Somewhere, He Mushes On

Good news for bad guys. Sgt. Preston of the Yukon has died at 89. Of Alzheimer's. In a nursing home. In California. It's not right.

Dick Simmons, the fearless red-coated Canadian Mountie sergeant in the 1950s TV series based on the long-running radio show, should have disappeared into an Arctic blizzard, struggling along the frozen Klondike with Pierre, the notorious gold robber, while Yukon King, the wonder dog, barked and ran for help.

Every generation has its storybook heroes from those formative years when values are forged and imagination flourishes. They people oral legends, dime novels, radio serials, comic books, movies, TV. Hard to predict who'll be treasured in 2045 -- Barney, Capt. Kirk, Homer Simpson? But yesteryear's heroes endure for millions, fondly, even forlornly, associated with simpler times and places, which perhaps existed.

Superman, Captain Marvel, the Lone Ranger, Davy Crockett. Oh, the places we went with them. The things we saw, even on the radio. No matter how puzzling the crime, Sgt. Preston always solved it with his keen mind, the clues at hand and his trusty partner, King, a husky with good sense who understood both faint scents and English.

A St. Paul, Minn., native, Simmons could have doubled for Robert Taylor, tall, upright, deep-voiced with a pencil-thin mustache that screamed Mountie. His dashing image and the simple stories were syndicated globally for decades. Even when Simmons got bit parts in movies, he remained Sgt. Preston.

Like all Mounties, Simmons' character always got his man, good news for victims of school-bus bullying who wondered whether justice existed in the world. Out of respect for the sergeant, millions of youngsters ate Quaker Puffed Rice and Puffed Wheat. They absorbed the tale, rapt, worried, freezing from the story's winds and mystery. Then, inspired by the just ending, they'd run into the backyard to hitch a puzzled family dog to a Flexible Flyer for a quick crime-fighting trip to the Yukon before bedtime.

But wait one gol darn minute. Sgt. Preston can't die. Not in a nursing home having forgotten all those shared adventures. You know what? We'll bet that's just a clever cover story to fool Marlow's gang, to let them think they got away. Our unflappable hero is probably, right now, up in the windy woods near Dawson dashing down some snowy trail with King as lead dog. "On, King -- on, you huskies!" As always, Sgt. Preston will soon turn to his furry pal and announce, "Well, King, this case is closed." By next week, right will surely prevail. Right?

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