We often hear the term, “the end of an era” used when someone dies or a television show ends or something like that happens. Recently, not only did an era end, but it passed away into private homes and museums forever. An icon for many Baby Boomers, Roy Rogers, died several years ago but his legacy lived, and lives on with movies and old black and white re-runs of his television series. Now his museum in Branson, Missouri has closed and all of the items associated with him, Dale Evans, Trigger, Bullet and even Nellie Bell have gone on the auction block.
How popular was he? A pair of his boots sold for $11,000. A shirt with an embroidered Trigger went for $8,000. Trigger? Stuffed and sold for $266,000. Need his saddle? You could have gotten it for $386,000. Want ‘ol Bullet to run alongside Trigger? He went for $35,000. Even Nellie Bell’s tab was $116,000. Obviously, “gone but not forgotten” is true for Roy.
I met him twice. Once at a reception in Los Angeles where I have a photo of me, Roy Rogers, Dale Evans, Tony Curtis (don’t ask) and a strange lady I never did identify. I also have a nice photo of me with Jimmy Stewart at the same reception. I happened to catch him coming back from the bar and he has a drink in both hands.
The best story about Roy is one I heard at the reception. All his career, Roy had worn cowboy boots and didn’t even own a pair of regular shoes. Dale wanted to surprise him for his birthday one year so she bought him a pair of custom made alligator leather shoes. They were not just ordinary ones but were designer specials with inlays of pearl and all sorts of other things to make them unique to Roy.
The first time he wore them on their ranch in Victorville, CA, Roy saddled up Trigger, got Bullet and headed for a ride in the nearby mountains. Once he got to the foothills of the mountains, Trigger began to act funny and Roy sensed danger. It was soon revealed that a mountain lion was following him and his animals.
When the big cat got close enough to spook Trigger, the animal reared up and threw Roy off the saddle and onto the ground. Without Roy to control him, Trigger ran away from the danger and headed back to the ranch. With a mountain lion on the hunt, no horse or dog and too far from home to make it back before dark, Roy sought refuge in an indentation in the rocks. He was able to slip almost all of his body in but his feet were exposed.
During the night, the mountain lion tried to pull Roy from his hiding place and in the process destroyed his new shoes. The next morning a rescue party found Roy, safe, but barefooted walking back to the ranch. He was picked up, checked out by a doctor and was fine.
A week later, Roy came riding back into the ranch mounted on Trigger with a massive mountain lion, dead and draped across the back of the horse.
When Dale saw them she said, “Pardon me, Roy. Is that the cat who chewed your new shoes?”