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I still was listening to LPs as a kid.  There wasn't a large selection for me to choose from (that interested me, anyway--I wasn't one much for Dionne Warwick or Roger Whittaker), so there were a select few we kept in constant rotation. Chief among these was the Psalty series, which followed the adventures of a "big... blue... singing... songbook!"  While an anthropomorphized hymnal might not seem like the most appealing--or marketable--of children's characters, Psalty and his retinue of spunky children sang a lot of catchy tunes and it was always fun to sing along.

I never knew until recently that there were videos to go with the audio of the Kids' Praise albums-- and it's a darn good thing, too.  Psalty appears as a man in gold facepaint with blue Bob Ross-like facial hair, and Charity Churchmouse has flesh-colored prosthetic Dumbo ears and a '50s-style circle skirt and looks like she just ducked out of a low-rent Furry Convention. 

The album featuring Charity had one profoundly scary moment for me, when she has a nightmare that the conman Risky Rat is trying to lure her into signing a "con-trap"--I mean "contract," and make her his "slave"--er, that is--his "star."  Without being able to see Risky Rat, I was able to conjure up an image of him that was truly terrifying: a kind of cross between Ratigan from The Great Mouse Detective and Warren T. Rat from An American Tail, with a little Jenner from The Secret of NIMH thrown in. 

Still, nothing would have been quite as scary as the way Risky Rat is depicted in the video Psalty's Salvation Celebration, in which the whiskers-twirling villain actually tries to prevent children from saving their immortal souls (!!!). 

Lesson learned:
Always take a talent agent's promises with a grain of Psalt.

Kid's Praise! 4: Singsational Servants.  Perf. Ernie Rettino.  Maranatha Music, 1984.
Watch Kids' Praise 4 on YouTube here (Risky Rat appears around 32:00).
Buy Psalty Kid's Praise! 4 Singsational Servants CD

"Pecos Bill"

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Where I live, it's been over 100°F lately, and as I walk across parking lots in oven-like conditions, seeing the horizon line itself writhe with the heat, I've found myself thinking of "Pecos Bill."

Then, once I started thinking about it, I found I couldn't stop.  I was trying to decide if all my memories of the cartoon could possibly be real, or if I'd embellished them in my nightmares.  Did it truly feature interspecies suckling, à la Romulus and Remus? Was there actually a scene where the hero rides a cyclone, rolls a cigarette on his tongue, and lights it with a lightning bolt?  Did he really take potshots at Indians donning warpaint until he'd created the Painted Desert?  And were Roy Rogers and Trigger somehow involved?

So I watched it again to find out.

The cartoon starts with Bill as a toddler heading west with his family, until the wagon hits a bump and baby Bill goes flying out and lands in the mud.  Since he's one of 16 children, nobody notices or cares.  (As a member of a large family myself--my name was often confused with a brother's, or another brother's, or a sister's, or, more often, the dog's--this was a particular childhood fear of mine realized.)

He's then raised by coyotes (a childhood dream of mine realized, though yanking a coyote pup off its mother's teat to feed was perhaps a bit too visceral for me).

One day, young Bill sees a young colt near death and being attacked by buzzards.  Bill jumps into the fray and pummels the birds so hard their feathers fly off.  In the aftermath, when Bill and the colt gaze at each other through matching blackened eyes, it is, as the narrator says, "the beginning of a bee-yoo-tiful friendship."  They seal the deal with an Eskimo kiss.

In fact, "Pecos Bill" is a love story in the same vein as Passion In The Desert.  Sure, later on Bill enters a more conventional romantic relationship with Slue-Foot Sue, but his partner for life is surely Widowmaker, his horse.  They laugh alike, they walk alike, at times they even talk alike-- well, yodel, anyway.  When Bill begins to woo Sue, we see Widowmaker looking on and weeping.  Then when Bill and Sue decide to get married, Sue wants two things: a bustle and a chance to ride Widowmaker.  In a jealous rage, Widowmaker bucks so hard that Sue's bustle bounces off his hide and sends her sailing off "like a Roman candle."  (The fact that a rootin'-tootin' catfish-ridin' cowgirl like Sue is undone by such a frivolous a symbol of womanly vanity seems uncharacteristic, but oh well.)

Bill tries to lasso Sue to bring her back down, but Widowmaker sabotages the attempt, and Sue winds up landing on the moon.  Bill goes back to living with the coyotes, and he and Widowmaker live out their days together.

Lesson learned:
You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him like your girlfriend.

"Pecos Bill."  Melody Time.  Perf. Roy Rogers, Bob Nolan.  Disney, 1948.
Buy Melody Time (Disney Gold Classic Collection) DVD