GROWING  UP  WITH  ROY  AND  DALE  #4


HERE  DUSTY  SHOWS  HIS  UN-EDUCATED  KNOWLEDGE  OF  "TRIGGER"  AND  DOES  WHAT  MANY  HAVE  DONE [INCLUDING  ROY  AND  DALE]  MIXING  UP  THE  "TRIGGERS"  AS  IF  IT  WAS  ONE  HORSE.  DUSTY  EVEN  GETS  TRIGGER  JR.  MIXED  UP - Keith Hunt



As much as our folks tried to give us lives that paralleled those of other children, we were living a unique paradox. We knew few Hollywood stars, and yet our lives were touched by the men and women—and the animals— that worked with Mom and Dad in the movies, on television, and on the road shows. The razzle-dazzle of show business was very much a part of who we were, but I suppose none of us took it quite as seriously as Cheryl did.


Cheryl was a real "show biz kid," and she loved to go down to the set with Mom and Dad. She took very seriously her role as "the daughter of" Roy Rogers, King of the Cowboys. She had brown Shirley Temple curls and a round face with expressive eyes. She carried herself so regally that the rest of us all called her "Queenie." Cheryl retaliated by dubbing me "Prince."


But Queenie wasn't the only one who enjoyed being on the set. Sandy and I loved it, and it was there that I learned to drink coffee. There was never anything for kids to drink on the set, so I would get half a cup of coffee, fill the rest up with half-and-half, then dunk donuts in it.


Sandy and I loved being on the sets because we liked to watch the stunts. We'd go home and try to imitate them, or sometimes we'd roll around on the set. One day Sandy rolled a rock onto my hand and pinched it a bit. I let out a shriek right in the middle of a big scene, and everyone came running. As soon as Mom and Dad knew I was all right, I was in deep trouble for messing up the scene. If I wanted to do stunts, Dad said, I had to do them at home. The set was his place to do them.


A couple of times Cheryl and I even played parts in the television series. I played the town brat, and I was always picking on Pat Brady. In one scene, I shot his hat off with a bow and arrow, and in another, I got him in the rear end with a sling shot. We never thought of Pat as a "star." He was simply one of Dad's best friends, and he and his wife Fayetta were Dodie's godparents. Pat had bright red hair and a face like rubber. He could make the most wonderful faces. Although he was almost as shy as my dad, he was the biggest practical joker, always trying to sneak in funny things to get Dad's goat. He put smoke bombs under the hoods of the police escorts at the fairs and rodeos, or cherry bombs under their tires.


During the road shows Pat always tried to throw Dad's concentration off. Part of their act was target shooting. Pat tossed up a series of clay pigeons, and Dad shot them. A terrific marksman, Dad never missed. One day Pat stuffed one of the pigeons with a pair of lady's nylons. Dad was blazing away when all of a sudden, BOOM! The nylons came floating down. It flustered Dad, but he didn't miss the next target. Another time Pat put a little parachute inside, and the kids in the audience went wild as it floated down. Once Pat really succeeded at bewildering my dad. He had one of the pigeons made out of aluminum instead of clay, so when the bullet hit it, the pigeon would simply fall to the ground instead of shattering. Before that segment of the act, Pat announced to the audience, "This is Roy's 156th show, and not once has he missed!" The crowd hushed, Pat let the pigeon fly, Dad blasted away, and the target came down and hit the dirt.


The whole audience gasped and went, "Ahhhhh!"


Dad couldn't believe it! "But I never miss," he muttered, walking over to the pigeon. As soon as he picked it up he knew what had happened, so he dropped it. It clattered down the stage, and the kids realized it was a big put-on. Dad started chasing Pat around, and the kids really ate it up. They kept that in the act for awhile after that. Those days were great fun, and when Pat was killed in an auto accident some 20 years later, in the late seventies, we were all heartbroken.


But those hard times were ahead of us. These were the fifties, the early years when Dad did most of his own stunts. He was really upset when the studio bigwigs made him stop because they thought he'd become too valuable to the studio to risk his getting hurt. In later years he had a stunt double, although he continued to do some of his own horse mounts, some of the fighting, and all of the tricks with Trigger.


Together, Dad and Trigger were like a smooth-running machine. There never was a better matchup between a man and a horse. Trigger could run wild at a full gallop, and Dad always sat solid in the saddle. Dad did 88 pictures with him, and Trigger never fell in any of them. Dad was the only cowboy star to make all of his pictures with the same horse. One time they were going down a steep hill, and Trigger slipped. He knew if he rolled, Dad would fall off, so instead of rolling, which would have been better for him, Trigger slid his legs down and kept Dad safe on his back.


