And the toys I most remember loving to play with in those early years were my Tonka trucks—especially my bright yellow steam shovel. So I wasn’t that gender non-conforming.I have previously said that I think my first celebrity crush was Race Banon, a character from the cartoon series Jonny Quest. But I suspect that it was more likely Chuck Connors’ character in The Rifleman.