ROY - THE FIRST FIVE YEARS IN MOVIES
AND THE BUYING OF TRIGGER
On pages 64,65, of "Happy Trails" (published in 1979) Roy
mentions of number of facts, one after the other, with no dates
or chronology, and the some-what now famous "tiff" he had with
Herb Yates, where Yates threatened to put another cowboy on
Trigger for the next movie, and not Roy. Then Roy replied he
could use another cowboy but he would not be riding Trigger,
because "I bought him." The dates of all these facts are not
given. It is one thought leading to another, which on the surface
you would maybe think was all within a few months of each other.
But other facts show some of the chronology cannot be put into
such a short time spell.
We pick up some important details on page 65. After again
going back and forth on a few things, as one thought triggered
another, we come to:
"After my first couple of years in the movie business, Arlene and
I were STILL COUNTING OUR PENNIES, living in a little frame
house, and WONDERING where the MONEY we had HEARD movie stars
were supposed to be making was. I had tried to supplement my
income by opening a Western apparel store called The Hitching
Post in Studio City, but about all that venture had proven was
that as a businessman I made a pretty fair cowboy. It was the END
of 1939. I had made thirteen pictures, and was constantly WORRIED
about MAKING IT TO THE NEXT PAYCHECK. If, when I met a man named
Art Rush, I had known what he would be able to do for me in the
years to come, I would probably have given him a BIG HUGE rather
than a sceptical handshake."
Are you with me? Did you clearly catch what Roy clearly
said. After two years he and Arlene were STILL COUNTING PENNIES
.... WORRIED ABOUT making it to the NEXT PAYCHECK ... living in a
little frame house, and wondering where the money was that movie
stars were supposed to make.
Now, even if you want to go with the "conservative" figure
of money in 1940 in today's world, and multiply by 10, you come
up with a horse that Roy finally did buy for $2,500 being in
today's terms as selling for $25,000. That is conservative, it is
probably closer in the then money to the now money as a horse
selling for much closer to $50,000 than $25.000.
Roy and Arlene just did NOT have that kind of money to spend
on a horse in 1940, while still worrying about making it to the
Roy goes on to say that he was surprised that Art Rush
wanted to be his manager. Roy says he told him he wanted a
Western singer-actor to make his list complete. " It occurred to
me that he needed me about like he needed a hole in the head.
There's a pretty wide stretch of ground between a Nelson Eddy"
(who Rush was managing) "and a one hundred and fifty-dollar-a-
week singing cowboy" (pages 65,66.
So we multiply by 20 for today's wage and we get that Roy,
after two years was making $3,000 per week, or if you want to go
with times it by 10 we get Roy with $1,500 a week. Which ever,
the fact is that Roy and Arlene were worried about making it to
the next paycheck. As far as I've seen I've never heard that
Republic ever help Roy pay for the work of answering fan mail. It
was Rush who had to find him some "gigs" to help pay for all
Well, with that context of the situation in 1940, a couple
of years being in the movie business (page 65), we can see there
is no way that Roy could have bought a $25,000 or $50,000 horse
named Golden Cloud, who became known by the name Trigger.
Now, we go to the words of Art Rush himself in this "Happy
The first thing I had to do was to find some way to BEGIN
MAKING Roy some MONEY. I couldn't believe it when I found out
what the studio was paying him. Here was a young man who had
already established himself as a star, yet was having a PRETTY
HARD TIME MAKING ENDS MEET."
Page 68 tells us that in short order the work Roy was doing
AWAY from Republic Studio was earning him MORE that his acting
job. And the steady schedule of personal appearance was adding to
an income now being watched over by James Osborne, a man who
would eventually become Roy's personal business manager.
Get this folks. Art Rush goes to Roy and says, "Roy, I think
you're now in a position where you and Arlene can MOVE OUT of
that little frame house."
"How much do you think I can afford to spend?" Roy asked.
"Jim says you can afford something in the TEN THOUSAND
"Those were the words Roy had been waiting to hear for QUITE
SOME TIME. He immediately began a search for a place he had in
mind and finally located it in the San Fernando Valley. There was
a small chicken ranch, complete with 3,500 chickens and a
comfortable white bungalow on the property. He told a puzzled Jim
Osborne to close the deal as quickly as possible. Once all the
papers were signed, Roy picked up Andy and Matte Slye and drove
them out to see it. As they stood on the porch, Roy HAND HIS
FATHER THE KEY TO THE FRONT DOOR. 'Welcome home, Dad,' he said.
'You're gonna be getting all the sunshine you want now, tending
to all those chickens.'
Inside Mattie found a large bolt of material. 'I figured
you'd want to make your own curtains,' her son said.
