On Christmas Eve in 1986, Clayton Moore flew into Houston, Texas, and discovered his luggage was lost, an unfortunate, but rather commonplace, event at airports. But then his bag could not be found.
In his suitcase, Moore, who planned on riding in the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, California, on New Year’s Day, had packed his Lone Ranger Colt pistols, gunbelt, two costumes and 36 silver bullets. “Fortunately, the mask was with my wife and I on the plane along with my white hat,” the actor told reporters.
Within a few weeks, gun collector Jack Hendlmyer notified police that a Houston airline baggage handler had sold the Lone Ranger pearl-handled Colt pistols to him; after hearing about the theft on news reports, he shipped the guns back to Moore. “I never kissed a girl on The Lone Ranger show—I only kissed Silver—but when they handed my revolvers back to me, I kissed the guns,” Moore recalled in his memoirs, I Was That Masked Man.
The thief got 600 hours of scooping horse poop at the Houston police stables, one month in jail and 10 years probation. Moore never recovered those two costumes and silver bullets, but he tipped his hat to the Texas Rangers who had helped him get back his gunbelt and six-shooters. “Kemo sabe, these Texas Rangers are good men,” Moore told the press on January 15, 1987, adding, “My mask was taken away from me a number of years ago, but I had faith that I would get it back. I knew I would get my guns back.”
Moore’s famous black mask had been stripped from him after the owners of the Lone Ranger series sued him. Upset that he had to substitute sunglasses for the mask, Moore found solace in his fans who stood by him and recognized him as the one and only Lone Ranger. Some fans still feel that strongly about Moore (nothing against Armie Hammer, but not everyone cares to see him step in as the Lone Ranger in this summer’s Disney remake). The lawsuit was dropped in 1985, and Moore donned the black mask again for his appearances with his fans, up until his death in 1999.
Only a lucky few of Moore’s many fans walked away with Lone Ranger treasures, from the Clayton estate, at Brian Lebel’s Old West Auction on June 22, 2013. The top lot that sold from the collection is the very gun rig that Bohlin owner Danny Lang Jr. made on December 29, 1986, so that Moore had the proper gear for his appearance at the New Year’s Day parade.
True to form, the auction also boasted notable Old West collectibles. Overall, collectors sold more than $1 million worth of memorabilia at the auction.