REMEMBERING AND HONORING
ROY ROGERS and TRIGGER
THE HAPPY TRAILS
With the closing of the Roy Rogers Museum and the "official"
Website of Roy Rogers and Dale Evens, in December of 2009, comes
a somewhat blank and empty space on the Internet, for a fellow
and a horse, whom some in the "statistical point game" say was
the greatest entertainer of the 20th century. In the 1940s and
1950s Roy Rogers and Trigger his famous horse, were more than
just house-hold names, they were an institution of American good
guy, wholesome guy, upright guy, and the hero that always won
over the bad guy. It was all played out in 90 or so full length
movies and a 100 or so TV half hour series. It was all played out
in decent form. Upon Roy's death at age 86, many news programs in
Canada at least put it this way: "With the passing of Roy Rogers
is the passing of the age of innocence."
You can read on this Website "The Other Side of Keith Hunt"
It is fitting that I should continue in giving the phenomenon
that was Roy Rogers and Trigger some space on the Worldwide
Internet, some space to remember and honor the years of pleasure
Roy, Trigger, Dale, Gabby, and the Sons of the Pioneers, gave to
You can still buy Roy Rogers movies and Roy Rogers music CDs from
Amazon.com and MoviesUnlimited.com
For one of the best movies Roy and Trigger (2nd Trigger) were in,
you should try and buy "The Son of Paleface" with funny man Bob
Hope and pretty Jane Russell. A super great movie that shows the
talent of all four - Bob, Jane, Roy, and Trigger - produced in
For ***PHOTOS*** of Roy Rogers and Trigger go to my Facebook.
I'm on Facebook - should just have to type in Keith Hunt or Keith Hunt Calgary
Email address if it works that way is: email@example.com
I'm sure there were hundreds of articles written on Roy Rogers
after his death, in various news papers and magazines. I present
below some that I came across.
AMERICAN COWBOY - September/October 1998
Every age has its heroes, even our own, even after Roy's
passing. But there will never be another hero like Roy Rogers.
Heroes come in two kinds. The more common variety dominates
our 1990s culture. We see this type cutting a flamboyant figure
today in the sports world, in action movies, and on the
rock-and-roll stage. Though these heroes command devoted
followings, they win as much acclaim for their misdeeds as their
good deeds. They are esteemed for their excesses and winked at
for their failings.
These heroes, in their most exaggerated form, appear on the
movie or television screen as "antiheroes." Although they may
right wrongs or inspire loyalty, they present us with a flawed
picture of humanity, and a mixed perspective on our own lives.
But there's another kind of hero, a purer sort, one who
belongs more to an earlier day. We see this hero in the baseball
player who lives the 'straight-arrow life' because he knows that
children look up to him. Or in the astronaut who sets personal
examples that every Boy Scout could emulate. This hero has more
humility than swagger, more substance than style.
Roy Rogers was this kind of hero. The straight-shooting,
square-dealing kind. Generous, kind, loyal, truthful
(Editor's note. A little more than a week before we compiled this
issue, we got the news, along with the rest of the world, of the
passing of Roy Rogers. We have reprinted here our profile we ran
some four years ago, which was written from the only interview we
obtained with Roy. The article has been revised miminally to
account for changed circumstances and the passing of time)
and upstanding. Who is there today who represents all these
things? The fact that few, if any, come to mind is not an
indication that the world is so much more sophisticated, but
rather that those good qualities are more deficient than they
were 50 years ago.
Once one of Hollywood's busiest actors, Rogers had more than
80 starring roles in motion pictures and more than 100 television
episodes to his credit. In recent years, his role remained that
of entertainer, though his entertaining was more as a host,
hobnobbing with visitors to the Roy Rogers and Dale Evans Museum
in Victorville, Calif.
"I come over here every morning I can and play o' Roy,"
Rogers said with a laugh. "I like to shake hands and talk to the
They come, as they always have. Some approach the museum
almost as a shrine, and Rogers as a part of their own lives.
"I have guys, 50, 60 years old, standing there talking to
me, and tears roll down their cheeks," Rogers said. "I think they
think of me as a second dad or something. It's very flattering."
