When The Lone Ranger returned to the Mayor's Annual Christmas Parade in Hampden for his fourth year, Silver, his original, white horse, "best friend and partner," wasn't with him.
The Lone Ranger, aka Garry Cherricks, of Salisbury, Md., said he is mourning the death of Silver, 23, who was grazing in a neighbor's yard on the evening of May 19 when he took 10 sudden steps to a stretch of blacktop for no apparent reason, slipped and fell.
"He tried to get up and he tried to get up," said Cherricks, who sat with Silver until 5:30 a.m., when a veterinarian put the horse down.
Silver died with his head on Cherricks' lap. He was a ripe old age for a horse, and had arthritis in his knees, Cherricks said.
"It was awful," said Cherricks, a retired insurance broker and an impersonator of the Lone Ranger at parades and shows around the country since 2005.
But life must go on, and so must the show, which is why he was back riding in the Hampden parade Sunday, Dec. 2, with a new horse, Silver II, an 11-year-old gelding that Cherricks found near Nashville, Tenn., in August.
Cherricks, who promotes himself and his horse as the only authentic-looking Lone Ranger and Hi-Yo Silver in the country, rode tall in the saddle, looking uncannily like actor Clayton Moore in the Lone Ranger TV series of old. He wore a blue uniform, red scarf, white hat, black mask over his eyes, black boots with silver spurs, and guns in holsters on both hips.
He gave a reporter a silver bullet and an autographed photo of himself riding the late Silver.
Accompanying Cherricks were several assistants, including "Miss Kitty" Todd, a horse farm owner from Berlin, Md., who said she helps him as a labor of love, because she doesn't make enough money to cover the costs of leaving her 10 horses on her farm in a neighbor's care.
"It's fun. It's a hobby," Todd said before the parade started, as she walked Silver II, who ate grain feed from a bowl in Todd's hand.
Several girls from the Loch Raven High School marching band stopped practicing to pet Silver II. But none of them knew who the Lone Ranger was.
"I've heard of him," sophomore Emily Tourangeau, 15, of Towson, said uncertainly.
Silver II, like his predecessor, was being used on trail rides before Cherricks began training him for the parade life.
"He's doing exceptionally well," Cherricks said. But Silver II cannot quite replace Silver I in Cherrick's heart.
"It's just like losing your child or your spouse," he said.
Cherricks, who won't give his age, said he grew up admiring stars like Roy Rogers, Gene Autry and Clayton Moore, the latter famed for his role on TV as The Lone Ranger in the late 1940s and '50s. They were heroes to children and adults alike and didn't espouse violence, drugs, drinking and cursing, unlike the action heroes of today, he said.
After he retired, Cherricks and his wife, Sharon, took a trip out west and met a lot of people in ghost towns and other places who lived a cowboy lifestyle. He missed that when he got home, and one night in 2005, while watching modern action movies on TV, he got thinking he'd like to portray a cowboy of some kind.
He couldn't sing well, so it couldn't be Autry or Rogers, he knew. And he wanted to be incognito, which meant wearing a mask. He knew then that he wanted to be The Lone Ranger.
There was only one problem, he told Sharon. He couldn't be The Lone Ranger without a white horse.
"I think you've lost your mind," Sharon told him.
His first horse, Little Silver, didn't work out. But the second one, 17.5 hands high and adaptable in training, became his Silver and a four-legged friend to remember.
So when Silver died, Cherricks wasn't sure he wanted to continue as The Lone Ranger. But after he posted an obituary of sorts on his website, theloneranger.tv, fans who had never seen his act, from as far away as Australia, urged him not to quit, he said.
Cherricks said he does 40 parades, shows and other events per year and has reached 4.1 million people. He said he runs a nonprofit operation and that his fees cover his expenses for motel rooms, stabling and gas in his conversion van. He also pays his two assistants a stipend and has a booking agent, Tex Holland, with whom he is often confused. Sharon used to travel with him, but doesn't anymore, he said.
His main goal, besides being entertaining, authentic and true to the sprit of Moore's TV portrayal, is to teach children about The Lone Ranger in a day when there are no real cowboy stars.
Toward that end, he's taken over http://www.lonerangerfanclub.com, a national site, which was fading away for lack of interest, and says he is trying to build it back up.
Unlike his own website, which is more about him, the fan club site focuses on the characters of The Lone Ranger and Tonto, he said.
And he tries to impress upon children, many of whom have never heard of the Lone Ranger, that the stars of his youth were not drinkers or drug users or violence-prone, and yet, they were still as popular as stars today.
Sharon doesn't think he's so crazy now.
"She said, 'Well, you really made something out of it.' "