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!
TO BE CONTINUED