#205: Who Was That Masked Nephew?

205.1  In the movie “A Christmas Story,” they mention the quiz question: What is the name of the Lone Ranger’s nephew’s horse? I never knew the Masked Man had a nephew. Did he really?

205.2   Not to start with, no. The Lone Ranger was invented as a dramatic radio series on WXYZ in Detroit in 1933. His origin: a posse of six Texas Rangers, lead by Captain Dan Reid, is ambushed by Butch Cavendish and his Hole-In-The-Wall Gang. All are killed except Dan Reid’s younger brother John, who is left for dead. Revived by Tonto, he dons a mask made from his dead brother’s vest and becomes you-know-who.

205.3  Now among purists, there is even a debate about whether the Lone Ranger’s first name really is John. The claim is made that on the radio show a first name is never mentioned. Do all episodes still exist? Has somebody listened carefully to each and every one of them? At any rate, the theory is “John” came from somewhere else…a movie?…a published story?…nobody is sure where. But for our purposes, we will assume the Lone Ranger is John Reed…and as such, he rides through almost a decade of thrilling adventures, until the fad for juvenile sidekicks catches up with him in December, 1942…

205.4  …when a five episode arc culminates with “A Nephew is Found,” broadcast on Christmas day…and it is discovered that young Dan Frisby is actually Dan Reid, Jr. It seems that 15 years previously, Grandma Frisby was in a wagon train heading west along with Captain Reid’s wife Linda and their infant son. Linda is killed by Indians, and Grandma Frisby adopts the child as her grandson. Is the boy’s name really Dan? Grandma named him that because of a locket that contained two pictures, one of Dan Reid and his wife, the other of younger brother John. The Lone Ranger takes off his mask and Grandma Frisby now knows Dan’s true identity. Her dying words: “Ride on forever, Lone Ranger, with Danny at your side.”

205.5  Interestingly, the same radio people who invented the Lone Ranger also came up with the Green Hornet in 1936. Years later, in a November, 1947 episode, Britt Reid reveals to his father Dan that he is the Green Hornet. Dan recalls that as a youth he rode with another masked vigilante…and we briefly hear the Lone Ranger theme. This makes the Lone Ranger the grand uncle of the Green Hornet, all neat and tidy.


205.6  Except it gets complicated…it shouldn’t, but it does. And it shouldn’t because I daresay virtually every baby boomer who watched the short-lived Green Hornet TV series thought they were seeing the Green Hornet…that is, the Britt Reid from the radio series that their parents listened to. But these many years later, doubt creeps in. For example, Uncle Wiki cites a scene with Britt and reporter Mike Axford in the first TV episode “Silent Gun” and concludes that it “hints Britt’s father was the first Green Hornet”…by which they mean, the TV Green Hornet is the son of the radio Green Hornet. But as happens way too often, the Wikipudlians are dead wrong!

205.7  The scene in question has Britt authorizing payment to an “informant” for a news story, and Mike recalls when Britt’s father did the same thing…”I remember we once paid $5000 to an axe murderer!”  Thus it establishes…it does not “hint”…that Britt’s father was once the publisher of the Daily Sentinel newspaper, nothing more. And this resembles the backstory of the radio series: Britt’s father Dan owns the paper, and makes his playboy son Britt publisher to keep him out of trouble…even assigning Mike as his bodyguard. And of course Dan was never the Green Hornet, Britt was…he was inspired to do so when gangsters frame his father, who is sent to prison.

205.8  And while I haven’t seen all the TV episodes, it’s interesting to note that in a 5-minute test film with Jay Murray as the Hornet, his father is named father Henry Reid. But jump ahead to 1989, and NOW Comics reboots the franchise, with Britt Reid II, nephew of the original, now the Green Hornet. He eventually has a heart attack and is replaced by his nephew Paul Reid. Mercifully, the company went out of business in 1995. This obviously isn’t canonical, or “real” even in the fictional sense. Then we have Dynamite Entertainment Comics who in 2006 re-wrote the Lone Ranger saga to make both Dan and John Reid mere rangers, under the command of their father Captain James Reid…not to mention that in the 2011 Green Hornet movie, Britt’s father is also named James.

205.9  But getting back to your question, Dan Jr.’s horse was named “Victor.” This factoid ties into the question of exactly when “A Christmas Story” is supposed to take place. It had long been assumed that the year is 1940, since the Little Orphan Annie decoder ring shown is of the style introduced in 1940. Then somebody noticed that the calendar on the wall in the dinner scenes has the first of December falling on a Friday. That makes it 1939, in line with the department store sequence, as “The Wizard of Oz” also came out in 1939. But how could they know about Dan Reid Jr. who didn’t exist until 1942? Put together with all the other irreconcilable clues, the answer is: no exact year is possible. Cool movie though, sez me….and away!!


205.10 My friend Zoë says her Aunt Annie is also her cousin. Can that be possible?

205.11 Yes, it’s completely possible, owing to the old kinship truism that we have two distinct groups of relatives, those on our mother’s side and those on our father’s side. Thus 2 people can be related in one way on one side, and in another way on the other side. Your case would occur if two brothers married a woman and her daughter. Say Annie and Zoë’s fathers are brothers, making Annie and Zoë first cousins. And suppose that Zoë’s mother is the daughter of Annie’s mother, making Zoë the niece of Annie, right? Well, almost right, as diagrammed in Chart 741.


205.12   The sticking point is this: who is Y‘s father, Zoë’s grandfather? It’s either Annie’s father B or somebody else. And if it’s Annie’s father, that means one of the brothers married his niece!


205.13   This does not queer the deal at all…down thru history, and in many cultures today, this is perfectly acceptable…it’s called an avunculate marriage, and while illegal in the US, it is legal in such countries as Argentina, Brazil, Australia, France, and Russia. In some parts of India, a man can marry his sister’s daughter, but not his brother’s daughter. Interestingly, the marriage of a woman and her nephew is virtually unheard of.

205.14   And avunculate marriages occurred among European royal families as recently as the 1800s, so Chart 742a, while hardly likely, cannot be entirely ruled out. More likely however is Chart 742bZoë’s grandfather is not B but somebody else…and now we are dealing with step-relations and half-relations. Assuming X already had Y when she married B, this would make Zoë’s mother her father’s brother’s step-daughter. And Zoë is not Annie’s sister’s daughter but Annie’s half-sister’s daughter….Annie and Zoë are half-aunt and half-niece, not aunt and niece.

205.15  To sum up: if one of the brothers married his niece, what you describe is perfectly correct. If not, then it’s first cousins by blood on one side,  but half-aunt and half-niece on the other side. Either way, an interesting tangle…ain’t love grand?


Copyright © 2015 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved


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