“The Cowboy,” a chopper pilot whose nickname stems from his gun holster belt and cowboy hat, arrives at the 4077th with a shoulder wound. He is anxiously awaiting a letter from his wife, who he fears is leaving him for another man.
The Cowboy wants to be sent home before his marriage completely falls apart, but Henry refuses, stating that The Cowboy’s wound is not serious enough to merit a stateside ticket. Bad luck then follows Henry wherever he goes: he gets shot at while golfing, his tent gets flattened by a driver-less jeep, and the latrine is blown up with him inside it. Deciding to leave camp for a while, he is nearly killed when his desk chair explodes.
The Cowboy offers to fly Henry to Seoul, then tries to push him out of the chopper in midair. At the same time, Hawkeye and Trapper realize that these “accidents” have been The Cowboy’s attempts to get revenge against Henry for not sending him home. Radar brings the letter from The Cowboy’s wife, and Hawkeye and Trapper inform him over the radio that it has finally arrived.
The letter is postmarked Reno, Nevada, which sends the two doctors into a panic, given Reno’s reputation for quick and painless divorce proceedings. The letter also begins ‘Dear John,” the cliched opening of a letter to a man whose heart is about to be broken.
It turns out, however, that The Cowboy’s real name is John Hodges and that he does live in Reno. In the letter, his wife assures him that he is loved. He brings Henry safely back to camp and receives a month’s stateside leave.
“Cowboy” was the eighth episode from the first Season of M*A*S*H. Originally Aired on November 12, 1972
(Hawkeye, Trapper and Radar try desperately to talk sense into The Cowboy over the radio who has Colonel Blake in his helicopter and is threatening to throw him out.)
Trapper: Cowboy, you just got a letter from home!
(This finally gets The Cowboy’s attention. He grabs the radio.)
Cowboy: Yeah, nice try, Trapper!
Trapper: We’re not jiving you, Cowboy!
Cowboy: Then who is it from?
Hawkeye: “Mrs. Jean Hodges.”
Trapper: Jean. That’s your wife’s name, isn’t it? Jean?
Cowboy: Yeah! And what’s the address?
Hawkeye: “Box 740…
(All of a sudden, Hawkeye covers the mike and whispers.)
Hawkeye: Reno! Goodbye, Henry.
Cowboy: I can’t hear you!
Trapper: (hesitantly) Uh, it might say “Reno, Nevada” but we really can’t tell.
Cowboy: (overjoyed) Reno! That’s it! That’s where I live!
(Meanwhile, Colonel Blake is sweating bullets.)
Blake: What a lovely town.
Trapper: Cowboy, how’s Colonel Blake? Henry, are you all right?
Blake: I’m in a lot of trouble!
Cowboy: C’mon! Open up that letter! Let’s hear it!
(Hawkeye and Trapper open up the letter. When they read it, they look sad and horrified. Meanwhile, the Cowboy is waiting. Hawkeye clears his throat and proceeds to read.)
Cowboy: (overjoyed) Go on!That’s my real name!
(Colonel Blake rolls his eyes.)
Blake: Dear John from Reno.