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Oh, Give Me A Home Where The Ibexes Roam

June 2024
1min read

In the spring of 1950 I went to a family wedding in St. Davids, Pennsylvania. At the reception in the bride’s home I met Martin Sommers, whom the hostess identified as foreign editor of The Saturday Evening Post . He and I shortly excused ourselves and repaired to the book-lined study in his house across the road, where he told me stories about the Post . (We had something in common, I was able to say; some twenty years earlier I had pedaled about with a bagful of Posts across my shoulder, making weekly deliveries to a select group of citizens in Fort Pierce, Florida.)

Describing the challenges faced by some of his far-flung correspondents, Marry mentioned his man in a Middle Eastern kingdom of which I was only vaguely aware who had just been asked to find a cowboy suit for a fourteen-year-old prince.

The prince was a big fan of Western movies, and his ardent desire was to own the whole rig, from Stetson to boots. To that end the boy enlisted the aid of the Post’ s man: Could he send off to America for authentic Western gear? The correspondent relayed the request to his editor in Philadelphia. The magazine of course was eager to perform a service for the royal family, and now it had fallen to Marty to figure out how to costume a royal cowpoke. I was happy to offer a solution: I was driving back home to Miami in a couple of days and would stop at Ranchland in Fort Pierce. There were many cattle ranches in the area, I explained, and Ranchland had been outfitting Florida’s cowboys for years. Marty was relieved to give me the shopping list, complete with sizes, and turn his attention to weightier global matters (the start of the Korean War, it turned out, was just weeks away).

A couple of days later I moseyed into Ranchland. There I was greeted by Alfred Lisk, a friend who had known me from my boyhood days in Fort Pierce, when I had worn an official Tom Mix cowboy suit from the Sears, Roebuck catalogue.

Alfred and I carefully selected the finest attire for the prince, from hat on down. A few weeks later I received a check and a letter of thanks from Marty. His correspondent had informed him that the prince was delighted with the gift and was making such a show of his new attire that the press corps and others around Amman were now referring to him as Hop-A-Long Hussein. We didn’t know at the time that within three short years the prince would accede to the throne of Jordan.

Over the course of his long reign, Hussein won recognition for skillful statecraft in pursuing Arab-Israeli peace. Those old movie Westerns he admired were nothing more nor less than morality plays, after all. Maybe some of the lessons he learned from them stayed with him. I like to think of Hussein’s being welcomed by the pantheon of riders in the sky: Tom Mix, Hoot Gibson, Tim McCoy, Buck Jones, William Boyd, and of course Gene Autry and Roy Rogers, heroes all. Happy trails, Hop-A-Long Hussein.

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