Howdy, Pardner. I’m actually on vacation (or as much of a vacation as I ever get/take). In this instance, I’m taking the Apple of My Eye (a.k.a.: my 12-year-old daughter) to Six Flags over Texas, the amusement park of my youth. Growing up in Shreveport, Six Flags was just a hop, skip and a jump over to Arlington via Hwy. 80 (and later, I-20) for us, unlike some forbidden treasure like Disneyland or, dare I say, Disney World.
(The Original) Six Flags was always kind of an odd duck in the amusement park biz. Inspired by a visit to Disneyland made by Metroplex mogul Angus Wynne back in the late 50’s, Six Flags Over Texas originally featured a park divided into themes that riffed off of one of the (six) flags that flew over Texas. (Spain, France, Mexico, The Confederacy, Texas and The United States, to be specific.)
The days when the park made even a half-hearted stab at tying in an attraction to one of these sections is long since gone, along with the La Salle Riverboat Ride, the Stagecoach Ride, Skull Island, and Los Castle Magnetica. (Sigh.) But the one thing that hasn’t changed much at all since I was a kid: the Wild West shootout in the Old West/Boomtown section of the park.
The gun battle between the sheriff and his men and one or more desperados was written as broad, slapstick comedy with a 12 gauge-edge. That’s not changed one iota. This season’s story revolves around a wise sheriff, his bumbling deputies, a bad guy robber, and a balance between comedy and gun play. The players come equipped with single-action six-shooter guns of Italian manufacture that shoot blanks only. The sheriff, however, also carries a real 12 gauge, side-by-side that he loads with blanks, as well.
These little Wild West passion plays are staged five times per day by a contract group called Lagniappe Productions, a group that offers a variety of Wild West-themed shows around the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex.
From my perspective, the show was everything it had been back in the day, and then some. (They’ve added a special effect, involving some dynamite and a water cannon). The script, of course, is different, but the more it changes, the more it remains the same.
From my daughter’s eyes (a first-time visitor to the park) this was the coolest thing she saw there all day. A “real” gun battle, complete with bad puns, groaners and some loud bangs.
Putting on my TTAG hat, I can tell you that, as entertaining as these guys are (and they are that) the concept of “trigger discipline” never entered their collective minds. I don’t know how things were in the Old West, but if they were using real ammo instead of blanks, somebody, sometime’s gonna get a belly full o’ lead.
On the positive side regarding the safety question, a new addition to the show (sometime within the last 12 years or so) is a prologue delivered by the sheriff, where he explains to the kids in the crowd that these are real guns, guns are not toys, and should you come across a gun in real life, the safe thing to do is to leave it alone, get away, and go tell an adult. (Eddie Eagle would be proud.)
So if you’re heading to Six Flags sometime, and lookin’ for some rootin’, tootin’, shootin’ entertainment, stop on by Boomtown and check out the live-action shootout in front of the sheriff’s office. But don’t stand to close to the sheriff when that 12 gauge goes off. It’s a blast. In more ways than one.