THIS  WAS  INDEED  THE  "ORIGINAL"  TRIGGER,  AND  DUSTY  HAS  IT  CORRECT  -  BUT  NEXT  COMES  THE  MESS-UP;  THE  NEXT  PART  IS  ALL  "SECOND"  TRIGGER,  NOT  THE  ORIGINAL  TRIGGER,  BUT  THE  "ON  THE  ROAD"  TRIGGER  -  Keith Hunt


Trigger had real personality, and he liked to tease Dad a bit, especially when they were on stage. Trigger seemed to know that Dad couldn't discipline him in front of an audience. In the arena shows and rodeos, Dad had an act about the cowboy and his loyal horse. The announcer painted a word picture about the cowboy riding through outlaw-infested country, in danger of being shot at any time. Dad galloped out on Trigger, and suddenly a shot rang out. Dad slumped in his saddle, but Trigger kept running. Then a second shot rang out. Trigger stumbled a bit, then started running again, this time limping because one of his legs was wounded. He limped along like that for 25 or 30 feet, getting weaker and weaker, and then he went down. Dad rolled out of the saddle and lay along side of him. Someone played "Taps" and the lights went out briefly so Dad could get back on Trigger and they could take a bow. After they had been doing this act for a few weeks, Trigger got ornery, and he would try to get up so Dad couldn't get back on him in time. Trigger started tensing at the last note of "Taps," and during rehearsal he would bound up and try to run away, leaving Dad in the arena. Dad disciplined him each time, but he knew the children would be upset if he had to do that during a show. Dad kept a firm grip on the saddle and the reins, and he'd throw his leg over the saddle just in time to pull up the reins and keep the horse in tow. One night they had taken their fall, and Dad could feel all of Trigger's muscles tensing. He kept a firm grip on the saddle horn just in case, and sure enough, at the last note of "Taps" and just as the lights went off, Trigger took off like a skyrocket. Dad "pony-expressed" it out the side entrance, but it must have felt to him like he was flying along beside Trigger like a flag. Near the grandstands, Trigger stopped suddenly and Dad hit the ground, hard enough to flip him clear up and over Trigger to the other side. Somehow Dad managed to pull himself back up into the saddle. Thinking it was a stunt, the audience roared with applause. Backstage, Dad brushed himself off and looked around, furious. Spotting the little training whip he used for disciplining his horses, he grabbed it and headed for the horse. Suddenly Trigger started dancing the carioca! To Dad's amusement, his palomino went through his entire repertoire—every trick Dad had ever taught him, including playing dead! How could he whip Trigger after that?


THIS  IN  TRUTH  WAS  THE  "SECOND"  TRIGGER,  THE  ONE  WITH  FOUR  WHITE  STOCKINGS  ON  THE  LEGS;  IT  WAS  GLEN  RANDELL  WHO  TRAINED  ROY'S  HORSES,  NOT  ROY  HIMSELF  PER  SE.  THIS  "SECOND"  TRIGGER  THEY  SAY  LEARNED  ABOUT  100  TRICKS.  THIS  WAS  THE  HORSE  USED  IN  THE  1952  MOVIE  "SON  OF  PALEFACE"  -  AND  YOU  SEE  SOME  GREAT  TRICKS  THE  HORSE  COULD  DO.  THIS  HORSE  WAS  THE  RODEO  HORSE,  THE  "ON  THE  ROAD"  HORSE.  TO  TRY  AND  USE  ONE  HORSE  FOR  ALL  THE  MOVIES  AND  THE  ROAD  SHOWS,  WOULD  HAVE  BEEN  WAY  TOO  MUCH  WORK  AND  WOULD  HAVE  SHORTENED  THE  HORSES  LIFESPAN  -  Keith Hunt


Dad loved that horse as much as he loved any of us kids, I think. In fact, Mom used to tease him about his golden palomino, and once she wrote a tongue-in-cheek song with the mile-long title, "Don't Ever Fall in Love with a Cowboy (He'll Love His Horse the Best)." Ironically, the song was released just about the time they announced their engagement.