Rogers' modesty was a hallmark of his career, and throughout
his career he gave the credit for his success to others, or to
"There's something that people have - something in them that
touches people - that they don't even know anything about
themselves," he said. "I don't know why I became so popular. It's
amazing how things happened. I always say I must be where God
wants me or I wouldn't be here."
Rogers said two things happened in two days that changed his
whole life and career. In 1937 he was living in Los Angeles,
performing as part of the newly formed Sons of the Pioneers and
acting in supporting roles in some of the popular B westerns of
the day. But his big break was about to arrive.
"I was in a hat store picking up my cowboy hat - I had had
it cleaned," he said. "And the door almost comes off its hinges
as a guy comes in. He's about the size of John Wayne, about
six-six, and he says, excitedly, 'Can I get a hat?'"
Rogers asked the man what he was so worked up about. The man
told him that Republic Pictures was holding auditions the next
day for a singing cowboy.
"So that was the hint," Rogers said. "The next morning I
thought I would just go out there and see what it was all about."
The guard at the studio gate wouldn't allow him to go in,
however. He waited around hoping to see someone he knew who could
get him past the gate. Shortly after noon, a group of about 40 or
50 Republic workers came along, returning to the studio after
lunch, and he fell in among them.
"I got inside the door when this hand fell on my shoulder,"
Rogers recalled. The guard had spotted him. But at the same time,
a voice from inside the studio called out his name. It was Sol
Siegel, producer for Republic, who recognized him as one of the
Sons of the Pioneers.
That chance meeting led to Rogers' screen test, and
eventually to his studio contract. Siegel told the singer that it
had never entered into his mind to consider him for the singing
cowboy role until he had seen him walk through the door. "So I
signed at Republic and I was there for 14 years" Rogers said.
After the movie career came television, with the popular
"Roy Rogers Show," which ran through the 1950s and into the '60s
and introduced Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, his wife and the "Queen
of the West," to yet another generation of fans.
For Rogers, the trail was long and hard, but fulfilling. "To
me, this has always been a job I had to do," he said, aware that
many people still view his life as one of glamour and ease. "It
was hard. We worked long days. You'd get up at four or
four-thirty in the morning, drive to the studio, get made up,
drive to the location, work all day, chase the sun over the
ridges trying to get the light, and then drive back home. You'd
get tired, but it was getting tired in a different way. When you
enjoy something, you can do more of it. And I had a sidekick, of
Gabby [Hayes], who just wouldn't quit. He was like my dad,
brother, and best buddy wrapped in one. I just loved him."
Throughout his career, Rogers has felt a strong affection
for the people he worked with. He looks back with fondness on the
other cast members, directors, the crew. "And of course there's
Dale," he added. They were married for a half-century-another
fine accomplishment, especially in the world of Hollywood.
As the 20th century slips away and with it the last memories
of a Roy Rogers still with us, we face the same old uncertainties
and treasure the same old truths. Who knows what the future
It's something we'll always face with mixed feelings. There was a
time, though, back during the middle of this century, when
uncertainties were a little less troubling, the virtues a little
stronger. For a while there, the man in the white hat on the
golden palomino righted wrongs, rescued the weak, and reminded us
all of why we're here. In his films and in the messages he's
given us, though they may seem innocent and simplistic to modern
audiences, he left behind a legacy. The code of conduct he
prescribed for boys and girls (below) was just one example.
The Roy Rogers Riders Club Rules:
1. Be neat and clean.
2. Be courteous and polite.
3. Always obey your parents.
4. Protect the weak and help them.
5. Be brave but never take chances.
6. Study hard and learn all you can.
7. Be kind to animals and care for them.
8. Eat all your food and never waste any.
9. Love God and go to Sunday school regularly.
10.Always have respect our flag and our country.
Good advice for little cowboys and cowgirls. Or big ones. Or
the whole human race, for that matter.
His Own Words:
The following is excerpted from the book "Happy Trails: Our Life
Story" by Roy Rogers and Dale Evans with Jane and Michael Stern.
Copyright 1994 by Roy Rogers, Dale Evans, Jane Stern, and Michael
Stern. Reprinted by permission of Simon and Sclruster Inc., New
York. The first passage describes how Roy Rogers--born Leonard
Slye first came to California.
