It's a bird, it's a plane, it's a dumb kid wearing a blanket
When I was a kid, hero worship was definitely a hit-or-miss proposition.
I was one of thousands of young guys who tied a blanket around my neck as a semi-cape and tried to fly off a garage roof in imitation of our hero Superman. (I may have been the only one to try that twice.)
The first experience was definitely a hit. I can still remember what it felt like to hit the ground. Fortunately, my little brother broke my fall the second time.
Then there was the Popeye fiasco. I had not yet learned to differentiate between "real life" fictional heroes and cartoon fictional heroes, so I swallowed that old spinach-eating-gives-you-strength lie.
I forced down an untold amount of the green stuff in a failed attempt to gain muscles. That was definitely a miss experience. I gave up spinach and I still don't miss it.
Unlike the country western song, my heroes have not always been cowboys. But my first hero was - the Lone Ranger.
He wore the standard good guy white cowboy hat, but that is not what first attracted my attention. That was the cool mask the Lone Ranger wore.
This served a double purpose. The first was to conceal the Lone Ranger's secret identity, but the mask was really needed for the end of every program when someone would ask, "Who was that masked man?"
Old black-and-white photos of me in one of my first Halloween outfits as a preschooler reveal my hero preference. I am attired in chaps that chafed, a western vest so big that it covered most of my chaps and a cowboy hat that looked as though it had been sat on by the Lone Ranger's horse Silver.
However, I did get to wear an eye-nose mask. It didn't look quite the same since I had to wear my glasses over it, but it was a mask.
My next hero also wore a mask, but that was the least of the problems for my Mother. I wanted to grow up to be Zorro - although I realized even then that I would not be able to talk with a Spanish accent.
In one way, it was a bit easier to pretend I was Zorro because he wore a different type of mask to cover the upper half of his face. He donned a mask that appeared to have been made of a black scarf with a pair of eyeholes.
This presented two problems. The first time I tried on my own version of the mask, I kept walking into walls, furniture and my unfortunate little brother. It worked out much better when I cut eyeholes in the material.
The second problem was in the scarf itself. My Mom did not have any black scarfs, so I was forced to use a pink paisley one. That really cut into my effectiveness as a would-be Zorro.
Of course, those were my difficulties. My Mom's came from Zorro's weapon of choice - a sword.
No, I didn't actually have a sword. My folks barely trusted me to wield a butter knife at the kitchen table.
The coolest thing about Zorro was when he we would use his sword to draw a Z with three quick slashes on his opponent's clothing.
The closest I could come to imitating this was to duct tape a piece of chalk to the end of a yardstick. I went all around the house drawing chalky Z's on furniture, walls and whatever else I could find.
Then my Mom came in from hanging clothes on the lines in the back yard and discovered the results of my "swordplay." I was extremely fortunate to be punished by being sent to my room after I had cleaned off all the Z's. It could have been a lot worse. My Mother was quicker with a yardstick than Zorro was with a sword, so she could have put a Z on my posterior in an instant.
While I enjoyed Davy Crockett, I was never as big a fan of the frontier hero as my friend Leonidas was. He even had the genuine imitation coonskin cap with the tail gracefully hanging to the rear.
My friend Cleopas could not afford an official coonskin cap, so he came up with something as resourceful as it was pitiful. He duct taped his sister Claudette's stuffed animal skunk to his head.
But if I had to pick one hero of my youth, it would have to be "the Man of Steel," who also went by the names of Clark Kent and Superman.
The muscles in my upper arms resembled overcooked linguini, so I enjoyed daydreaming about being more powerful than a locomotive. I could not imagine having to overpower a train, but it would have been nice to have the option.
The flying aspect was also very impressive. However, after those two leaps off of the garage roof, I decided to save up for an airplane ticket if I got the urge to fly.
I think the neatest thing about Superman was that he wore eyeglasses to disguise his eyes that were so powerful they could see through walls.
As a bespectacled kid, that gave me the courage one day to take off my glasses to be like Superman.
I couldn't see through any walls, but I did walk into a few.
(Walt Kozlowski, a freelance writer from Mount Carmel, composes "Walt's Way" for each Sunday edition.)