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Being a sidekick is a lousy job
July 15, 2013
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by Ivan Raconteur

The Lone Ranger is once again riding his white horse across the silver screen.

I haven’t seen the latest iteration, but I saw the old television version starring Clayton Moore and Jay Silverheels plenty of times back in those thrilling days of yesteryear.

It was on the sappy side, as productions of that era tended to be, but it was good entertainment.

The thing that struck me the most about that show was the fact that being a sidekick is a rotten job.

I hear people complain about their jobs all the time, but old Tonto was a guy who had more to complain about than most of us.

He always got second billing, but if there was ever any dirty job or heavy lifting to be done, he was the guy they called.

If there was a grave to be dug, Tonto was the one who had to dig it, and digging graves is no easy task when one spends most of one’s time in hard-packed desert country. The ranger would just show up at the end and put the last couple of rocks on top, and then take all the credit.

Tonto called his boss “Kemosabe,” and said it meant “trusted scout.” A more cynical observer might note that old Kemosabe could be trusted to be somewhere else when there was work to be done.

Despite the way he was treated, Tonto was a loyal sidekick.

Whenever the ranger wanted information, he would send Tonto into town to snoop around. Tonto knew perfectly well he was going to get his hind end kicked, but he went anyway.

Despite the fact he took a beating every time he went on one of those missions, he never complained. He just got on his horse, Scout, and went.

That lazy goldbrick of a ranger stayed in camp and had a siesta while Tonto went to town and got knocked around by the bad guys.

I used to think Tonto just wasn’t that bright, and his name, which means “fool” or “dumb,” in Spanish, fit him when it came to falling for that “you go into town” routine.

However, in light of recent medical research, I don’t think it was his fault. That poor beggar got conked on the melon with the butt of someone’s gun about once every half hour. He could have been the poster boy for repetitive traumatic brain injury. He got knocked out so often he must not have known whether he was coming or going.

Tonto must have had a permanent concussion.

With each new episode, I kept waiting for Tonto to refuse to go into town. I wished he would tell that loafer of a Lone Ranger to go into town himself and take a beating to see how he liked it, but that never happened.

Tonto was just too nice.

Anyone who has ever worked for a boss who delegates all the difficult work, and then takes credit for all the successes, knows exactly what old Tonto was going through. Tonto was the real hero, but the guy hiding behind the mask got all the headlines.

Most people didn’t even seem to be able to remember Tonto’s name. They just called him “the Indian.” He was a guy who didn’t get any respect.

In the radio and television series, Tonto did not speak very good English. The way that role was written was uncomplimentary to native Americans.

Later versions gave Tonto a bit more dignity, although he continued to take a lot of beatings.

I will be interested to see how the latest version, starring Johnny Depp in the role of Tonto, handles that character.

Depp has a golden touch, and has generally been a treat to watch in the many diverse roles he has played, but the part of Tonto could be a challenge. The loyal sidekick has been receiving a raw deal throughout most of the franchise’s history.

The Lone Ranger television series was on the preachy side, and the ranger was always trying to teach people lessons.

Morality, honesty, and honor are all fine concepts, but perhaps the most important thing I learned from watching the show is I don’t ever want to be anyone’s sidekick.


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