Early one morning in 1930, I watched Mom pressing a damp cloth to
Pop's aching head as we were getting ready to go to work. He was
grey-faced and sad. As I looked at him, I thought of the small
bundle of bills I had managed to stash away from work. I was 18
and eager for a change. "Dad, I have 90 dollars saved," I said.
"I bet you've got at least a hundred. Why don't we head out to
see Mary in California? Look around, see what's there?"
Watching Pop's face was like seeing the hands of a clock tick
backwards. His headache faded away, his eyes grew bright again.
We began to pack that very day, loading up the family's old
rattletrap 1923 Dodge for the long trek out West. The Joads in
"The Grapes of Wrath" or the "Beverly Hillbillies" had nothing on
us Slyes as we hit the highway. You never saw such a
rotten-looking vehicle, piled to the top with rickety junk. About
the only precious thing we had to our names were our dreams,
which were bright enough to keep us heading west toward the
I think maybe the most important thing Dale and I have in common,
along with our faith, is our love for children. Both of us wanted
a big family; and our roles in cowboy movies made other kids, as
well as our own, an endless part of our lives. We were put in a
position to be role models for many American boys and girls, and
believe me, we have taken that job seriously. We have always been
careful to act the way we feel children ought to see their heroes
behave on screen as well as off. In our TV show, we made Dale's
place the Eureka Cafe, not some saloon where drinks were served.
And even off-camera, we've tried to portray a good image. I
always used to like to have a beer or two when I was off on a
hunting or fishing trip, but there came a time when I realized
that drinking even beer didn't fit the kind of person Roy Rogers
was supposed to be. I thought about how bad it would look if
someone took a picture of me with a drink in my hand, so I gave
it up all together. I've always told my kids that their image is
important. That's what you've got in life: your handshake and the
image you portray.
When I'm talking about my image, I don't mean there's anything
about it that isn't really me. It's just that I always try to be
the best I can. I believe children should have heroes, not
antiheroes. I think they need people to look up to.
FROM THE SAME EDITION OF "American Cowboy" - Set/Oct 1998
UNTIL WE MEET AGAIN
Happy Trail: Roy Rogers
Roy. The name itself means king. The "Rogers" was borrowed from
Will Rogers, as the man admitted in his autobiography.
And the man lived up to the names. Leonard Slye came into the
world on Nov.5, 1911, born to an Ohio couple of modest means,
and went out on July 6, 1998, as the King of the Cowboys.
Shortly after Rogers' passing, Michael Martin Murphey described
him as "the greatest American entertainer in the 20th century."
(See article on page 16.) It's interesting that Murphey's
assessment was so strong - one that we won't refute - and that he
placed it within a "century" context.
In one sense, Rogers was more of a 20th century figure than
anyone who's in the public eye today. When people look back,
centuries from now, on this or any other century, they'll look to
the heart of the century to determine its truest essence. The
years that fall on the cusp of the century - the 1900s and the
1990s--are almost as much a part of the preceding or approaching
century as they are of their own. The 20th century is best
defined by the mid-century years. And was any American more
popular in 1950 than Roy Rogers?
His career straddled mid-century as perfectly as Rogers himself
straddled Trigger at the end of one of his famous running mounts.
The watershed point in his career came in 1951 when Rogers made
the transition from the movie world to the television medium.
According to biographer Robert W. Phillips, it was in the 1950s
that Rogers took the country by storm. "He was the hottest thing
going in the '50s," Phillips said. "There were the re-released
movies in the theaters every week, and every Sunday night you'd
have him on television, and at the drug store you'd find him on
comic books. Sears-Roebuck stores had a whole section devoted to
him, called the Roy Rogers Corral. His was the second-largest
character-related merchandising bonanza in the world, behind only
Rogers' face appeared on 2 and 1/2 billion boxes of Post cereal.
Throughout the 1950s, Rogers' personal appearances at fairs and
rodeos broke attendance records all across the country.
"The Roy Rogers Show" was the most popular kids' show, and most
popular western, for much of its run. In 1952, there were 5
million members on the rolls of the Roy Rogers Riders Club. In
1956, the Roy Rogers comics were selling at the rate of 2 million
copies per issue.
