GROWING  UP  WITH  ROY  AND  DALE  #15





Three days after Sandy died, I was to report for induction in San Diego. Hoping for an extension, Dad called the draft board and told them about Sandy. Because of the Sullivan Act, I was immediately reclassified 4-A, which is sole surviving son, and I did not serve in the military.


While I was attending Victor Valley High, I didn't have a regular job. Dad's museum attracted visitors daily, and I earned money by selling hand-crafted items in the gift shop. I worked a lot with casting resin. At that time, grape clusters were very popular. I also made trivets and key chains and little apples with Mom and Dad's pictures on them.


That was all right in high school, but I needed a better job. Secretly, what I really wanted to do was act. I finally got up enough courage to talk to Dad about it.


"Dad, there's nothing around here in the way of performing arts classes. The Pasadena Playhouse offers classes, and I'd really like to try my hand at it."

"Dusty, it's a hard, hard life. You've seen what it takes to be an actor. Are you sure this is what you want?"

"I think it is. The trouble is, I haven't been able to earn much money, and I can't afford to go to Pasadena on my own. The lessons are very expensive. Would you be willing to help?"

Dad leaned back in his chair and looked at me intently. "Dusty, I'm not willing to make an investment like that unless you're absolutely sure it's what you want. We could send you on a trial basis to see how you do, but I don't want to make a long-term commitment to it unless you're sure."


The words were there, but I didn't think Dad was hot on the idea, and I never brought it up again. Not long after that, Dad heard about a tool and die company in Los Angeles that was hiring, so I went down and took a test. Apparently I scored the highest marks they had ever seen, and I was hired immediately. Dad was thrilled.


But I wasn't. I hated it. I loved to be outside, but my job was indoors, stuck in a place that was dark and dank and greasy. I enjoyed being creative, but there was nothing creative about my work. My first job was testing seams on napalm bombs destined for Viet Nam, to make sure they didn't leak.


The more I worked, the more I thought about those bombs. I remembered the terror that had shaken Debbie when we were discussing the Cuban Missile Crisis, and I just couldn't see myself contributing to that. I asked my boss for a different assignment.


To be put into another position, I had to have high security clearance, and when that came, I was put to work grinding little round rings with wings on them. My job was to grind the wings to a very sharp edge. I thought they were bearings for truck parts, until I made a discovery. Those deadly little metal pieces were put inside land mines. When the enemy hit a trip wire, those things came out of the ground about belly level and exploded. The wings wound themselves into the person. Sick at the thought of it, I quit.


Unlike many of my contemporaries, I was no dove. Like my parents, I believed we had a responsibility to be in Viet Nam, but it seemed to us that we were going about it all wrong. So many lives were at stake, I kept wondering why we were messing around. Why didn't we just do the job or get out?


At the same time, I couldn't handle the napalm business, and making weapons that were designed to maim. I was also feeling restless. Even before Sandy died, Dad and I had begun to drift apart. Looking back, I realize now that much of what was happening was the natural process of growing up, getting ready to leave the nest. Part of it was our own private grief. But part of it was a lack of communication.


Although Dad had spent most of his life in front of audiences, entertaining thousands of people at a time, he was—and is—painfully shy. It's difficult for him to express his feelings. The grief of those years compounded that, and our communication level dropped.

"Dad's never here for me anymore, Mom," I said one day.

"Yes, he is, Dusty," she answered. "You two just need to talk to each other, that's all. Just the other day he told me that you're never here for him!"

"Can't you tell him ... "

"Dusty, I'll tell you what I told him. I'm not going to be the interpreter for the two of you. I won't do that. You need to talk to each other."


But it didn't work that way. I told Mom what I was thinking and feeling, and Dad told her, but we didn't tell each other. We had begun to draw conclusions by what we saw and what we thought we heard, instead of talking to each other. I respected him, and he respected me, but it seemed like we were always standing on the outside of the window, looking in.


When I quit working for the tool and die maker, Dad was furious. He never said so, but it seemed to me he was thinking I'd blown my opportunity for a decent future. I'd have done anything to avoid disappointing him, but he was deeply disappointed in me anyway. I couldn't stand that.


Figuring it would blow over if I laid low for awhile, I headed for Ohio to visit friends. Once there, I decided to stay. Only recently did the irony hit me. When he was 18, Dad set out for California from Ohio; I was 19, and doing the same thing in reverse!


