INTRODUCTION TO QUEEN OF THE WEST - DALE EVANS
From the book "Happy Trails" - 1979
It sits quietly on the southern edge of Ellis County in central Texas, claiming 1,309 residents, a downtown area which has seen better days, and an economy destined to rise and fall in direct proportion to the annual amount of rainfall.
Less than an hours drive from the high-geared, high-finance world of Dallas, little Italy, Texas, is a farming community struggling to survive and maintain its traditions in a time when rural traditions are daily being swept away by what legislators and congressmen are wont to call progress. In that regard, Italy and her people hold stubbornly to old and time-tested values. The pace is slow and the living, if not luxurious, is easy, without the yoke of big-city pressures. In Italy, people don't expend great amounts of effort keeping up with the Joneses. They're too busy working the fields, going to church, helping their neighbors, and minding their own business.
On this particular day, however, the pace was noticeably quicker, the enthusiasm obvious on the face of virtually every man, woman, and child. By careful design it was not meant to be an average day in Italy. Red, white, and blue bunting draped the town; taped music, fed into a loudspeaker system, filled the square, causing the regular patrons of the sidewalk benches to tap their feet as they attended their whittling ritual.
On one corner a popcorn vendor was set up for business, much to the delight of his youthful clientele, and energetic young members of the Chamber of Commerce were busily roping off a block of Main Street which would, when evening fell, serve as an open-air square dance floor. Byer's Ladies Shop, in celebration of the occasion, was offering blouses three for ten dollars; The Pink Elephant Variety Store had followed suit and was doing a brisk business with its own Homecoming Sale. Soon, however, their doors would close, so that owners and salespersons would be allowed proper time to prepare for the much-anticipated activities to come.
The most famous citizen ever to call their town home had returned to take a bow at their own request. Not that she hadn't been back often over the years to visit her parents and rekindle old friendships. This time, however, there was to be pomp and circumstance, with a Key to the City and a plaque and a stage constructed from bales of hay and a flatbed truck. First class in every respect.
This, a Chamber of Commerce brainchild, was to be the official Dale Evans Homecoming.
So what if for years Waxahachie, just a few minute's drive up Interstate 35, had boasted long and loud that Mary Martin, the gifted actress who brought Peter Pan to life on the Broadway stage, was one of its own? Had Ms. Martin returned so much as to say hello? No, and in fact, she had more than once publicly discredited her birthplace as, for starters, backward and boring.
Not so with Dale Evans, the Queen of the West. She had remained as loyal and loving to her hometown as it had to her. A Dale Evans Day was clearly in order.
People came, not just from Italy, but from such surrounding hamlets as Avalon, Milford, and Lone Cedar to shake her hand, to hear her sing, and to praise the work she had done both as an entertainer and a humanitarian. Many of the adults recalled particular Saturday afternoons when they sat in darkened movie houses to watch Dale and Roy go about winning the West with a song in their hearts. Youngsters, familiar with Dale Evans only through the memories of their parents, stood patiently to have their pictures taken with the lady of the hour and have her sign her name to autograph books and scraps of paper.
"There's a feeling in a little town like this," Dale told the crowd, "that is vanishing all too fast in America. Here, people care about each other."
Dale Evans Day stood as eloquent testimony to her observation.