"It's just a cliche to say that someone is bigger than life, but
that's just precisely what he was," Phillips added. "And it's
what he's still been all these years - because of the disparity
there is today in not having anything close to what he was. You
try to sell a television show today and talk about values and
you'll get a lot of phones hung up on you."
He was bigger than life, but he always believed that he was
in the grip of something bigger than himself. As he said in the
profile we reprinted in this issue (pp.28-31), "There's
something that people have - something in them that touches
people - that they don't even know anything about themselves. I
don't know why I became so popular. It's amazing how things
happened. I always say I must be where God wants me or I wouldn't
Fortunately for his millions of fans, Rogers was not the victim
of smears or other personal attacks such as are so often directed
at public figures today. Not that anyone could have found
anything to smear him with. But the detractors and trash peddlers
of the modern media hardly need an opening to do their hatchet
When John F. Kennedy was pilloried in a biography released last
summer, an opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times called
attention to this growing tendency to tear down all celebrities
and public figures, historical or contemporary, bad or good. As
Peter H. Gibbon wrote, the age of heroes was over:
"Until World War I, the ideology of heroism was intact and
influential in Anglo-American culture. It permeated parlors,
schools, farms, and factories. It could be found in novels and
newspapers and eulogies; on statues everywhere, in inscriptions
on public buildings and engraved on tombstones.... Heroes
instruct us in greatness, and remind us of our better and braver
Heroes strengthen the ordinary citizen trying to live decently,
Gibbon wrote. Yet we have created a culture in which our children
are denied permission to admire.
John Wayne, as straight-forward and well-intentioned as he was,
has been treated with contempt by many in the media and by at
least one recent biographer.
In the light of what happened to Wayne, it's possible that Rogers
was spared similar indignities merely because the detractors
thought him an unnecessary target. Had they wanted to smear him,
they'd have found a way. Wayne, on the other hand, made movies
that posed a more direct challenge. The cynics perceived him as
threat to their values, or their lack thereof. Rogers was a maker
of kids' westerns. They ignored him because they didn't consider
him worthy of their cynicism.
But the irony is that he overturned their schemes like no one
else. In his domination of the mass culture of the 1940s, '50s,
and even much of the '60s, he sowed the seeds of wholesomeness,
moral courage, honesty, and sacrifice. Those seeds took root.
Those millions of kids - they have not forgotten. They will not
Roy Rogers was a hero. In life, as on the screen. When America
laid its white-hatted one down to rest in a California field, if
nothing else was certain, there was this: he made a difference.
There's a happier trail before us.
FROM THE SAME EDITION OF "American Cowboy" - Sept/Oct 1998
Friends and Fans Remember Roy Rogers
It's odd how the news on July 6 of the death of Roy Rogers seemed
to catch the world a bit unawares, considering the fact that Roy
had been in ailing health for so many years. But the major media
seemed unprepared for the story, being slow to compile and air
(or print) their remembrances, the tributes that everyone knew
were on their way. Perhaps the reason for their unpreparedness
was the notion, perhaps an unconscious one, that Roy Rogers was
somehow indestructible. He was an American institution. It was
almost inconceivable that he would not always be around.
But he's gone and the world is the lesser for it. What follows is
a handful of memories as expressed by some who were touched by
his life. For more on Roy, see our profile on pp.28-31 and the
editorial on p.8. (Which I've given you above - Keith Hunt)
"Roy Rogers is every bit the hero America and the movies made of
him. In real life, he stood taller than an icon and reached
farther than the stars. I'm sure that there will be the
definitive "Roy Rogers" salute that will say it better than I
can, but to me he will stand as the example of the best things to
come out of Hollywood. In true hero fashion, Roy left the way
every member of his audience wants to go: in his sleep after a
life-time's job well done, surrounded by loved ones, the sun
setting on the end of the movie with more credits to roll than
one screen will allow."
