When Roy, Trigger and Dale Ruled the West

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), September 11, 2005 | Go to article overview

When Roy, Trigger and Dale Ruled the West


Byline: Roger K. Miller, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Treasure is where you find it. Who would have thought that a thick book bristling with facts and written in the monotone, dry-as-dust style of a corporate annual report could turn out to be a delight? Of course, it helps that the subject matter is Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, entertainers themselves treasured by probably a majority of Americans over 50 and likely by a considerable number under that age, too. Even the most jaded of us can manage a smile at the happy reminiscence of decent, honorable Roy biffing - but never, ever killing - the bad guys with the assistance of loyal, plucky Dale.

"King of the Cowboys, Queen of the West" contains almost everything the most ardent Roy and Dale fan might want to know about their professional careers. If it is not in the narrative history in the first one-fifth of the book, it is certainly in the minutely detailed filmography, discography, etc., that make up the remaining four-fifths. The numerous photos are a treat in themselves. (The cover price is rather steep, but the publisher promises a paperback edition will follow.) What readers won't find is much about the duo's personal lives, beyond the skeletal facts - no examination of the dynamics, tensions and pressures in their domestic existence. Still, the facts alone have an allure.

Probably many know that Roy was born Leonard Frank Slye in Cincinnati in 1911. Fewer may know that Dale was born either Frances Octavia Smith (the name her parents gave her) or Lucille Wood Smith (the name the doctor entered in the records) in Uvalde, Tex., in 1912. The original name of Roy's horse Trigger was Golden Cloud. Roy bought him in 1943 for $2,500. Trigger received movie billing above all actors except Roy, a fact that Dale used to jokingly complain of. Fewer still will know that Dale was married and divorced three times before marrying Roy in 1947. Her first marriage, an elopement at age 14, resulted in a son at 15. Roy's first marriage, in 1933, ended in divorce after 15 months. His second ended with the death of his wife a week after she gave birth to Roy Rogers Jr. in 1946.

This is the work of not only a scholar, but an enthusiast. Raymond E. White, a professor emeritus of history at Ball State University, views the couple "as significant cultural icons" of the American West who "carefully controlled and marketed their images while incorporating their Christian faith and their family values into their public performances. …

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