NOW,  AS  ROY  AND  DALE  OFTEN  DID,  DUSTY  IS  TALKING  ABOUT  THE  "ORIGINAL"  TRIGGER.  THAT  WAS  THE  HORSE  HE  LOVED  SO  MUCH.  ROY  NEVER  DEVELOPED  A  DEEP  LOVE  OF  THE  SECOND  TRIGGER;  THE  "ON  THE  ROAD  TRIGGER"  WOULD  SOMETIMES  BITE  ROY  WHEN  ON  STAGE  WITH  HIM;  PEOPLE  THOUGHT  THAT  THAT  TRIGGER  WAS  PULLING  ROY'S  SHIRT,  BUT  IN  FACT  AS  ROY  WOULD  SAY,  "HE  WAS  BITING  ME;  I  HAVE  THE  BLACK  AND  BLUE  MARKS  TO  PROVE  IT."  Keith Hunt


But Dad wasn't the only one who loved Trigger. The children of the nation loved him, too, and sometimes they would line up for blocks just to see his saddle! 


YES  TRUE,  THE  ORIGINAL  TRIGGER  OF  THE  MOVIES  WAS  LOVED  BY  THE  KIDS,  AND  THEY  DID  NOT  RECOGNIZE  THE  DIFFERENCE  IN  THE  TWO  HORSES;  I  MYSELF  WAS  FOOLED  BY  IT  ALL  AS  A  KID,  NOT  PAYING  ANY  ATTENTION  TO  THE  DIFFERENT  DETAILS  OF  BUILD  AND  MARKINGS  THE  TWO  HORSES  HAD  -  Keith Hunt


Once a man from Texas offered Dad $250,000 for Trigger. Before Dad could say no, his publicity agent started a rumor that Dad was thinking of selling Trigger. Before long, Dad's mailbox was flooded with nickles and dimes and quarters—even some silver dollars—from children all over the country, pleading with Dad not to sell Trigger. Some of them were addressed simply, "To Roy and Trigger." The thought of selling Trigger broke their hearts. It took weeks to trace down every letter and return the money. To reassure the children, Dad announced that Trigger was not going to be sold because he not only belonged to Roy Rogers, but also to all of the children of the world. Then he had thousands of certificates of honorary ownership printed. Every child who asked for one received printed proof of being an honorary shareholder in Trigger, the Smartest Horse in the Movies.


THIS  WAS  INDEED  FOR  THE  ORIGINAL  TRIGGER,  BUT  THE  GUY  WANTING  TO  BUY  "TRIGGER"  WAS  PROBABLY  WANTING  THE  GREAT  "TRICK"  HORSE  TRIGGER  -  Keith Hunt


One Easter morning we got a call from the stables where Trigger and most of Dad's other horses were kept. Trigger had sired a colt, and the foal looked just like him. We all went out to the stable before church to look at him. The colt never got to be as big as Trigger, but he was smart. Dad hired a fantastic horse trainer, Glen Randall, to train the colt. He taught the animal about 20 different dances, and Dad did all of his dance sequences on him.


HERE  WE  HAVE  A  REAL  HUGE  MESS-UP  BY  DUSTY.  THERE  MAY  HAVE  BEEN  A  COLT  OR  FILLY  SIRED  BY  "TRIGGER"  BUT  IT  SURE  WAS  NOT  THE  "ORIGINAL"  TRIGGER,  BECAUSE  ROY  NEVER  LET  THAT  TRIGGER  HORSE  BREED;  ROY  EVEN  TOLD  ONE  OR  MORE  OF  HIS  CHILDREN  THAT  HE  WOULD  NOT  LET  TRIGGER [ORIGINAL ONE]  BE  A  DAD  BECAUSE  HE  MIGHT  LIKE  PRODUCING  BABIES  MORE  THAN  MAKING  MOVIES.  IT  WAS  THE  SECOND  TRIGGER  THAT  WAS  USED  FOR  BREEDING.  I  ONCE  SAW  ROY  ON  TV  SAYING  HE  WAS  SELLING  A  COLT  FROM  "TRIGGER"  THEN  THEY  SHOWED  THE  COLT;  IT  SURE  WAS  NOT  FROM  THE  "ORIGINAL"  TRIGGER,  AS  HE  NEVER  LET  THAT  HORSE  BREED,  BUT  THE  SILLY  DECEPTION  OF  TWO  HORSES  BEING  ONE  HORSE  WAS  CONTINUING  AS  IT  EVER  HAD.  AND  DUSTY  HAS  IT  ALL  WRONG  ABOUT  THIS  "COLT"  AND  ROY  DOING  THE  DANCE  SEQUENCES  ON  HIM.  THE  HORSE  USED  BY  ROY  WITH  DANCE  SEQUENCES  WAS  THE  HORSE  ROY  NAMED  "TRIGGER  JR."  AND  THAT  HORSE  WAS  BOUGHT  AT  AGE  9  FROM  A  PRIVATE  MAN;  THAT  HORSE  WAS  A  REGISTERED  "TENNESSEE  WALKER"  AND  HAD  NO  PEDIGREE  CONNECTION  WITH  THE  OTHER  TWO  TRIGGER  HORSES  -  Keith Hunt


