by Tom Morrow
Growing up I had a number of cowboy hero characters I worshipped from comic books, movies, and radio. I was nearly ready for high school by the time TV came into our home, so any allegiance to childhood good guys were secretly held – until many years later.
Thanks to the Internet and myriad of choices, most of my boyhood heroes can be dialed in on TV at any time. Some of my favorites: Gene Autry, John Wayne, “Wild” Bill Elliott (Red Ryder), Bill Boyd (Hopalong Cassidy), Eddie Dean, Johnny Mack Brown, Lash LaRue, Tex Ritter, Tim Holt, Jimmy Wakeley, to name a few. Then there was Roy Rogers – the “King of the Cowboys” himself.
In 1977, I interviewed Roy and his wife, Dale Evans, when they were about to appear at the Orange County Fair. I asked a number of basic questions, to which most were answered by Dale. Roy pretty much sat quietly and let his wife do the talking, until I asked a question I reckoned she couldn’t answer:
“Why is it, Roy, when you’re in a fist-fight you never lose your hat?”
Roy chuckled, then replied: “Well, pardner, I was paying production costs on all those pictures (mostly TV shows) and if I or my double lost the hat, we’d have to stop everything, measure how far it was from the fight scene when we’d change place — and that took time and money.”
Money was important to the “King.” In 1989, I was walking through his museum when it was located along I-15, just outside of Victorville. The building was filled with nearly everything that had touched Roy’s life – bowling balls, shotguns, old costumes, guns, boots, even old razors. His two great palomino horses, Trigger and Trigger, Jr., along with Buttercup (Dale’s horse), and Bullet, the Wonder Dog, all stuffed for posterior’s sake.
Roy could be found walking the museum halls. As luck had that day, I ran into him. We chatted awhile with me recalling my youthful days of watching him on the big screen – in fact, the first movie I can remember ever seeing was “King of the Cowboys” in 1942.
“Why is it you seem to have saved everything?” I asked, looking around one of the rooms.
“Ya see that old Dodge flatbed truck over there,” he said, pointing to the beat-up vehicle. “That’s what me and my folks came to California in from Ohio back in 1929. Those were tough times. We didn’t have anything. I guess I’ve got in a habit of hanging on to things in case times ever get tough again.”
I had heard answers quite similar by other Great Depression survivors. The museum was a good summary of a life lived from rags to riches.
After Roy and Dale’s deaths, their son, “Dusty” Rogers, moved the museum to Branson, Mo., but after a few years, but people stopped coming by for a visit. The King of the Cowboys was someone in the distant past – and not their past.
Dusty finally closed the museum doors and auctioned off nearly everything, including Trigger and Trigger, Jr. It was near sacra-ledge to those of us who were entertained by The King. In the not too-distant future there won’t be anyone left who’ll remember when Roy Rogers reigned.
WELL SED — I’ve seen better days, but I’ve also seen worse. I don’t have everything I want, but I do have all that I need. I woke up with some aches and pains, but I woke up. My life may not be perfect, but I am blessed. — Unknown author
SCAG SEZ — “I don’t remember your name, but if I did, I probably wouldn’t recognize you anyhow.”
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