(Leonard Franklin Slye)
1911 to 1998
Well, if you had read any national or regional newspaper today, you
could have known that this would be our subject today. His "Happy
Trails" encouraged all of us babyboomers to strive harder, and
he gave us a little wisdom in his reluctance to hurt (he always aimed
to knock the gun out of the hands of his adversaries, rather than kill
them). His was faithful to his wife. Dale Evans for over 50 years. He
also, endearingly, loved his famous horse, Trigger, to a distraction
stating that Trigger was, "the best thing that ever happened to
me." And his sidekick, Gabby Hayes, considered him one of the greatest
men he ever knew.
Roy was also the victim of tragedy: losing a child and his first wife,
a down syndrome child who he and Dale loved dearly, and he was a generous
benefactor adopting three troubled children and raising them to productive
lives over the years. And all of this is in addition to his own son,
Dusty, who is now curator of the Roy Rogers and Dale Evans Institute.
Roy starred in almost 100 films (his favorite, predictably, was always
"My Pal Trigger"). His long-running television series is an
ineluctible part of television history, and he ultimately became the
entrepreneurial founder of a fast-food chain that still survives today.
He out-cowboyed Hopalong Cassidy (William Boyd) and even the stellar
Gene Autry. And his popular fame eclipsed even Franklin Roosevelt and
even , if you can believe it, Abraham Lincoln in surveys during Roy's
heyday. His singing of Cole Porter's "Don't Fence Me In,"
is still considered a classic and one of the best-selling songs in the
history of music.
And there is a lot more: his activities in charities and work with the
handicapped, the products licensed to his name, the 2.5 billion boxes
of cereal with his picture on them, the wonderful books written by Dale,
the signature song "Happy Trails To You," the parades, the
international friendships (including Ronald Reagan in his heyday),
his native American Heritage (Choctaw), and his famous Double-R-Bar
ranch where he lived out his sunset years.
Yes, he was a cliche. Yes, many would now consider him anachronistic
and out of date. But, Roy Roger's song and life are irresistible, and
always -- fight it if you will -- reassuring and affirming. His was
a life that was worth living and, for us, worth remembering. So, Roy:
Happy Trails. You deserve it.
See you next time.