"Roy Rogers turned rocky roads into happy trails. He knew great
success and deep tragedy, yet he played out his role as a
Christian gentleman the way he played his movie roles - more
action than words. I knew him as a giving friend and mentor. He
taught me the true meaning and challenge of being a "singing
cowboy." He used his immense talent and savvy to encourage moral
and spiritual strength. Roy Rogers took the best of America's
most important icon, the Cowboy, and created a code of honor for
all. He was the most important American entertainer in the 20th
century. What the world loves best about America was embodied by
the brave and moral role model that a humble farm boy named
Leonard Slye created into Roy Rogers. Leonard Slye wrote a life
script for himself as Roy Rogers, then took responsibility for
the influence he had over the public."
- Michael Martin Murphey
"He influenced several generations of Americans. He was one of
those people who taught us the difference between right and wrong
because he always wore the white hat and he was always in
conflict with the guys in the black hats. And he always defeated
them. Good always defeated evil in all of Roy's productions. It's
too bad that so much of our society today wears grey hats. He
never showed anything on screen that wasn't part of his personal
life. He was absolutely the most outstanding person you could
imagine. He was very dedicated to his family, he was strongly
convicted in his faith in God, and he wasn't afraid to tell that
to anyone who would listen."
- Red Steagall
"Roy was one of the greatest horsemen of any of the cowboys and
one of the greatest marksmen of any of them. He personified the
cowboy in so many ways - personified those traits so superbly. He
wore himself out in the early years. He wore vertebrae out, wore
his ears out with guns going off all of the time. He was one of
the hardest-working people; this guy gave 200 percent."
- Bob Phillips, author, "Roy Rogers"
"Roy was bigger than life. He had a big influence. He was an
icon. My mom and dad would drop me off at the movie house and
they didn't have a problem with me staying all day, because Roy
Rogers was teaching the same things that they were. You were in
good hands with Roy in the movie house. It really makes you sad
that he's not there anymore."
- Don Edwards
"Roy Rogers was definitely king of the movie cowboys. He became
one of America's first superstars. Musically, his contributions
were tremendous and he has influenced western music ever since.
Generations to come will enjoy his work It is a great loss now he
- Charlie Seemann, exec.dir, Western Folklore Center
"The Autry Museum of Western Heritage mourns the passing of
"King of the Cowboys" Roy Rogers. Roy was a strong family man, a
loyal American, a wonderful entertainer, and a great friend to
the Autry Museum.... His legacy will remain in our hearts. Happy
Trails, old friend."
- statement issued by the Autry Museum of Western Heritage
"He was and will always be a true western hero."
- Gene Autry
"Roy Rogers was the man we all wanted to grow up to be. The world
is a poorer place without him, but we know he is happy,
harmonizing once more with Bob and Tim, and Lloyd and Pat, and
Hugh and Karl, with Gabby Hayes and Trigger looking on. Can't you
just see that twinkle in his eye?"
- Riders in the Sky
Well theologically the last comment is off base, but we know the
heart of the comment was in the right place. One day Roy will
live again, as will all that were with him in his movies, TV
series, and personal life. He and they, like millions more will
rise in a resurrection. I never saw Roy in person at any time, so
it will be a pleasure to meet him in the resurrection of the
White Throne Judgment, where countless ones will have the
spiritual blindness removed, and they will see the truths of God.
It will be the time of restitution of all things for all those
people such as Roy Rogers and his pals of the West.
Roy was my physical hero on this earth from age 7, when I saw my
first Roy Rogers movie, it was in color, and that was it ....
well you can read more under "The Other Side of Keith Hunt" on
FROM THE CALGARY HERALD - TUESDAY JULY 7TH 1998
Roy Rogers, the King of the Cowboys, who died Monday at age
86, appeared with his horse Trigger in more than 80 Westerns, all
featuring, as he put it, "a little song, a little riding, a
little shooting and a girl to be saved from hazard:" ---His wife
of 50 years, Dale Evans, 85, known to fans as the "Queen of the
Cowgirls", was at his side when he died at his home in Apple
Valley, California. He was released from hospital two weeks ago
after suffering a series of heart attacks.
Slim and lithe, in tight breeches and rose-embroidered
shirts, Rogers possessed what one Beverley Hills hostess remarked
was "the pruttiest backside in Hollywood"; critics commented on
his "good, rolling gait." But he was nothing without his hoss.
"Often I wonder if I could have made it in Hollywood with out
Trigger" mused Rogers.