Trigger lived to be 33 years old—more than 100 years in human terms. His golden hair had grayed considerably, and he was gray around his eyes and ears. When Trigger died in 1965 Dad was so broken up he never told anyone about it, not even us, for more than a year.


NO,  THE  ORIGINAL  TRIGGER  LIVED  ONE  DAY  SHY  OF  BEING  31.    ALL  NOW  PROVEN  IN  RECORDED  DOCUMENTS.  YOU  MULTIPLY  A  HORSE'S  AGE  BY  3  TO  GET  THE  HUMAN  AGE;  HENCE  THE  ORIGINAL  TRIGGER  WAS  ABOUT  93  YEARS  OLD  IN  HUMAN  YEARS.  THE  AVERAGE  AGE  FOR  A  HORSE  TO  LIVE  IS  25  TO   30  YEARS.  THE  HORSE  DID  NOT  "GRAY  CONSIDERABLY"  -  IT  MAY  HAVE  LOST  SOME  OF  ITS  "GOLDNESS"  -  THE  HORSE  WAS  WHEN  YOUNGER  ABOUT  THE  SAME  GOLD  COLOR  AS  MY  HORSE  GOLDIE  -  THE  DARK  GOLD,  AND  A  VERY  BEAUTIFUL  GOLD  COLOR  IT  IS  -  Keith Hunt


Because Trigger was not a pet, Dad kept him and all of his entertainment horses on a separate ranch. By the time Trigger died, he wasn't making movies anymore, so no one ever questioned. Dad had Trigger mounted and he placed him in the Roy Rogers and Dale Evans Museum in Victorville, California. That way, he reasoned, people could always enjoy him. Dad gets his nose out of joint when he hears people say that Trigger is "stuffed."

"That just shows they don't understand," Dad says. "It makes it sound like he's an old rag doll."

Actually, the taxidermist takes the animal's measurements, then makes a mold out of Styrofoam. Over that they make a fiberglass frame. When the fiberglass hardens the Styrofoam is removed and the animal skin is stretched over the fiberglass.


IT  WAS  THE  WORST  THING  ROY  ROGERS  EVER  DID.  I'VE  SEEN  THE  MOUNTED  HORSE  IN  THE  THEN  MUSEUM,  IT  WAS  A  SHADOW  OF  A  WONDERFUL  LOOKING  HORSE;  DID  NOT  LOOK  LIKE  THE  SAME  HORSE  AT  ALL;  VERY  "AVERAGE"  LOOKING;  SHORT  MANE,  THIN  WHISPY  TAIL,  BLAZE  ON  THE  HEAD  FADED,  AND  YES  A  FADED  GOLD  COLOR  FROM  WHAT  IT  WAS  WHEN  A  YOUNG  HORSE;  AND  ONLY  A  HALF  REARING-UP  POSE  -  Keith Hunt


Dad also had Trigger Jr. and Mom's horse, Buttermilk, mounted that way. Their dog Bullet, as well as many of Dad's hunting trophies, are all on permanent display at the museum.


When people ask, "Why in the world did you have them mounted?" Dad has a standard answer.


"People all over the world enjoyed Trigger so much, why stick him in the ground? Why not put him up where people can look at him and enjoy him? In fact, when I go, you can stick me up there with him!" Mom says not to get any ideas about her!


YOU  COMPARE  THE  YOUNG  TRIGGER  IN  ROY'S  MOVIES  AND  THEN  LOOK  AT  THE  MOUNTED  TRIGGER;  LIKE  NIGHT  AND  DAY  -  YES  THE  WORST  MISTAKE  ROY  ROGERS  EVER  DID  -  Keith Hunt


I'm not sure when Dad decided to build a museum, but it probably happened not too long after he visited a small Will Rogers Museum in Los Angeles. Dad had chosen "Rogers" for his stage name because of his admiration for the American humorist who lost his life in a tragic air crash in 1935. Will Rogers was probably Dad's all-time favorite entertainer. Dad was delighted with the memorabilia displayed at the Will Rogers Museum in Oklahoma, but he was disappointed that the museum in Los Angeles didn't have more items to reveal what Will Rogers' life was like.


