It seems like only yesterday I walked into Freeman’s Pharmacy in Unadilla with my father, unaware my short pants were on backward. I wasn’t a fan of shorts during childhood. The farmers of Third District dressed in khakis or blue jeans, with an occasional old timer clad in overalls. I figured short britches were for little kids, not someone closing in on his fifth birthday.
None of my favorite television cowboys wore short pants either. Not Roy Rogers, Hopalong Cassidy, The Lone Ranger, or The Cisco Kid. And certainly not Zorro, who would have looked odd with a sword dangling against his bare legs. I was constantly amazed how he could escape a dozen soldiers armed only with a sword, black cape, and chandelier to swing from. That’s not something a man in short pants could have done, unless his plan was to distract them with laughter.
My favorite superheroes also wore long pants, except for Robin, who probably shouldn’t be counted. He was an assistant, not a stand-alone star. Batman, of course, had a full body costume, including tiny ears on top of his head that struck me as rather useless.
Full-length tights covered Superman’s legs for supersonic flights, probably to prevent windburn. I’m not saying a superhero can’t put on short pants occasionally, but they generally don’t pair well with capes. Superman’s garb was worn beneath his Clark Kent attire, so that it would only take a split second to change. Criminals are not inclined to hit the pause button while good guys switch outfits.
I’ve never tried to change clothes in a phone booth, but I think the camera crew sped up the film for that scene. Otherwise, it would have been intolerably dull viewing. Plus, Superman’s identity could have been discovered and possibly have cost him his reporter’s job.
Sometimes late at night when sleep won’t come, I ponder how people reacted when they found the clothes Superman left behind. Did they know the items belonged to their beloved hero and leave them alone? Or did they think, wow, here’s a dark suit in my size that’s hardly been worn, plus shoes, belt, and stylish glasses.
A new group of cowboys soon came along, still dressed in long pants. Josh Randall, a bounty hunter, had an uncanny ability to dodge bullets by rolling in the streets or jumping behind water troughs. I used to wonder who plugged all the leaks after the shooting was over. Josh was unusual in that he carried a cut-down Winchester carbine. It never failed him that I recall.
Paladin hid a little derringer in his belt buckle. A single chamber was enough because of the uncertainty of who he would shoot. Or a gang’s leader, fearing for his own life, would order his cronies to drop their guns. That one bullet must have been huge to scare so many outlaws into submission.
Rowdy Yates, Gil Favor, Marshall Dillon and The Rifleman all wore long pants, plus Heath from The Big Valley and the Cartwright family on The Ponderosa. Daniel Boone had to because of poison ivy.
My disapproving attitude toward wearing shorts may be why I had so carelessly donned them years ago. With a friendly smile Dr. Freeman asked, “Why do you have your shorts on backward, son?”
“So people won’t know if I’m coming or going,” I replied.
I’m not sure I remember the actual event or just think I do because my parents recounted it so many times. It’s my earliest recollection of saying something that caused someone to laugh. That was a good feeling back then and still is, but I’m finding humor increasingly refuses to be punctual. The window of opportunity for punch lines closes quickly.
Eventually I embraced short pants, despite having skinny snow-white legs that look better covered. Jane bought me some super comfortable shorts a couple of years back to wear around the house. Elastic waist bands allow me to pull them up high to imitate an old man.
A uniformed lady rang our doorbell as she delivered a package requiring a signature. “Your shorts are on backward,” she said politely, stifling her laughter as I scribbled my name.
“I didn’t have a choice,” I replied. “That’s the way my wife folded them.” I thought that was a pretty clever line. It would have been a lot funnier if I’d said it before she drove away.