In Ohio I went to work for a construction company. We were building homes and factories from the ground up. I learned to run a back hoe, a front-end loader, a skip loader, and a grader. I used a chain saw to clear woods, and I pulled stumps. I laid blocks, framed houses, set shingles, hung drywall, and installed plumbing. While I was learning the construction business, I met the prettiest little blonde girl, who turned out to be my boss's daughter. Linda was barely 5'2", and I was stretching 6'4". My friend Terry White knew her, and he told me she was going to be in the senior class play at the high school.

I asked him if she had a steady boyfriend, and he said no.

"Are you sure?"

"I'm sure. She's not going with anyone."

"Do you think she'd go out with me?"

So the fool went and asked her, but not before he spread it all over the school. Naturally she said no because I didn't have the guts to ask her myself.


The opening night of the play I sent her two dozen red roses with a note:


Linda,

I'm sorry Terry and I embarrassed you.

If you ever need a tag-along for a date, I'd be glad to go.

Dusty Rogers


The next thing I knew, she was coming down the hall toward me. She walked up to me, and I leaned down as she stood on her tiptoes and kissed me on the cheek.

"Thank you for the roses!"


I stumbled all over myself, apologizing again, and suddenly a fellow came up and started telling Linda off for two-timing him! He told her he wouldn't take her to the cast party—so I went instead.


That was in April, and in August I called my folks to tell them Linda and I wanted to get married in November.


"Oh, Dusty," Dad groaned. "Why an Ohio girl? Why not a California girl?" It was my first hint that he really wanted me to be closer, that he missed me.


Why Linda? She was tiny, but she could certainly hold her own. Outgoing and articulate, she seemed sure of herself. Although she was only 18, she was solid and down-to-earth. She wasn't the least bit impressed with my family name, and she loved me for myself. Though we couldn't have been more opposite in temperament and personality, I loved her. Still do.


A few days after my call Mom and Dad sent a letter giving us their blessing. Finally the day arrived. Our wedding was the event of the season in our little Ohio town, and the local newspapers made so much of it that the wire services picked it up. The papers made the most of the fact that Dad and Mom were the King of the Cowboys and the Queen of the West, and the headlines read, "Local Girl Marries Royalty!" Linda and I have a scrapbook filled with clippings from all over the country.


We had a huge church wedding, and Mom and Dad flew back with Dodie for the ceremony. Linda's father had grown up among the Amish, so it was quite a scene. There was the Roy Rogers and Dale Evans clan, and Linda's mom's family, and her dad's family all decked out in their finest black. Newspaper photographers had a heyday with that, and when the photos appeared in the papers, the captions read, "Old Meets New."


Because of the publicity, we received cards and letters and gifts from all over the country. Some of them arrived addressed simply, "Mr. and Mrs. Roy Rogers, Jr., Middle-field, Ohio." Because people loved Mom and Dad so much, they wanted to remember us as well. Linda and I were touched by that, and by the people who came. Dad's high school teacher drove all the way from southern Ohio, and other friends came from as far away as California.


Those early years of our marriage were tough. Mom and Dad let me make my own way, as they had with my sisters. Although I knew they would help if I asked, I never did. We lived in a little mobile home that froze our bones in winter and boiled our blood in summer, and when Linda became pregnant, I swept floors at a local supermarket at night in exchange for baby food.


We stayed in Ohio for 10 years, and our daughters, Kelly and Shawna, were born there. I worked in the construction business, and on the side I made personal appearances and sang. For awhile I had my own television show, and I was also a radio disc jockey.


Finally, after a particularly hard winter, I told Linda my blood would never thicken enough for me to enjoy the Ohio winters. I wanted to go back to California, so we packed our bags and moved back to Apple Valley. I went right to work as a construction supervisor.


Our son, Dustin, was born while I earned my contractor's license and started building custom homes. I built Mom and Dad a new place, and I'm very proud of it. Off and on I did some singing, and in 1982 I formed my own Country-Western band, the High Riders.


In the meantime, Dodie had grown up and was married, and Mom and Dad were alone. I'd never tried to bridge the chasm between Dad and me. It took another tragedy to make me do anything about it. The morning of October 8, we received the news that Linda's brother, Ron, had been killed in an automobile accident. As I watched her struggle with her grief, I realized how much of it was tied to "what might have been."

"If only I'd told him I loved him more often," Linda lamented. "Now it's too late."


Linda's despair plunged her deeper and deeper into depression. I knew exactly how she felt and what her thoughts were, because I'd felt the same about Sandy and Debbie and Robin. It was as though we'd been robbed of the opportunity to express our love as fully as we really wanted to. I tried to be sensitive to Linda, but as the days wore on, it finally reached the point that I knew a tougher stand was necessary, or we'd lose her, too.


