‘Happy Trails To You’
A recent email triggered fond memories of watching Roy Rogers and Dale Evans on TV as a kid in the fifties. Many Saturday mornings were spent in front of a large square box watching Roy Rogers, King of the Cowboys and Dale Evans, Queen of the West, handle bad guys and deal with whatever trouble came along.
Sweethearts on the show, Roy and Dale were married in real life. Joining them in the black and white TV series was the comical Pat Brady, as well as Roy’s golden palomino horse Trigger. And there was Dale’s buckskin quarter horse Buttermilk and Roy’s German Shepherd dog Bullet, (which I recently read was their family pet).
A Jeep called Nelly Belle was also a part of the show. Roy Rogers made more than 80 movies with Trigger starting in the late 1930s and purchased the horse shortly after they first met. The beloved Trigger was considered “The Smartest Horse In The Movies.” Over a period of almost 20 years, the original Trigger appeared in each of Roy’s 81 starring films at Republic and all 100 of Roy’s television episodes.
The email that I referred to earlier concerned an auction of over 300 items from the Roy Rogers and Dale Evans Museum in Branson, MO. The museum closed in December 2009 and its entire contents were sold at a High Noon Auction in January 2010, conducted by Christie’s in New York. Overall, the collection sold for $2.9 million. Trigger, and his standby horse Trigger Jr., Buttermilk and Bullet, had all been mounted and were on display in the museum.
The Omaha, Neb.-based rural cable network RFD-TV bought Bullet for $35,000 and Trigger for $266,000. Trigger's saddle and bridle sold for $386,500. Dale's parade saddle sold for $104,500. Pam Weidel, a horse trainer from New Jersey, went home with Nelly Belle for $116,500. A 1964 Bonneville owned by Roy sold for $254,500.
One of his shirts sold for $16,250 and one of his many cowboy hats sold for $17,500. The Bible they used at the dinner table every night sold for $8,750. Googling more information on the Roy Rogers-Dale Evans Museum, I found it was originally a popular tourist attraction in Victorville, CA, for over 35 years, opening in 1967.
After Roy died in 1998, and two years after Evans died in 2001, their surviving family members moved the museum to Branson. At the peak of his career, from the early 1940s to the mid-1950s, Roy made as many as six pictures a year, seen annually by more than 80 million Americans – over half the population of the country.
In 1950 there were more than 2,000 Roy Rogers fan clubs around the globe; the one in London had 50,000 members I don’t remember the plots of those lovely western shows, but I vividly remember Roy and Dale closing each show, singing, “Happy Trails To You.