He paid $2,500 US for Trigger in 1938, (the true facts on
the purchase of Trigger is under the Roy Rogers section of this
Website - Keith Hunt) and the horse remained Roger's totem for
almost three decades. Trigger eventually had 52 tricks in his
repertoire (including one in which he nipped the six-gun from
Roger's holster) and was as great an attraction as his owner.
Rogers brought Trigger to the Calgary Stampede in 1962 and
came without his famous horse in 1969. When he appeared at rodeos
he had to hire an armed guard to prevent overexcited fans from
plucking Trigger's mane and tail. And when an American shop
attempted to sell horsemeat, protesters blockaded it with
placards bearing the slogan: "WOULD ROY ROGERS EAT TRIGGER?"
In fact, when Trigger died, aged 33, (actually Trigger was
31 years old when he died - Keith Hunt) in 1965, Rogers had the
horse stuffed and put on display in a rearing posture in his
personal museum. "When my time comes," he said, "just skin me and
put me right up there on Trigger as if nothing had ever changed."
Roy Rogers was born Leonard Franklin Slye on Nov.5, 1911 in
Cincinnati, Ohio. His family was poor, and though his father
worked in a shoe factory, young Leonard claimed, "I hardly wore
shoes until I was about grown."
He hoped to become a dentist, (actually in fact a doctor -
Keith Hunt) but instead went to work on a farm; he had only two
years High school education. But he picked up some of the
essential skills of the screen cowboy: to strum the guitar, to
sing hillbilly and Western-style and how to call square dances.
Slye headed west to California as a migrant worker, drove a
truck, picked peaches and poked cows. He formed a cowboy band for
a Los Angeles talent contest. They returned empty-handed but Dick
Weston, as Slye was now styling himself, subsequently formed a
band called Sons of The Pioneers, with which he played until
In the early days the band was so hungry they begged food
parcels from the audience. One girl baked them two lemon pies,
followed Rogers to Hollywood and became his first wife. The
band's biggest success was with its recording of "The Last
According to legend, Slye was loitering in a cowboy outfit
when a man rushed in and bought a Stetson to audition for a
Western; Slye followed him to the studio, and landed his first
big role, in "Under Western Stars" (1938), for which he changed
his name to Roy Rogers.
The film was a hit, and Rogers eventually displaced Gene
Autry as the favorite cowboy star of Herbert J. Yates, the
parsimonious head of the Republic Studios.
His many films included "Billy The Kid Return" (1938) "The
Arizona Kid" "Days of Jesse James" (1939) "Dark Command" "The
Border Legion" (1940), "Robin Hood of the Pecos" (1941) "Sons of
the Pioneers" "Romance on the Range" (1942) King of the Cowboys
(1943) "The Cowboy and the Senorita" "Yellow Rose of Texas"
(1944) "My Pal Trigger" "Helldorado" (1946) .... Walt Disney's
"Melody Time" (1948) "Son of Paleface" (1952). In many of these
Trigger and Rogers were joined by Bullet, the Wonderdog.
In the 1950s, Rogers capitalized on his fame, establishing
his own chain of fast-food restaurants. He founded a television
production company and manufactured and distributed Western
products, dealt in real estate, cattle and horses and promoted
his rodeo show.....Rogers' personal wealth grew to an estimated
$100 million US (a huge amount for the 1950s - Keith Hunt).
In 1975 he returned to the screen in "Mackintosh and T.J."
For 87 films he had worn the pristine white Stetson (not so -
some films he wore a black cowboy hat - Keith Hunt) of the good
guy; he had never smoked, had a drink or sworn. Now he had to
kill somebody. Later, he became a favorite on the Muppet Show.
Rogers' first wife, Arlene, died in 1946, They had a son and
adopted two daughters. Rogers married again, in 1947, his co-star
Dale Evans, nee Frances Octavia Smith. In the course of their
many films together he had only ever kissed her on the
cheek, prior to riding off into the sunset (well there is one
movie when Dale kisses Roy on the lips - Keith Hunt).
"The secret of a happy marriage," he said, "is to give 90 and
take 10, both sides, and don't fester. Keep everything you feel
right out front, so's you've only to look at your wife once to
ask, 'Hey, what's wrong?'"
