I do not feel that I am a writer. My books, inspired

by my experiences in life, have been the result of

God's guidance of my hand and mind.

Dale   Evans, Sunday Call Chronicle, Allentown,

Pennsylvania, September 20, 1959

I's a glorious day for a ride. Dale squints as she looks up at the cornflower-blue sky and the bright sun lighting the color so brilliantly. Roy is beside her, sitting atop Trigger. She is on Buttermilk, and the two are moving along at an easy canter. Dale smiles at Roy and sighs happily.

This was just one of thousands of memories Dale recalled about her life with Roy. She missed him with all her heart. As she lay in a hospital bed in her home in Apple Valley, she thought a lot of her husband and the times they had.

The year was 2000. Dale Evans was now eighty-eight years old and struggling with her health. Her days of riding fences long since past, she was grateful for the endless supply of memories about her life as Queen of the West.

She called upon those memories quite frequently now. Buttermilk had died years ago. Roy was gone, too. For two and a half years, Dale had been without her soul mate. "We were married for fifty-two years, a long time," she told a reporter shortly after Roy passed away. "He was a good guy. People liked him cause he was real. He wasn't flashy, he was just a real person." She couldn't help but fall in love with him, and she never doubted that they would be riding happy trails again one day.

Thunder from a storm brewing over the desert mountains shook the bright sky Dale could see from her bedroom window. If she could, she would walk outside and smell the clean air and rain on its way. Glancing over at her wheelchair, however, she was reminded of how difficult that would be. A heart attack in 1992 and a stroke in 1996 had left the cowgirl nearly immobilized. She was dependent on home health care nurses and her family to get her around.

Her stroke might have left her without the use of her legs, but it did not in any way slow her down. Shortly after Sandy's death she began hosting religious programs for the Trinity Broadcast Network and had continued to do so from her wheelchair at the age of eighty-eight.

She had also been able to continue writing for Revell Publishing. Her handicap was just a little inconvenience, in her estimation. Her faith and being able to write about its impact had been a constant in her life. Through joy, death, sickness, and disability she had been able to draw from God's source of strength, enduring many tragedies and gaining hope for the future.

She penned more than twenty spiritual books. Her work inspired many but sometimes baffled members of the entertainment industry who questioned the wisdom of being so vocal about religious beliefs. In 1953, when Dale was a guest on Art Linkletter's television show, her first book, Angel Unaware, about her daughter Robin's life and death, was a best seller. Linkletter asked her the question on many of his colleagues' minds: "What made you write this book?" Dale very candidly explained how God sustained her through the loss of her little girl. She wanted readers to know how he provides for us during our most trying times. Much to Art Linkletter's surprise, she went on to proclaim her faith to the show's studio audience and encourage them to meet the savior she trusted her soul to. Thousands of letters thanking Dale for her testimony poured into the show's producers.

An opened Bible sat on the nightstand next to Dale's bed, its pages well worn from a lifetime of studying the volume. She smiled as she looked over at the book, remembering what she'd once written about its message: "If we trust in the word of our Lord and Jesus and lift him up in praise, he will gird us with his almighty hand and help us through our trials." As she scanned the faces of her children around her praying, she hoped they would find solace in that truth. It was a truth she tried to convey in the song she wrote and recorded in 1955, "The Bible Tells Me So."

Many people, including her family, viewed her as the personification of goodness and saw her life as a shining success. Dale looked at it quite differently. She claimed the first half of her life was an unrelieved series of disasters, while the second half was a triumph over them.

Although Dale Evans recorded more than 400 songs, appeared in thirty-eight films, and recorded numerous television shows and radio broadcasts, she wanted most to be identified with Christian evangelism. She considered this aspect of her life to have been the "most meaningful and enjoyable." Longtime friends and fans knew her to be a strong witness who acted her beliefs.

"She was one of Hollywood's personalities who truly lived what she preached. She was a strong supporter of family and religion," said Dale's good friend Johnny Grant. Fan Pam Umbridge seconded that statement: "She suffered through the rocks and arrows life hurls at us with dignity and grace and without losing faith. I only hope my constitution is as strong should such calamities arise."

Among the numerous awards and honors bestowed on the entertainer, she was most proud of being named California Mother of the Year in 1967. Looking over the faces of the loved ones around her, she recalled the challenges she'd endured that had brought her devoted family together. When she and Roy were first married, she'd questioned her ability to be a parent at all; now the Mother of the Year award was proof that she'd succeeded at it.

Dale is one of only a handful of entertainers who have three stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. One is for singing, another for acting, and the last recognizes her as Roy Rogers's partner.

Former First Lady Nancy Reagan said "Dale was a true cowgirl through and through and an inspiration to millions, worthy of a dozen stars on the Walk of Fame." In 1995 Dale was indeed inducted into the Cowgirl Hall of Fame. Executives with the hall cited the impact she'd had on ambitious young women of the future.

Dale Evans died of heart failure on February 7, 2001. Fran Boyd, executive director of the Academy of Country Music, said that with her passing went "the last of the great ladies from a great era."

Her son Dusty said the secret to her success was in "living as though tomorrow would be her last day." She left behind sixteen grandchildren, thirty-three great-grandchildren, and a lesson in how to ride a hard trail.


IT  WAS  WONDERFUL  FOR  ME  [As  going  to  a  Church  of  England  school  from  grade  1  to  12;  attending  Sunday  School  very  regularly  also;  reading  my  Bible,  especially  the  words  of  Christ,  before  I  fell  asleep  all  during  my  teenage  years]  TO  FIND  OUT  IN  MY  TEENS  THAT  ROY  ROGERS  AND  DALE  EVANS  WERE  DEDICATED  CHRISTIANS.  YES,  THEY  DID  NOT  KNOW  MANY  OF  THE  TRUTHS  OF  GOD;  THEY  WILL  HAVE  TO  WAIT  FOR  THE  SECOND  RESURRECTION  TO  BE  RAISED  TO  LIFE,  THEN  SHOWN  ALL  THE  TRUTHS  OF  GOD.  I'M  SURE  THEY  WILL  ACCEPT  IT  ALL  VERY  EASILY  -  Keith Hunt