"Linda, we need you here, now, in the present. You have a family to consider. I loved Ron, too, but he's gone, and there's nothing we can do to change that. Ron would not appreciate you sitting around here and making life miserable for everyone else. This has to stop."


She looked up at me and burst into tears. We sat and cried together for about an hour, and during the next weeks, Linda gradually began to emerge from her grief. But the more I thought about it, the more it hit home that my dad was approaching his seventies. We might not have all that much time together.


One day I climbed into my truck and drove over to the house.

"Hi, Dusty!" Dad called.

"Hi, Dad. What are you doing?"

"Just heading out to buy some trees."

"Care for some company?"

"Sure. Come along." We made small talk for awhile, and then he looked at me kind of sideways and said, "You got something on your mind, son?"

I nodded. "I'm scared, Dad."

He looked at me, concerned. "Scared? What's eating at you, Dusty?"

"You know, Dad, we've been father and son for over 30 years, and you've been a great dad. But we've never really been buddies, and that's bothered me."

That set him back a bit. He stared at me for a few moments, and then he said, "It has been a long time since we really talked."

"A long time? Dad, we've never talked. I'm afraid. It really frightens me that one day I'll wake up and you'll be gone, and we'll never have had the chance to really know each other. You know, I never told Ron how much I loved and appreciated him. I don't want that day to come for you and me."

Dad was quiet for a few seconds. "Dusty, that bothers me, too." He pulled the truck over to the side of the road, and we got out and walked through the field.

"Dad, I've always been afraid of disappointing you. I hated thinking I'd disappoint you. But when something bothers you, you never say anything. I just don't know where I stand!"

"Well, you know son, that's just how I was raised. I just keep it inside."

"I do, too. But that's no way to be. If you don't tell me, how can I know if what I do is acceptable?"

He looked at me a minute. "You know when you were building the house and you said you'd come over and take that sign down?"

I nodded.

"Well, you never did. I had to tear it down myself."

For Dad to share something that would seem insignificant to most people was like a gift to me, and for the next hour, we told each other our pet peeves and what we like and what we don't.

Finally, I knew we had aired our feelings—not just our disappointments, but positive feelings, too. I looked at Dad. He stood there, shyly.

"I love you, Dad," I said.

"I love you, Son," he whispered. We wrapped our arms around each other, then turned and strolled back to the truck.


From that day on, we have never let a day pass without an embrace, without saying, "I love you." That conversation made all the difference in the world to us. It solidified in us the reality that fame and fortune mean nothing if we are impoverished in our relationships with those who mean the most to us.


Not long after that discussion, I had the opportunity to do something I'd been wanting to do for a long time. The High Riders and I were asked to do a concert at the Holiday Inn over in Victorville. In our show we sing a lot of Country-Western songs, I do a monologue, and we finish up with a "Pioneer Medley," singing some of the songs that Dad and the Sons of the Pioneers made famous.


On the radio one day, I heard a song about John Wayne. How sad, I thought, to write a song for somebody after he's gone and can't appreciate it. Why can't Dad have a song of his own, right now? I tried, but I couldn't seem to make it work, so I went to Larry Carney, who is my bass player.

"I've got some of the words, Larry," I explained, "but I need a better hook. Dad's a living legend. People love him, and they know his trademarks. Let's write a song that focuses on his horse and his hat and so on, but doesn't mention his name." Larry worked on it, and it sounded great to me. For a week before the concert, I was all nerves, but I told Mom I wanted Dad to be there. The night of the performance 400 people came, and I couldn't bring myself to talk to my parents. I saw them in the audience, and when we finished the Pioneer Medley, I stepped up to the microphone.

"Ladies and gentlemen," I said, "I have a song I'd like to share with you. It's never been sung in public before, and I'd like to dedicate it to my dad."

The song talks about the kind and gentle living legend that has touched our lives for more than 40 years:


And I know forever, In many hearts he'll reign As the King of the Cowboys, There is honor to his name.


I've never had a tougher time singing. Every time I looked at Dad, he was teary, and when I finished, the entire audience was on its feet. The applause was like thunder.


"Dad, this is for you. They really love you," I said. "I really love you, too."


Finally he stood up. The applause went on for a full five minutes. I watched him as he nodded shyly at the people who were celebrating him, and inside, I celebrated, too. Yes, the odds had been against us all, but God had overcome the odds. It was one of the best nights of my life.

