Chuck Connors
Chuck Connors

 Until John Lennon came along, Lucas McCain, aka The Rifleman, was about as cool as you could get, and nothing is more important to a boy than being cool.  I think there were two assets he possessed that made him the standard by which all boys would be judged.  First and foremost, he was unflappable.  He may have smiled occasionally on the show, but he never showed any emotion otherwise.  He was never joyous.  He never hugged Micah.  He was never even tipsy.  When a bad guy pushed his luck with McCain, the Rifleman would glare threateningly at him.  No doubt his eyes were blue.  And his jaw line alone would have eventually landed him roles in Hollywood. 
    His second virtue was that you knew that no matter what happened, McCain would prevail, and not just because he was the star of the show.  He exuded power, volcanically violent power in his case.  The bad guy would get badder and badder until finally McCain would get his gun, always reluctantly of course since good guys don't resolve problems by killing other people.  Not right away anyway.  He was as good a shot as the Sundance Kid, played by Redford, and he had a super-cool way of cocking his rifle.  He would spin it, which always worried me because I expected him to shoot himself in the armpit.  In addition to being really painful, shooting yourself in the armpit would be profoundly uncool.  One more measure of being cool: he wore leather gloves.  Overall, his kind of coolness had nothing to do with girls; where you stood in the pecking order of boys was measured by how different you were from the Rifleman.
    Chuck Connors was originally named Kevin Connors.  He picked up the name Chuck when he played first base at Seton Hall and kept telling other players to chuck him the ball.  He was six-foot-five and played briefly for the Boston Celtics, the Chicago Cubs, and the Brooklyn Dodgers.

    Mr. Hair delivered dairy products to our house when we lived at the Millstone.  I suppose he had a first name just like Virgil, the man who sold us gas and took care of our cars, had a last name.  Those names, Mr. Hair's first and Virgil's last, haven't faded in my memory.  I don't think they were ever there.  The main thing I remember about Mr. Hair was that he always seemed to be smiling.  Other memories come back.  He wore a uniform, grey and blue, I think.  He drove a strange truck that didn't have doors on either side.  He stood up when he drove and he probably didn't wear a seatbelt.  Knowing the fifties, there probably weren't even seatbelts installed.  He carried a large basket made of galvanized steel.  On either end of the handle there were round receptacles where he put cottage cheese and sour cream.  He delivered milk in bottles with a bubble at the next so that the cream could settle out.  He provided a little red ladle, not to spoon out the cream, but to plug the neck of the jar so that the cream could be poured off.
    He represents to me an earlier phase in American history.  Imagine a delivery person like him today.  He walked right into our kitchen, he may not have even bothered to ring the doorbell, after we were familiar with him.  He opened up our refrigerator without being invited.  Today, that would be about as invasive as a person could be.  Then it was friendly and communal.  He was in his fifties when he delivered milk and butter and eggs to our house in 1960, so I imagine him having been a soldier in WWII.  He was one of the men who may have waded ashore at Iwo Jima or Guadalcanal.  He saw friends die.  He killed Japs.  Then he came home, put on a different uniform, and started delivering milk to people's houses.  I don't know how a person does a transition like that.  My closest approximation is leaving school and entering the work force.  People like him and Mr. Silvernagle and Oscar Patzer don't seem to be real to me.  I know it's a schitzy thought, but sometimes they seem to bit players, walk-ons, who were hired to populate the background of my childhood life.  But he was real.  He noticed a pretty girl one day and worked up the courage to talk to her.  He had to act disinterested.  She responded to him.  He fell in love with her, bedded her, married her, and went home to her at night.  Sometimes he walked around his house in his underpants.  And he delivered milk to our house too.