By BRICE STUMP
The Daily Times of Salisbury
SALISBURY, Md. (AP) — The Lone Ranger sits at the dining room table in full attire, with boots, spurs, scarf and the legendary mask that hides his identity.
Beyond the window, his faithful steed, Silver, rests by a split-rail fence in the coolness of a late autumn afternoon.
So, who is this Masked Man and why is he in Salisbury?
The man behind the black mask is former insurance broker Garry Cherricks. His duty, he said, is to introduce principles and values to today’s youth. The best of good intentions aside, Cherricks admitted very few in the young audience he tries to reach have ever heard of The Lone Ranger, the classic masked cowboy hero whose history dates back to the 1930s.
“My generation and the one before me haven’t taken the time to tell their children about cowboys. All they know is the Electric Horseman, but nothing from the days of yesteryear,” he said.
Maybe the kids don’t know the character Cherricks portrays, but people his age sure do.
“They know about The Lone Ranger, and it’s very emotional for many of them. At shows and parades, you can hear them hollering out to me all along the parade route.”
It was a trip out west six years ago that brought The Lone Ranger to Cherricks and to Salisbury.
“My wife, Sharon, and I saw ghost towns in Arizona, and some cowboys, and I got a gun and holster. When we got back, I thought, `what am I going to do with this?’ “There was a local cowboy group in the area, so I joined Bob Lewis’ group, Tombstone Cowboys, with an alias of Texas Jack,” he said. “Then, one night, watching TV, I saw and heard things I
didn’t like, like blood, profanity, shooting and violence. I told my wife that when I was young, we didn’t have this. We had Gene Audtry, Roy Rogers, Hoppalong Cassidy and the Lone Ranger.”
That led to something else.
“Then I had an idea. Which Western hero could I be to reach out to kids and promote nonviolence, no drinking, no smoking, no profanity and taking responsibility for your actions?” he said. “As the Lone Ranger, I could hide my identity, so I became the Lone Ranger.”
The transformation from the persona of an insurance broker to the man “who led the fight for law and order in the early West,” took some time and a considerable amount of money.
“I went on the Internet and started contacting people who could make the entire Lone Ranger outfit, the guns, holster, spurs, hat, and then the things I needed for the horse.”
Because the Lone Ranger is not the Lone Ranger without a horse.
“Spent a lot of money training this one,” he said. “Even took him to Florida get training.”
At 24 years of age, Silver, a Tennessee walker gelding and gaited horse, is as much an icon of The Lone Ranger mystique as the man behind the mask.
“My first white horse wasn’t big enough. He was 15.5 hands tall, and now this one is 17.2 hands and a lot better-natured,” he said. “We found him advertised in The Guide, and he was in Centreville.”
Not only are the costumes and accessories expensive to acquire, so is the riding gear and tack for Silver. Everything is
custom-made for Cherricks. Then there’s the reality of maintaining a spacious two-horse trailer and van that gets eight miles to the gallon. There’s also the attention to Cherrick’s costumes.
“I am into my fifth generation of shirt and pant suits — each time I improve the quality of the materials and the authentic look of the outfits worn by the Lone Ranger on TV, particularly the look of actor Clayton Moore as The Lone Ranger,” he said.
Cherricks made his debut in the 2005 Salisbury Christmas Parade.
“I look nothing like I did then. But people started calling Tex Holland, who handles everything for me, especially bookings. After a few events, I thought, ‘I have got to stress authenticity, straight to the letter. I am going to be the one and only most authentic Lone Ranger and Silver in the entire country,’ and that’s the direction my assistants and I have gone in.”
Cherricks works with three assistants, Dakota Shores, Kitty Todd and Shiloh Nelson, to make his program work.
“My true Western saddle was made in 1957 by Ted Flowers. It’s the kind of saddle real cowboys used and is so close to the saddle shown on the television show you probably wouldn’t know the difference,” he said.
And the silver bullets?
“I have them specially made for me,” he said.
There is no powder in them and they are double-chrome plated.
“I am the only one to have been given a silver bullet from the late John Hart, who played The Lone Ranger,” he said. “He gave me autographed pictures and one of his personal silver bullets that I display at every show.
“The two Colt guns are single-action six-shooters, and just like Clayton Moore’s, are consecutively numbered. One holster I have was handmade in Canada.”
It is a work of art with crisp, detailed leather work and sterling silver mounts. Even The Lone Ranger’s trademark mask is unique.
“My masks are special made, just like those Moore wore. I have a guy in Mesquite, Texas, who makes them with plaster of Paris and black felt. Moore wore two styles of mask. I like the one that doesn’t have the nose bridge area cut out,” he said.
There’s more to consider than just the visual persona of The Lone Ranger.
“I pretty well have everything about Clayton Moore down except for getting his deep voice. I have worked with dialogue coaches, but it is hard for me to reach down and get that Clayton Moore tone. Hey, I don’t want anybody to believe I am him, that’s not why I am doing this. I want to carry on to the younger generation what The Lone Ranger gave us. You can’t expect somebody to be 100 percent someone else, but I think I have all of him down to 99.9 percent.”
Unlike Elvis Presley impersonators, those portraying The Lone Ranger are few and far between, but none he has met, Cherricks said, have emphasized the degree of authenticity that he has pursued.
There are tens of thousands of dollars invested in this hobby. In his quest to be all about The Lone Ranger, Cherricks decided to reach out to fans around the world.
“In February 2011, we took over and now own the International Lone Ranger Fan Club,” he said with pride.
He appreciates, too, meeting several actors and actresses associated with The Lone Ranger films who have endorsed Cherricks’ outreach to children, as have civic and law enforcement organizations.
“It’s fun, especially when you see the kids. Of course the horse draws them and they get excited and wonder who I am. Sure, there is a little confusion, when kids think I am Zorro or a Power Ranger. They want to know why I’m wearing a mask. “Never thought I’d be the Lone Ranger,” he said. “It was totally out of my character. When I was a youngster, I got a pony, Misty, and did a little riding then, but never thought it would come to this.”
Nowadays, Cherricks and his crew stay busy.
“Last year, from April through October, we did 30 appearances. I travel all over the country.”
Right now he is considering an invitation to travel to Texas.
“Our biggest problem is to secure enough funding to be able to get there,” he said. “We can only travel about 350 miles a day while pulling a horse trailer. Our lodging and stable has to be secured each night, always a motel and stable setup.”
His wife said she supports him.
“It’s fun for him, keeps him busy and gives him something to do,” Sharon said. “I told him, ‘If this makes you happy and you enjoy it, go for it.’ “
All his hard work may get a boost if and when actor Johnny Depp and Disney Studios shoot a Lone Ranger film in 2012.
Not only will The Lone Ranger be rediscovered by millions of viewers, but so, too, will Salisbury’s own version of the legend and few spectators will have to ask “Who was that masked man?”
Until then, Cherricks is doing what he can to make the world a better place to live. Yet it is always a financial struggle.
“We ask for expenses to do performances and shows, ” Cherricks said. “People can also donate to help with expenses. We have run about $3,000 short each year, but this was never started as a thing to make money.”
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)