Because Dad is committed to the principle that a star belongs to the fans who make him a star in the first place, he began to save everything that his fans might find interesting. Until he was able to build his museum, he kept it all in storage, including fan letters. At one time he was receiving so much fan mail that all of his salary went to pay for postage, photos, and the salaries of the women he hired to help with the mail. Because Republic Pictures refused to help with the costs involved, Dad had to go on road shows in order to make a living! Eventually he was receiving more than a million letters each year, and every one of them was answered.


Also included at the museum are samples, or at least photos, of most of the commercial products Dad and Mom endorsed through the years. A complete list would include more than 125 products made by 74 different manufacturers.


Because all of these items were aimed at children, Dad and Mom insisted that the quality be good. Each item had to be durable and safe. That's where we kids came in. Every product was tested on us before it hit the public. Consequently, we had Roy Rogers beds, bedspreads, curtains, toothbrushes, Viewmasters, boots, sweaters, cookies, slipper socks, watches, clocks, raincoats, gloves and moccasins. There were Roy Rogers look-alike masks, suspenders, cameras, gun belts, scarves, tables, chairs, dishes, glasses, blankets, wagons and bootsters to fit over shoes for children who didn't have boots. We had Roy Rogers rugs, wallets, holsters, shooting irons, ropes, binoculars, knives, hobby horses, tents, bunkhouses, flashlights, bow ties, hats, pants, socks, bookbags, shirts, blouses, skirts, sweat shirts, T-shirts and pajamas. There were even Roy Rogers milk glasses. They were specially marked, and if you drank a fourth of a glass, you were a tenderfoot. From there it went up through posse member, posse leader, then deputy, and finally a sheriff. Dad said, "If these things can survive you guys, they'll work for everyone else." So, if we beat the stuff to death and it was still in good shape, it would go on the market. We wore out pants by sliding down rocks, and Mom would put patches on the bottoms, and we'd bang up our lunch pails something fierce.


I got so tired of wearing Roy Rogers stuff! But the real kicker was that Roy Rogers lunch box. Everyone else had Zorro or Hop-A-Long Cassidy, and they would rib Sandy and me because we had "Roy Rogers." As if that weren't bad enough, Mom was never one to buy cookies or Twinkies or any of that good stuff. No, we had to have carrot sticks! One time I complained about it, and she did send cookies. I couldn't believe it. They were carrot cookies, of all things! There it was again—the paradox of being the children of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans. No matter how many commercial products came our way, and in spite of the great success my parents knew, Mom and Dad never forgot the poverty they experienced during the Great Depression. So, they saved everything. Instead of wrapping our sandwiches in waxed paper, like every other mother did, Mom used the plastic wrapper the bread came in. There I'd be, with all the other kids. They opened their Gene Autry lunch pails, and everything would be in there, all neat and tidy. I opened mine, and it looked like World War II all over again. Mom never let us peel our own hard-boiled eggs. She'd peel the egg, dump some salt in a bread wrapper and throw in the egg. Sometimes she'd even toss the sandwich in after it. She sliced up some apples and rolled them in the tinfoil she'd wrapped the roast in the night before.


Because there were so many of us, Mom never bought packaged lunch meat or cheese. Instead, she bought them in big 20-pound loaves or chunks, and sliced it herself. Sometimes the bologna would be an inch thick and the cheese would be paper thin. Other times both of them would be really thick on one side and tapered down to nothing on the other.


We always had to have milk, never Kool-Aid or lemonade like the other kids got. We had our own cows, so the milk was raw, not pasturized. It would sit in the thermos all morning and by lunch time, we'd pour it out and a big lump of cream would fall out.


When we got older and didn't want to carry lunch boxes anymore, we got to use sacks or bread wrappers. I'd hide my lunch in my jacket, and some days I'd just dump it in the trash when I got to school. Other times I'd just half-open my lunch and pull out what I was going to have, real quick. Sandy never cared, though. He never threw his lunch away, and all through those growing-up years, he just kept on eating and grinning!

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TO  BE  CONTINUED