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Hi-Yo: The Lone Ranger's great horse, Silver
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January 1932, early during the Great Depression - The first radio broadcast of the Lone Ranger out of WXYZ Detroit was an instant success. January 1932 until June 1955, with more than 3,000 episodes, it was the longest running western in the history of radio.

Inevitably, the radio series would be replaced by television. Starring Clayton Moore, the series ran from 1949 to 1957. In 1961, CBS made an attempt to revive the series. The "Return of the Lone Ranger" did not get past the pilot stage.

Readers of this column may recall the Dell Comic Books series of the Lone Ranger that began in 1948 and lasted for 145 total issues. I used to buy my Lone Ranger comic books, many of which I still have, at Woolworth's "five and dime" store on the present site of the Monroe Library. It seems that the corner of 16th Avenue and 10th Street is destined to be a location of good reading.

It was through the series of 18 novels written by Fran Striker that I came to know the Lone Ranger in some depth. The first of these was published in 1936, and the final in 1956, "The Lone Ranger on Red Butte Trail." I checked my collection and find that I have 14 of them.

The first novel, simply entitled, "The Lone Ranger," published in 1936 (Grosset and Dunlap), tells in detail how the Lone Ranger acquired his great horse, Silver. A 1938 radio episode, before my listening days, has the Lone Ranger riding a chestnut mare named Dusty. I prefer the detailed narrative in the book that has the Lone Ranger riding a gray gelding he simply calls "Pony-Hoss."

Tonto is off on an unspecified mission. The Lone Ranger is tracking three outlaws who have just raided the Bar Seven Ranch, stealing fresh horses. In the gathering darkness, the Lone Ranger is ambushed, the bullet going through his Stetson, just parting his hair. Pony-Hoss has been trained to go down on command, and the Lone Ranger rolls off his horse and plays dead. The outlaws leave him for dead.

It is a year of drought, and his gray horse is spent. The Lone Ranger walks his horse toward a hidden spring in a blind canyon, the only year-round watering hole within 20 square miles. He recalls a valley spreading out from there where there was once wild horses, until hunters caught a lot of them and the rest of them cleared out.

He figures that the outlaws are heading for that hidden spring. Suddenly, the gray raises his head and his ears pitch forward. The Lone Ranger drops down with his ear to the ground. Stampede. A buffalo herd is coming this way. The Lone Ranger mounts, and the gray puts all his depleted strength into a last desperate dash for safety of the high buttes.

At this point, author Fran Striker takes us back several years to Wild Horse Canyon and the birth of a silvery colt. As the colt matures, he becomes king of the wild horses. The canyon with its dependable water hole is a natural trap for horse hunters.

During one occasion his band is trapped by hunters. Through a daring move, the stallion leads his band of horses over a wide dangerous gulch to safety. On their new grounds, the pastures are not as lush as in Wild Horse Canyon, but the herd is safe from the hunters. This is tolerable until the year of the drought.

Wild Horse Canyon is risky because of human hunters. But there is water there. So the stallion leads his herd back to the canyon. As they approach the canyon, that stampeding herd of buffalo is heading toward the canyon entrance, threatening his herd. To save his herd, the great white stallion turns the stampeding buffalo away from the canyon entrance. But he is severely injured in the process. A huge buffalo bull attacks the weakened stallion, who faces certain death.

A bullet from the rifle of the Lone Ranger, who has just narrowly evaded the stampede, downs the buffalo bull, saving the white stallion's life. The Lone Ranger attends the wounds of the weakened, thirsty stallion, and gives him water. The weakened stallion rises shakily and breaks away in a stumbling trot.

The Lone Ranger resumes the trail toward the hidden spring. Sure enough, the three outlaws are returning from the spring. The Lone Ranger surprises them, "Put 'em up, boys. All three of you." In a brief exchange of gunfire in the darkness, Pony-Hoss is killed. The outlaws flee, one of them with a wounded arm. Now afoot, the Lone Ranger carries his saddle up to a shelf above the water hole in Wild Horse Canyon.

After quenching his thirst, and using his saddle as a pillow, he gets some much-needed sleep. As artistic license would have it, dawn brings the stallion and his horses to the water hole, just below the perch of the Lone Ranger.

The Lone Ranger drops his lariat over the weakened stallion, and there begins a lengthy process of man and horse becoming partners. The Lone Ranger discovers the silver stallion to be the fastest horse ever.

As the Lone Ranger later rejoins Tonto, Tonto asks, "Where gray horse? "

The Lone Ranger replies, "We had a little run-in with some wild boys back in Wild Horse Valley, and the gray didn't have any luck." The Lone Ranger sighs, "That gray and I followed the same trails for eight years."

Tonto is amazed, "How you ketch that Silver so quick?"

And that's how it came to be, the fiery horse with the speed of light, a cloud of dust, and a hearty Hi-Yo Silver, awaaaay.

Next week: How the Lone Ranger connected with his long lost nephew, Dan Reid.

- John Waelti's column appears every Friday in the Times. He can be reached at