………………..


THE  END


OH  I'M  SO  GLAD  ROY  AND  DUSTY  GOT  TO  BE  TRUE  FRIENDS  WITH  EACH  OTHER,  MORE  THAN  JUST  FATHER  AND  SON.


THIS  HAS  BEEN  AN  AMAZING  BEHIND-THE -SCENES  LOOK  AND  INSIGHT  INTO  GROWING  UP  WITH  ROY  ROGERS  AND  DALE  EVANS.  IT'S  NOT  ONLY  BEEN  INFORMATIVE,  BUT,  TOUCHING; WITH  THE  TIMES  OF  HAPPY  CRAZINESS  IN  THE  ROGERS'  HOME,  AND  TIMES  OF  BITTER  SORRY.


TO  TRY  AND  PUT  THE  RECORD  STRAIGHT.  I  HAD  CREATED  THIS  SECTION  OF  MY  WEBSITE  BEFORE  LEO  PANDO  PUBLISHED  HIS  BOOK  ON  "TRIGGER"  IN  2007.  THE  BOOK  WAS  A  KINDA  BLOCK-BUSTER  FOR  MANY,  AS  IT  PUT  TOGETHER  A  LOT  OF  TRUTHS  THAT  HAD  EITHER  NOT  SURFACED,  OR  HAD  BEEN  INCORRECTLY  PRESENTED,  AND  JUST  A  BLURRING  OF  MANY  THINGS  ABOUT  THE  "TRIGGER"  HORSE.  I  WAS  ANNOUNCING  AND  RECOMMENDING  THIS  BOOK.  MY  WEBSITE  AND  THIS  SECTION  OF  IT  ABOUT  ROY  AND  TRIGGER,  CAME  UP  ON  THE  INTERNET.  AFTER  MY  ANNOUNCING  OF  PANDO'S  BOOK,  THERE  WAS  A  FLURRY  FROM  THE  ROGERS  PEOPLE,  PUTTING  THEIR  WEBSITE  UP  DOZENS  OF  TIMES,  SO  MINE  GOT  LOST  WAY  WAY  DOWN  THE  LINE.  I  THOUGHT  THIS  WAS  A  REALLY  BAD  AND  DESPERATE  WAY  TO  NOT  FACE  THE  TRUTH  OF  THE  MATTER,  ADMIT  IT,  AND  BE  WILLING  TO  JUST  BE  PART  OF  CLEARING  THE  AIR.  NEEDLESS  TO  SAY  I  WAS  VERY  DISAPPOINTED  IN  THEIR  ACTIONS  OF  TRYING  TO  SUPPRESS  THE  FACTS.  I  WAS  IN  BRANSON  IN  2008  FOR  A  RELIGIOUS  FESTIVAL;  IT  WAS  THE  YEAR  THE  WORLD  ECONOMY  WENT  BUST  OVER  THE  EVILS  OF  WALL-STREET  AND  BANKERS  IN  THE  USA.  PEOPLE  WERE  IN  DEEP  TROUBLE  FINANCIALLY.  I  INTENDED  TO  VISIT  THE  ROY  ROGERS  MUSEUM,  WHICH  I  DID;  THEY  ALLOWED  ME  TO  TAKE  MANY  PHOTOS [WHICH  ARE  ON  MY  FACEBOOK]. IT  WAS  THE  LADY  I  BOUGHT  MY  HORSE  "GOLDIE"  FROM  WHO  EMAILED  ME  IN  BRANSON  TO  TELL  ME  THE  MUSEUM  WAS  CLOSING  IN  A  FEW  MONTHS.  SO  I  GOT  TO  SEE  IT  ALL  BEFORE  IT  CLOSED.  I  WAS  ESPECIALLY  INTERESTED  IN  SEEING  "TRIGGER" [ORIGINAL  ONE]…… IT  WAS  VERY  DISAPPOINTING  AS  THE  SKIN  STRETCHED  OVER  A  FRAME  WAS  ONLY  A  SHADOW  OF  THE  BEAUTIFUL  HORSE  IN  ROY'S  MOVIES  AND  TV  SERIES.  AS  I  WOULD  SAY  ON  MY  WEBSITE,  IT  WAS  THE  BIGGEST  MISTAKE  ROY  EVER  MADE.


