September 15th, 2011
‘I’m Mano!’ said David jumping up.
Victoria’s prized handbag, along with a designated ‘Big John’s belt’
‘I’m Victoria!’ shouted the aptly named Crystal rushing for her beaded ‘Victoria’ drawstring bag.
‘Aww, I wanted to be Mano,’ grumbled, six year old Kenny, ‘Could Manolito have a twin brother?’
‘If he did then he would need a different name and he wouldn’t be Mano,’ argued David, the first to claim exclusive right to the name.
‘But I want to be Mano! Mommy that’s not fair!’
I recently visited my friend Jacinta and was met by this volley of HC names. It seems that her three children are big fans of the show. Well maybe ‘big’ doesn’t cover it. By the look of all the dress up bits and pieces they had, enormous might be a better word.
Poor Jacinta looked haggard.
‘I go through this all the time!’ she said wearily. ‘Thank goodness I only have one daughter or there would be fights about being Victoria as well.’
The children have designated certain toys ‘High Chaparral’ items. This is the Cannon’s Prize Bull – He had to be photographed separately due to the fact that he can become bad tempered without warning
‘Why not take turns?’ I suggested to the boys. ‘Don’t you like the other men in the show?’
They nodded in unison.
‘Sure,’ said Kenny. ‘But today we want to be Mano.’
Jacinta rolled her eyes. ‘If you come tomorrow it will be a fight over who gets to be Sam, or Joe or Blue, or Wind or even El Lobo.’ She groaned. ‘El Lobo days are deadly. There’s always trouble. Today it’s Mano.’
‘So they’re both going to be Mano?’ I asked.
Jacinta shook her head. ‘That would be too easy. The first one to say who he is going to be sets the tone. Then the other decides he can’t possibly make it through the day unless HE is the one his brother wants to be. It’s usually determined by the previous night’s viewing.’
Thanks to being able to record HC, Jacinta waits until her husband comes home from work and every evening they watch it as a family. It all started as a way to get everyone together for one hour after it was discovered that the children, aged six, seven and eight, also loved the show. Given the mature content of the series, it is surprising but there you have it.
‘Seemed a good idea at the time,’ sighed Jacinta, pouring the tea. ‘But then…’
She smiled to herself and nodded. ‘Yes. It was.’
The most coveted pieces of the children’s High Chaparral prop collection. Crystal forbade the inclusion of Kenny’s Darth Vader figurine.
I soon learned why. Jacinta told me about the many times her children’s behavior was influenced by their favorite characters. Crystal refused to use bad language among her friends because Victoria would never do it. The boys were usually helpful because the people at the Cannon ranch helped their friends and neighbors. Best of all, when Kenny was reluctant to do his reading homework after the first few struggles with it, he pretended to be Big John, as he faced each new challenge.
This got me thinking. As fans, we all want to keep this show alive by our involvement in the newsletter, forums and attending reunions in Tucson. But have we given much thought to the impact it might be having on young children seeing it in this world of violent, mindless and often offensive television viewing? I was learning about its impact on one family.
It seemed that Crystal refused to watch a certain rude but popular cartoon because, ‘Victoria would consider it vulgar.’ When asked where she learned the word vulgar, Crystal informed her father that she had heard Victoria use it and asked her teacher what it meant. Crystal’s teacher said she’s got the best vocabulary in the class. The child takes note of any new word she hears on the show, learns its meaning then tries to incorporate it in her day to day speech. This little lady keeps her room tidy (usually!), because Victoria is always tidying up the Chaparral. The boys willingly help their dad with the ‘men’s work’ because the men at the Chaparral work together.
Once, when David left the back door open and their new kitten escaped, he tried passing the blame on others then stopped mid way and accepted his responsibility. Why? Because the day before they’d seen the episode called, ‘To Stand for Something More’ where Blue is left in charge of the ranch for the first time and, among other mistakes he makes, loses John’s prized stallion. Like Blue, David redeemed himself by recovering the kitten. She hadn’t gone far and was found safe.
Last year (after discovering the show) the children asked for their own little HC Christmas tree. These are their idea of what the decorations would be like
There was no question, High Chaparral was influencing a new generation in ways we wouldn’t imagine. Of course, they didn’t always behave like model children. As she suggested, Jacinta dreaded the days when they felt like being El Lobo! On one El Lobo day, they worked out a scheme to steal Victoria’s ‘jewels’ – a bag of jellybeans she had won at school. They were half way through digesting the precious objects when their sister appeared, catching them red handed.
Jacinta laughed, ‘She reminded them that Victoria isn’t afraid to fight for her property and boy, I don’t know it that was real Spanish she was using but it sent El Lobo and his bandit brother running!’
I could just imagine the delicate little girl chasing her brothers around in Spanish anger the way Victoria goes after her brother.
Meanwhile, the boys continued squabbling about who would be Mano. It was time to go and as she saw me to the car, my friend looked thoughtful.
‘Maybe I can get them to play Gunsmoke for a while,’ she said, ‘They watch the show every now and then and know who’s who.’ Jacinta smiled. ‘They love Festus and Crystal can be Miss Kitty.’ She turned to the boys. ‘If you can’t agree on who will be Mano then what about playing Gunsmoke for a change?’
Their faces lit up. ‘Okay. I get to be Matt!’ piped David.
‘I get to be Big John!’ said Kenny, for the first time, coming up with a response that didn’t clash with his brother.
The china horses featured were only permitted for inclusion in the Newsletter. The children beg for them all the time but as they are antiques, they can only look wistfully upon them.
‘But Matt can’t go to High Chaparral,’ Little Miss Crystal informed them. ‘He’s from a different show.’
‘So?’ said Kenny.
‘Sure he can,’ said David.
Crystal shook her head and in a most Victoria like pose said, ‘I’m the oldest and I’m telling you he can’t leave the Chaparral. Matt has to stay in Dodge and the Cannons stay -’
‘But Dodge was around then. Matt can visit the Cannons!’ said David.
Kenny nodded. ‘I’m usually too busy for visitors,’ he said, in his best Big John voice. ‘But you can come into my show if you like.’
‘Why can’t you come to mine?’ David wanted to know.
‘It can’t be done,’ said Crystal. ‘You have to pick one show and stick with that.’
‘Why?’ the boys asked.
‘Because you have to. So there.’
‘Okay, then it’s High Chaparral,’ said David.
Kenny nodded his agreement. He spun around to face his brother. ‘I get to be Big John!’
‘But you wanted to be Mano,’ David reminded him. ‘I want to be Big John now!’
Jacinta turned a funny color and leaned against the car.
‘Remember,’ I whispered as I unlocked the door, ‘These characters are having a positive effect on your kids. Look at the big picture.’
She gave a resigned sigh and stepped aside as the children came at me like a noisy tumbleweed to wave their goodbye’s.
‘What about one of you being Don Sebastian?’ I suggested.
‘Not when I’m Mano,’ David informed me.
His brother shook his head in agreement.
‘Why not?’ I asked.
‘Because Mano and his father always argue. That wouldn’t be fun.’
‘So I get to be Mano then?’ asked Kenny hopefully.
‘No! I do. I called it first.’
‘Aww, Mom! Why does he always get to be -’
I took that as my cue to leave in the happy knowledge that the children wouldn’t dream of quarrelling like Mano and his father! The boys were still squabbling as I drove off, with Chrystal in her Victoria pose (I swear she must practice in front of a mirror).
As I waved Jacinta gave a hollow laugh and said, ‘This is why I drink, Wendy!’