A Letter from Moses

Charlton Heston as Moses

Charlton Heston was my friend.

We met only once, for a few hours at his Beverly Hills home.

A dozen letters, a phone call or two, and a score of Christmas cards mark the full extent of our communication.

And yet I consider my friendship with Charlton Heston one of the high points of my life.

Why? Because of what he taught me at one of the lowest points of my life.

“Chuck” Heston was an encourager.

In 1977, after nearly twenty years as creator, artist, and author of the cartoon strip Rick O’Shay, I was leaving my creation. Contract negotiations with the syndicate that owned and distributed the strip broke down. Verbal assurances were withdrawn. Ultimatums were delivered, and declined. There would be no compromise, no meeting of the minds. The strip I had created and developed would be taken from me and continued by “a new creative team.”

Like many another American before and after, I was suddenly unemployed, with payments to make and a family to support. I was angry. I was discouraged. I was depressed. Syndicate announced the change to Rick O’Shay’s client newspapers and an avalanche of letters filled my mailbox.

“How could you?” the writers asked. “Say it isn’t so!” they pleaded. “Why did you sell Rick O’Shay? (I didn’t, of course. The strip belonged to the syndicate from the moment I signed my contract. In 1958, signing over the rights to his creation was virtually the only way for a new cartoonist to become syndicated.)

Then one particular letter arrived. It was from, of all people, Charlton Heston.

The Academy Award-winning star of Ben Hur, The Ten Commandments, El Cid, Touch of Evil, Julius Caesar, The Agony and the Ecstasy, Will Penny, The Mountain Men–had written a fan letter…to me! (My then eight-year-old son called it my “letter from Moses.”)

In the letter, Heston expressed his regrets at the news I was no longer drawing Rick O’Shay. “I cannot help regretting,” he wrote, “that we will see no more of the beautifully drawn and engaging characters with which you populated Conniption.”

He went on to compliment me on my draftsmanship and added, “As an actor, I also valued the high quality of your dialogue. Believe me, not many writers have your ear for spoken English. I always noted with additional pleasure the pains you took to emphasize the right words, too. The lines were read well.”

“Let me thank you for the pleasure you’ve given me,” he concluded, and signed the letter, “Gratefully, Charlton Heston.”

He could not have known how important his words were to me at that particular moment. I wrote to tell him and to express my admiration for his film work. Thus began a friendship between us that lasted until complications of Alzheimer’s disease ended his remarkable life.

I went on to create a second nationally syndicated strip, Latigo, and a self-syndicated feature, Grass Roots, before turning my hand to western fiction in 1995. My friend, “Chuck” Heston, was there to encourage me every step of the way. He wrote an introduction to the very first book I published, Rick O’Shay, Hipshot, and Me. He read my novels and recommended them to others.

As I came to know him better, I learned that Chuck frequently took the time to express his appreciation to the people he encountered. He taught me by his example the power of encouragement, and he reminded me we can all make a difference.

Maybe we can’t solve all the problems of our fallen world or set the wrong things right, but we can make a start. We can let our children know we believe in them. We can offer a compliment to our spouse or significant other. We can smile at the mail man. We can wave to the paper boy. We can tell a waitress we appreciate her service; better yet, we can tell her boss.

We can, like my friend Chuck, be an encourager.

About stan

Author of eight novels featuring the adventures of Deputy U.S. Marshal Merlin Fanshaw, Stan Lynde is a fourth-generation native Montanan and the creator, author, and artist of two highly acclaimed syndicated cartoon strips, Rick O'Shay and Latigo. He lives in Cuenca, Ecuador, with his wife, Lynda.
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9 Responses to A Letter from Moses

  1. Squeak Barsalou says:

    Wow… this is a very touching article. Thank you… it certainly made my day!! Thank you for the encouragement you also pass on to others. You have no idea how your strips played a role in my life!

  2. Kevin Asay says:

    Stan, I just now checked out this site and have to say that your “Moses” blog is inspiring. Thanks.

    Kevin

  3. Tom Foolery says:

    Howdy Stan… I wish I could shake Mr. Heston’s hand, not only because , well, HE’S MOSES, but for re-lighting your pilot light. The nearly 20 year gap where your name disappeared from the paper (at least here in So.Cal.) to the day I saw it again in an ad for your book tour was way too long. That ad is taped on the title page of RICK O’SHAY, HIPSHOT AND ME.

    A note to your boss…

    Lynda, he’s doing pretty good

    Thanks Stan

    Dan Richmond

  4. Debbie Sevier says:

    We grew up with you in Billings. Great encouragement story and memory. Honorable men you are.

    Debbie Sevier

  5. Cullen says:

    A very touching story. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Greg says:

    Oddly, the sentiment expressed in your last paragraph is the reason I came to look you up. To thank you for giving us Rick O’Shay.

    As an agnostic, I never found the need to worship in what the various faiths would have you believe is God’s house, or at least their particular franchise on that concept. But I can remember many a time, folding newspapers in the quiet of pre-dawn Sunday mornings, coming across Hipshot sitting on his horse, sharing the wonder of nature and worshiping God in what is truly his house. Papers may have gotten out a later on those mornings, the result of me pondering and attempting to reconcile HipShot’s non-traditional style of worship, but I think I am a better man for it.

    Thank you for your beautiful depictions of nature and for planting in me the idea that it is perfectly acceptable to worship God in your own manner. Never have I felt closer to God than to be alone in the middle of his magnificent creation, and even more so on the back of a trusty horse. I believe I have you to thank for that.

  7. We’re new friends on face book. I love what you’ve written here about encouragement. I told you I wasn’t a writer. That’s only half true. I do write; I’m just not published! I wrote a workbook to go with my Youth Horsemanship Program called Cowkids for Christ. I authored the 10 Commandments of Horsemanship and parallel them to the 10 Commandments of Scripture. It’s a 10 lesson, biblically based, horsemanship program. We learn to ride, but we also play life learning games. One of those games, I call the “encouragement game”, and it goes like this… I have the kids stand in a circle. I hand a small, but exquisitely wrapped, silver gift box, with a fancy bow on top to the child on my right. As their eyes twinkle from the excitement of wondering what’s in the beautiful box, I share some kind words of encouragement with them, personal to their needs. And then, they, in turn, turn to the person on their right and do the same. Nobody ever gets to open the box, but the moral of the game is to remember to choose your words so let they are received like a beautifully wrapped, silver gift box with a fancy bow on top. And our Bible Memory Verse for the day is Eph 4:29 “Do not let any unwholesome talk come form your mouths, only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Fun, life learning game…It’s fun to watch them grow.

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