He had never mentioned anything about it as far as I know,
remembers Art Rush, 'but buying that home for his folks was
something he had planned for a long time. He didn't do it with a
lot of fanfare, but he did it with class. The place hadn't taken
all the ten thousand dollars I had told him he could afford, so
he used the balance to FILL a dozen sugar bowls with CASH and put
them in his mother's pantry where she would find them later.
I knew right then that this man Roy Rogers was going to be a
pleasure to do business with. He had purchased the ranch for his
Mon and Dad BEFORE he bought a home for Arlene and himself."
MY OH MY! This tells you that NO HORSE worth $25,000 or
$50,000 dollars in today's money was going to be bought before
buying a home for his parents. Then who do you think would have
been next in line? You got it .... Arlene and himself and family.
This is just the sort of man, with this sort of heart, BEFORE he
ever accepted Jesus Christ as his personal Savior.
We may be unsure of some of the details on Roy Rogers' busy
life in those first years in movies and tours and personal
appearances all over the place, but I believe the words of Art
Rush, those events would have stuck in his mind like an arrow in
the bulls eye.
Roy had reached the point where in today's money he was told
he could find a house for $100,000 (if you times by 10) or
$200,000 (if you times by 20). I know value of land and homes can
vary from town to town in North America. 35 minutes west of
Calgary, Alberta, a young lady I know from the horse world, four
years ago, was able to buy a five acre plot with bungalow, for
Does not matter the math you do, the bottom line is that now
with some money in the bank, Roy was NOT going to buy a $25 to
$50 thousand dollar horse. He was not going to buy a better shack
for himself and Arlene, but FIRST of all, for his Mom and Dad.
The rest would fall in line afterwards.
Pardners, forget about some of the things you may have read
by others down through the decades. Roy's life was so busy, so
busy, movie making, practicing with the Songs of the Pioneers,
road show, this and that, even Roy may have honestly and
inadvertently, forgotten how it all went. I've never heard that
Roy kept a daily diary of all his daily work and purchases and
all that stuff. My Dad had kept a daily diary for decades. He's
88 and can look up and see the what and when and how and why of
his life, from decades back. Roy maybe did not throw anything out
that did come his way, but a daily diary, never heard he had one.
So with age and time, we can all get the facts a little mixed up,
not intentionally, with no wrong motive, but it does happen, most
of us are not infallible encyclopedias of everything that
happened in our lives, with all the details of those events in
The selling BILL OF SALE is STILL THERE in LIVE BLACK AND
WHITE. You will find it reproduced for you in "An Illustrated
History of Trigger" book by Leo Pando.
Date Sept.15, 1934
Sold to Roy Rogers, one palomino stallion named "Trigger" for the
sun of Twenty-five hundred Dollar ($2500.00) five Hundred
Dollars has been paid down and the balance, $2,000.00 to be paid
on Roy Rogers return from New York.
Date Dec.6, 1943
Received of Roy Rogers Two Thousand Dollars. ($2000.00)
Payment in full for one palomino stallion named "Trigger."
Signature of Art Hudkins in hand-wrting
It is claimed Ray White was one of the first who noted the
bill of sale and 1943 as the purchase date for Trigger in the
June 2001 issue of "Western Horseman" magazine in an article
titled "B - western Horses." Trigger's bill of sale was
eventually acknowledge by others and the details became well
known via the Internet.
Why would THE Trigger be selling for such a very high price,
well pretty simple really. You have a horse with first class
breeding, super looks, intelligent, fast, wonderful nature for a
stallion, a well broke horse, a good "cowpony" as Roy would say.
You had a company owning him that was connected to the Western
movie business of Hollywood, a "classy horse for the star of the
movie" - a horse already had been in many movies by 1943, with
Roy and others besides Roy. I guess in that kind of world with
that kind of a horse as in today's movie world of 2008, $50
thousand dollars would probably be the going price. And after all
you were selling it to an established, ever more popular Roy
Rogers ..... yep I guess you'd be asking the big bucks for a
gorgeous horse like Trigger.
There's still some other question to addres in trying to
piece things together, where the photos of Roy and Trigger (which
Trigger - THE or Little Trigger), need to be opened and let the
photos and when taken, together with the "roundabout" time
bought, and for how much, answer us. We may have to change our
mind and eat some humble pie, but this is all we can do, there
seems to be no "paper trail" on Little Trigger. If someone finds
it they need to make it open to public viewing. So far I've seen
no one with any presentation of a paper trail for Little Trigger.
But the paper trail for THE Trigger is now an open and
We have interesting pages in Pando's book of Trigger
proving some of the number of movies he was in before Roy Rogers
bought him in 1943. I'll present you with that story of the life
of THE Trigger, next.