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Silver Bullets and ‘Kemo Sabe’: the Tale Behind the Mask

“My brother, Capt. Dan Reid, was one of the finest men that ever lived,” the “Lone Ranger” says in the distinctive voice known to viewers of early television. “We were Texas Rangers in the same company.”

Thus begins Clayton Moore’s dramatic first-person narration of the legend of the Lone Ranger, the role he played in 169 TV episodes over six years. The narration, which Moore does in personal appearances, is taken from a book based on scripts written by Fran Striker for the original radio series, which went on the air in 1933.

One day, according to Moore’s narration, the Reid brothers and four other Rangers were tracking the notorious outlaw Butch Cavendish and his gang. When they were led into an ambush by a member of the Cavendish gang posing as a Ranger scout, five of the Rangers and all six horses were killed. John Reid, badly wounded, crawled to a water hole and collapsed. After three days, he was found and nursed back to health by an Indian.

‘Faithful Friend’

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The Indian had spotted a ring he had given a boy who had saved his life when he, himself, was a lad. And he knew this had to be the same man he called “Kemo Sabe"--"faithful friend.”

Tonto buried the five dead Rangers, and dug a sixth grave to convince Cavendish that no one had survived. John Reid donned a black mask, cut from his dead brother’s black vest, to disguise his identity as he and Tonto tracked down the Cavendish gang.

Tonto took the Lone Ranger to Wild Horse Valley to find him a horse. They came upon a beautiful white stallion being gored by a buffalo. The Lone Ranger shot the buffalo. Although the horse was bleeding profusely, Tonto, using his magic Indian medicine, saved it. The Lone Ranger named the stallion “Silver.”

Contrary to what many believe, the words the Lone Ranger shouts to Silver are not, “Hi ho, Silver” but “Hi yo, Silver,” or “High you, Silver,” which was said to encourage the high-spirited steed to rear high.

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Only 4 Knew Identity

Only four people, besides Tonto, ever saw the Lone Ranger without his mask--Butch Cavendish, who went to prison for life for his crimes; Jim Blaine, the miner who made the Lone Ranger’s silver bullets; Dan Reid, his dead brother’s son, and Grandma Frisby, the woman who reared the younger Dan Reid after his mother, Linda, was killed during an Indian raid on a wagon train.

Striker also wrote a Lone Ranger creed, and Moore said he memorized it.

“I believe to have a friend a man must be one, that all men are created equal,” the creed states in part. “Everyone has the power, the right within themselves, to help make this a greater world.”

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“It’s what I’ve tried to live by all my life,” Moore said.


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