Times Past, 1966
Whatever Happened to the Golden Arrow?
The myths surrounding the hero called the Golden Arrow are many. Just who was the Robin Hood of the Plains? Author Stephen Paul Coltraine aims to find out in his efforts to explore the legend of the missing hero. But is he just chasing ghosts?
Denver, Colorado, 1966:
Stephen Paul Coltraine studied the information he had gathered so far; he really wanted to make this a good book and not just another quick look at a hero from the 1940s. Too many of those books existed already, and besides, the Golden Arrow was a western-based hero who had even appeared here in Denver a few times. One thing really bothered him, though; few actual photos of the hero existed, and many of them that did showed him dressed in a more or less standard-looking costume, yet earlier and rarer photos showed him dressed in an American Indian-type outfit.
So Coltraine wondered why Golden Arrow changed his costume, and he even wondered whether both Golden Arrows were one and the same or two different men? Somehow, he hoped he could find out.
As synchronicity would have it, his phone rang then. Coltraine answered, hoping it was his agent. It wasn’t, but it was nearly as good; it was his best friend, Dave Jimmison.
“Hey, Steve. Still working on that book about the Green Arrow?”
Coltraine sighed heavily. “Golden Arrow, Dave; the Green Arrow was just a comic-book character.”
“Right… well, how soon can you get to Tucker’s Town?”
“That’s about a half-hour. Why? What’s there?”
“I found someone who knew your Golden Arches guy. Knew him well, in fact! He saved her life a time or two.”
“OK, I am practically out the door. Whereabouts in T.T.?”
“Old diner called the Dewdrop Inn. Bring lunch money. I’m getting hungry.”
Coltraine hung up, then grabbed his cameras, tape recorders, and notebooks. This could be good.
He also hoped his buddy was on the right track, not like the time someone claimed to have seen a man with wings and a hawk mask flying around. That guy must have been into the wacky tabakky or something.
Twenty-five minutes later, in an almost-dead road town, Coltraine pulled into the old rundown diner’s parking lot. Since the end of the war, a lot of towns like this were dying out. Maybe his next book would be about these towns. Had to beat tracking down semi-mythical characters from his parents’ time.
Dave was talking to a woman who looked like someone who had spent her whole life out here on the edge of nowhere, having gray hair, a weary-looking but still handsome face, dry skin, and a chain smoker’s rasp to her voice. After introductions, she asked but one request: no photos. Coltraine agreed.
“It was December 7th, 1941. You remember what happened that day?”
“Yes,” said Coltraine. “The Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, and America joined the war against the Axis.”
“Was about time, too! But anyways, there was this kid used to come in here a lot; rodeo cowboy he was, good-looking, blond, named Gary. Probably about eighteen, nineteen, young; heck, we all were once. I was twenty-five and married but could still enjoy looking at him, ya know? He comes in right after we heard the morning news. We found out what happened, then he walked in; that’s when it happened.”
December 7, 1941:
Moments ago, the news that the Japanese had just bombed Pearl Harbor in Hawaii had left everyone stunned. Gary, a tall, young, handsome blond rodeo cowboy pulled into the parking lot. After checking on his horse in its carrier, he went inside.
“Hey, what happened? Everyone looks utterly shocked! I know I ain’t been around in two months, but that can’t be it.”
Before anyone could tell the young man what had happened, another vehicle pulled into the parking lot, and three men in suits got out, tough-looking men who looked totally lost there in the back country. As they entered, one of them bumped into Gary and turned to him.
“Hey, sport, watch it, OK?” Then he took a second look. “You know me, sport?” the tough, scarred man asked.
Gary shook his head no. “Can’t say’s I do.”
“Yeah, well, your eyes said different, sport. Where you think you know me from?”
A second tough, shorter and rounder, came up and looked at Gary. “Hey, I know him!” he said with a surprised look on his face. “Digger, picture this kid with a headband and paint on, like a movie Indian.”
Digger looked at Gary again. “Yeah, imagine, the white Indian that busted our operation two years back, here in this rinky-dink diner and without his arrows.”
“Me, the Golden Arrow? Sorry, friend; wrong guy. I’m just a rodeo cowboy.”
“Sparky, you’re right. That voice… I’d recognize it even if I was blind or something. And how would he’ve known I was talkin’ about Golden Arrow otherwise?”
“We don’t want no trouble in here!” the cook called out, reaching for his shotgun just in case, but he didn’t have time.
Already all three of the toughs had their pistols drawn, and as Gary tried to move out of the way, all three of them opened fire. Gary collapsed to the floor, and blood flowed everywhere. The cook, a World War I vet, fired his shotgun and hit two of the men, killing one of them. The third shot back at him and in turn was shot and killed by the county sheriff, who had just come out of the restroom.
The waitress of the place checked out Gary; he had lost a lot of blood but was still living. The sheriff had someone call his office, and he went to secure his prisoner before checking on the wounded young man.
Later that day, he returned to the diner and told the people there that Gary was dead. He had died en route to the hospital.
Was this kid the Golden Arrow? The diner was swarmed with reporters asking questions.
“Well,” the waitress had told a reporter, “two months ago there was a barn fire in town, and the Golden Arrow came along and pulled several children out of the barn. When he handed me my two boys, aged four and six, he winked at me, and I recognized him as a sometime customer at the diner.”
One year later, December, 1942:
While visiting a cousin in Phoenix, the waitress and her cousin were in a bank when it was robbed by a band of escaped cons.
The cons were captured by a man dressed not in an Indian-style outfit but a black face mask, golden-colored shirt with a hood, black boots, golden pants, and a big black belt. He used a long bow and several arrows. When he spotted the waitress, he smiled at her and asked her if her children were safe and staying out of barns where older kids were trying corn silk cigarettes. She assured him they were. Even behind the mask, his voice sounded identical to her.
The papers said the Golden Arrow had saved the day.
To this day, twenty-four years later, she still wondered whether it was the same fellow all those times. Was the small-time rodeo cowboy the Golden Arrow? Had he convinced the sheriff to claim he was dead so he could start over with a new look to protect his off-duty time?
We may never know. But she never saw Gary again.
— From Whatever Happened to the Golden Arrow? by Stephen Paul Coltraine, published 1966 by Major Publications.
The Golden Arrow reined in his golden stallion and turned to the smaller palomino being ridden by his junior sidekick, Swifty.
“Well, partner, thanks to you, the Black Ghost and crew are all in jail. Once again, Swifty, you saved the day. No wonder Captain Marvel wants you to join his team.”
Swifty looked around the woods, dusted off his green and red costume, and nodded. “Aw, shucks, G.A. You taught me to be your sidekick! I couldn’t have taken those bad guys out without your help.”
“Eddie, time to get up for school!”
Eddie woke up with a start, remembering that he wasn’t really Swifty, boy archer. He was just a ten-year-old who had to get out of his warm bed and get ready for another boring day of school.
“OK, so maybe it was a dream, but someday I am going to be a costumed crime-fighter. You betcha!”