Today's issue in the news is: Social Security.
Is Social Security safe? Experts tell us that unless we implement meaningful reform soon, the entire system will go bankrupt by the year 2050, plunging the nation into chaos and despair. I personally plan to be dead. So we don't need to worry about it.
Instead, let's talk about the ongoing debate over what, exactly, the Lone Ranger shouted to his horse, Silver, when he rode off into the sunset. As you may recall if you have no life, in a recent column I stated that I had always believed the Lone Ranger shouted "Hi-ho, Silver! Away!" But then I got a letter from a reader who insisted that the Lone Ranger shouted "Hi-yo, Silver! Away!" So I checked with top language experts, including William Safire and Stephen King, and they agreed that it was, in fact, "Hi-yo" and not "Hi-ho."
So I wrote a column endorsing the "Hi-yo" version, and I believed that the matter was settled. Little did I realize that I was opening a can of worms. Because it turns out that this issue is not so simple. There are many unanswered questions, including: Why did the Lone Ranger shout to a horse that was standing right under him? And why would anybody put worms into a can? And then why would anybody OPEN the can? (The same question could be asked about Spam.)
But getting back to "Hi-ho" vs. "Hi-yo": In response to my column, I received many letters from people who claim to have inside information about the Lone Ranger. I cannot print all of their letters here, but if you were to combine them into one generic letter, it would sound like this:
"Dear Mr. Barry: I am 263 years old, and I never missed an episode of the Lone Ranger on the electric radio, on top of which my aunt's cousin's dentist's husband once rode a bus with a man who knew the barber of a close friend of one of the show's original sagebrush wranglers, and I can state with absolute certainty that you are (choose one:) (a) absolutely correct; (b) a moron, because the Lone Ranger DEFINITELY shouted (choose one:) (a) 'Hi-yo, Silver!'; (b) 'Hi-ho, Silver!'; (c) 'Hi-o, Silver!'; (d) 'Heil, Silver!'; (e) 'It's Howdy Doody Time, Silver!' "
To buttress their arguments, people sent in reams of information from various sources regarding the Lone Ranger and his faithful Indian companion, Tonto. I have been poring over this information and have extracted the following salient facts (I am not making these facts up):
* The original Lone Ranger show was created at Detroit radio station WXYZ in 1933. This explains why Tonto called the Lone Ranger "Kemo Sabe," a phrase that is derived from the name of a boys' summer camp in Michigan owned by the director's uncle.
* So when the Lone Ranger frowned in that thoughtful, serious manner of his, he may have been thinking: "I don't care HOW faithful he is; if he calls me a boys' summer camp in Michigan one more time, I'm going to put a silver bullet in his leg."
* One of the actors who portrayed the Lone Ranger on the radio was named Brace Beemer.
* The letters in "Brace Beemer" can be rearranged to spell "Embrace Beer."
* According to the story line created by the radio writers, the Lone Ranger was the great uncle of the Green Hornet, a masked superhero who battled the forces of evil, and whose secret identity was Britt Reed, newspaper publisher.
* If you know anything about newspaper publishers, it is hard to imagine them battling any force more evil than a sand trap.
* The Green Hornet's faithful companion was named "Kato," whose namesake, Kato Kaelin, held the position of house sitter for O.J. Simpson.
* In 1974, O.J. Simpson was in the movie "The Towering Inferno," with Robert Wagner.
* In 1998, Robert Wagner was in "Wild Things," with Kevin Bacon.
When we put all these facts together, we see that the question of exactly what the Lone Ranger shouted to his horse is a great deal more complex than we thought it was early in this column, before we decided to brace ourselves with a couple of beemers, if you catch our drift.
Clearly what we need is for the president to appoint a federal commission, headed by the late Earl Warren, to examine the evidence and issue a report. Also, somebody needs to straighten out this Social Security mess. I've done all I can.