I remember the quickening interest, the sense of excitement and my hurried question to my mother about whether we could watch the show. I really don’t know why that still stays so clearly in my mind, but I remember that afternoon like it was yesterday.
The premise was simple – a western, inspired by the movie Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid – about two criminals that were trying to go straight. They worked mostly in the Wyoming Territory, and went to the territorial governor to ask for amnesty for the crimes they committed.
The governor agrees, but tells them he cannot make it public and that they have to stay out of trouble until he feels they have earned their amnesty. The problem is, with no one knowing of the deal with the governor, they are still wanted men and still being hunted by the law.
There was something about the dark haired, 31-one-year-old Duel that caught my attention; and as only a 13-year-old-can, I was quickly enamored of the actor.
I covered my walls with pictures of him from all those teen magazines and waited eagerly every week for Thursday nights.
By December of that year, I was totally hooked on the show and the actor; not knowing about any of the demons that haunted his life.
December 31st, 1971:
As my family got ready to drive to Syracuse for groceries, my brothers suddenly started yelling over the sound of the news on the radio.
Pete Duel had been killed by a gunshot wound to the head, an apparent suicide.
I was devastated; my young girl’s heart broken with the thought that he had been so unhappy, and the question of whether he would have sought forgiveness from God before the gun went off.
The news was full of the story and it was only then that his depression and his drinking came to light. I never knew until a few years ago, when I read a biography of his life, that he also had epilepsy and had suffered a broken hip in a car accident when he was 18.
The broken hip caused great back pain, especially when he had to be on the horse so much for filming the show. He had been told at one point that he would probably be crippled within 15-20 years because of the severity of the broken hip.
I knew none of this at that time. I only knew that it felt like I had lost my best friend.
Even all these years later, the thought of his life, and death, can move me to tears.
I did these pages in his memory and decided to post them today, the 40th anniversary of his death.
Thank you for stopping in to share what was a large impact on my life.
© Drusilla Mott and https://drusillamott.wordpress.com, 2011