BEFORE  THE  MUSEUM  CLOSED,  I  GOT  AN  EMAIL  FROM  I  PRESUME  A  "BOARD  MEMBER"  OF  THE  ROY  ROGERS  MUSEUM.  I  SAID  I  WAS  NOT  INTERESTED  IN  TALKING,  THAT  WAS  THE  END  OF  IT.  I'M  NOT  SURE  OF  THE  REASON  FOR  THE  EMAIL,  OTHER  THAN  THEY  MIGHT  HAVE  THOUGHT  IF  I  TOOK  DOWN  MY  "UN-OFFICIAL"  WEBSITE  OF  ROY  ROGERS  AND  TRIGGER,  ALL  THE  PEOPLE  WOULD  COME  BACK  AGAIN  TO  VISIT  THE  ROY  ROGERS  MUSEUM.  DID  MY  UN-OFFICIAL  WEBSITE  OF  ROY  AND  TRIGGER  DO  ALL  THAT  DAMAGE  TO  DRASTICALLY  CUT  DOWN  ON  PEOPLE  NOW  NOT  COMING  TO  THE  MUSEUM?  I  REALLY  DOUBT  IT.  MORE  LIKELY  THE  FINANCIAL  DOWN-TURN  FOR  THE  USA  IN  2008  AND  AFTER,  WITH  SOME  RELATIVELY  FEW [UNLESS  YOU  ARE  INTO  HORSES,  FEW  WOULD  HAVE  EVEN  KNOWN  ABOUT  THIS  BOOK  BY  LEO  PANDO]  FINDING  AND  BUYING  THE  BOOK  ON  TRIGGER  BY  PANDO,  AS  THE  CAUSE  FOR  DROPPING  ATTENDANCE  AT  THE  MUSEUM.  MY  WEBSITE  IS  A  "RELIGIOUS"  WEBSITE,  AND  THE  MAJORITY  USING  IT  ARE  THOSE  RESEARCHING  RELIGIOUS  ISSUES,  A  VERY  VERY  FEW  WOULD  BE  INTERESTED  IN  ANY  SERIOUS  WAY,  ABOUT  ALL  THE  INS  AND  OUTS  OF  ROY  ROGERS  AND  TRIGGER.


THE  TRUE  FACTS  ON  ROY  AND  TRIGGER,  OR  TRIGGERS,  NEEDED  TO  BE  BROUGHT  TO  LIGHT,  TO  SET  ALL  THE  RECORDS  STRAIGHT.  THE  TRUTH  USUALLY  HAS  A  WAY  OF  COMING  OUT  SOONER  OR  LATER,  IN  THIS  CASE  IT  WAS  LATER,  BUT  IT  NEEDED  TO  BE  OUT,  ENOUGH  STRANGE  "HOLLYWOODY"  MADE  UP  BLENDING  OF  TWO  HORSES  INTO  ONE,  HAD  GONE  ON  LONG  ENOUGH;  NOW  WAS  THE  TIME  TO  GET  IT  ALL  CORRECT  SO  ALL  COULD  BE  FREE  FROM  THE  "SANTA  CLAUSE"  PRETENCE.


IF  SUCH  A  MUSEUM  OF  ROY  ROGERS  AND  DALE  EVANS  COULD  NOT  STAND  ON  THE  SOLID  GROUND  OF  TRUTH,  THEN  IT  NEEDED  TO  BE  GONE.  TRUTH  DOES  SET  A  PERSON  FREE.


I  WILL  ALWAYS  BE  A  ROY  ROGERS  FAN,  HAVE  BEEN  SINCE  AGE  7,  WHEN  I  SAW  MY  FIRST  ROY  ROGERS  MOVIE.  I  WILL  ALWAYS  RECOMMEND  ROY'S  MOVIES  AND  TV  SERIES.  BUT  I  WILL  ALSO  TELL  PEOPLE  ROY  HAD  TWO  MAIN  HORSES  THAT  WERE  TRIGGER……THE  ORIGINAL  TRIGGER  IN  HIS  MOVIES  AND  TV  SERIES [WHO  COULD  DO  SOME  TRICKS],  AND  THE  "ON  THE  ROAD"  RODEO  AND  PERFORMANCE  SHOW  TRIGGER,  THE  ONE  THEY  CLAIM  MASTERED  100  TRICKS  OR  SO, AND  THE  ONE  USED  IN  THE  GREAT  MOVIE  OF  1952  "SON  OF  PALEFACE"  STARING  BOB  HOPE  AND  JANE  RUSSEL,  ROY  ROGERS  AND  "TRIGGER."


Keith Hunt