The couple raised money for evangelical and philanthropic
causes, and publicly supported the antiCommunist Christian
campaigns of Fred Schwartz, as well as the preacher Billy Graham.
They had a daughter who died in infancy and adopted another nine
children, three of whom also died. Dale Evans commemorated their
lives in such best-selling books as "Angel Unaware," "Dearest
Debbie" and "Salute to Sandy." Copies of these were displayed in
the Roy Rogers-Dale Evans Museum in southern California alongside
Trigger and a collection of guns.
FROM THE CALGARY HERALD
TUESDAY, JULY 7.1998 B4
Cowboy hero made my trails happier
by Diane Samms RUSH
KNIGHT RIDDER NEWSPAPERS
Somewhere in the basement, in box marked "Diane's
treasures," is a card that certifies me as a charter member of
the Roy Rogers Trail Riders Club.
Time has erased the origin of the card (probably one of
those free-witha-boxtop cereal offers) but it has not dimmed the
importance of the artifact of my childhood. There were rules for
the club - 10, as I recall -- including "brush your teeth twice a
day" and "say your prayers every night."
Life was simpler in the '50s.
On Monday, nearly a half-century, after that card was
issued, Roy Rogers died at age 86.
A piece of my childhood died with him.
I remember proudly showing off the card to neighborhood
friends, proving I was, indeed, a loyal fan and friend of Roy
Rogers, King of the Cowboys. Some of my friends favored Gene
Autry -- and a few Hopalong Cassidy - but I never wavered in my
allegiance to Roy, his wife, Dale, his palomino horse Trigger and
his German shepherd Bullet.
I began every day with my hero, as I drank my morning milk
from a colorful plastic mug shaped into his cowboy-hatted head.
Roy - as we friends could call him - was a role model for me.
He could yodel, and I desperately wanted to yodel. He rode
horses, and I did too, during summers on my grandparents farm. He
advocated going to church, studying hard in school and respecting
parents - all values of that post-war era.
Yet he also struck me as being ahead of his time for his
inclusiveness. I don't remember anything in particular that he
said, but somehow I sensed that he approved of even girls
practicing quick-draw with dime-store pistols. Maybe it was
because he treated Dale as a partner, not a possession, in their
movies and television shows.
Somewhere in time, I quit practicing yodeling and quick-draw
and took up listening to rock 'n, roll. Yet in moments of
nostalgia, I still would confess to friends my loyalty to Roy.
So it was a thrill, five years ago this month, when I was
offered a telephone interview with my hero. Even though I have
talked to hundreds of celebrities as part of my job, I recall
feeling special butterflies waiting for the phone to ring.
Calling from his museum in Victorville, Calif., Roy joked when
asked how it felt to be called a living legend, "I don't know if
that means old or what," he said.
He told me he tried to visit the museum each morning, to
pose for photos with fans. He called it "playing Old Roy for an
hour or two!"
Asking questions required me speaking loudly because time
had diminished the hearing of my hero, then 81. It was difficult
for me to hold the image of the fresh-faced cowboy in my mind as
I spoke to the old man. Yet even as we both had aged, was still
my hero, and I was still loyal fan.
Happy trails, Roy.
DIANE SAMMS RUSH IS COUNTRY MUSIC COLUMNIST FOR THE WICHITA
And so there you have a sample of a time and era that will never
return in this age. But it is fun for me especially (you'll
understand why if you read "The Other Side of Keith Hunt) to be
Roy Rogers for two months in the summer time at the "Horses R
Cool Summer Camp for kids and adults" at the Griffin Valley
Ranch. We see hundreds of children during those two months, 99%
of them do not know Roy Rogers and Trigger ever existed. On
Friday I dress in my fancy cowboy best, put on a Roy Rogers/Sons
of the Pioneers show. The good Lord has blessed me with a Trigger
look-a-like - Goldie as I call her (her registered name being
"Final Touch" - Trigger's registered name was "Golden Cloud") and
with her silver saddle, fancy bridle and bit, you should see the
kids eyes widen and fairy-tale wonder swell up in their faces.
For a short time Roy Rogers and Trigger live again.