If you know what I am referring to when I mention “Sky King,” then you are probably at least 60 years old.
Sky King was a TV series that ran off and on from 1951 to 1962, about a modern day cowboy who didn’t ride a horse, but chased bad guys with an airplane. Kirby played an Arizona rancher who fought bad guys and rescued people in trouble with his twin-engine Cessna.
The show starred Kirby Grant, who I learned yesterday at the Museum of Mountain Flying at the Missoula airport, was born in Butte, Montana. He is buried in a family plot in Missoula.
Like many little boys of my generation, I loved the old black and white TV shows about cowboys — Roy Rogers, the Lone Ranger, Hopalong Cassidy, Gene Autry, the Cisco Kid. Just thinking of those guys makes me feel warm and fuzzy and happy. They were all good guys —fighting a never-ending battle with thugs and outlaws, always winning, but never shooting anybody. When they fired their guns it was almost always when racing after a desperado on horseback (never hitting him) or, more likely, shooting the gun out of the bad guy’s hand.
Kirby Grant, I learned yesterday, was really Kirby Grant Hoon. The show Sky King was his claim to fame, although he appeared in a few dozen B movies. Early in his life he played violin and even led a dance band. After Sky King, he bought and traveled with a circus. Sadly, he died in 1985 at age 74 in a car accident while on the way to a Space Shuttle launch where he was to be honored by astronauts for his contributions to aviation and space flight.
I enjoyed visiting Kirby yesterday. I stood at his grave for awhile and thought about all the hours he had entertained me as a little boy. I thanked him. I felt a bit sad as I drove off, reminded once again that all my childhood TV heroes are now gone.
If you are in Missoula and would like to pay tribute to “Sky,” he’s at the Missoula City Cemetery just a half-mile off I-90. Just park at the cemetery office and turn around. He’s right on the front row beneath a big shade tree.
If you never saw Sky King when it was on TV, you are in luck. You can watch a full episode on YouTube by clicking here.