I got an email from my son back around the thirteenth of July that just sort of slid the butter right off of my biscuit during a day when I was feeling like my true age. He had written to tell me that Christie’s auction house in New York City was selling all the items from Roy Rogers’ museum over the next few days and Roy’s golden Palomino Trigger would be sold to the highest bidder. Roy and Trigger were America’s most recognizable duo, at least that is what Christie’s sale catalog said; but for me, they were the rock of my childhood and the backbone of this country for a lot of us “aging” baby boomers over the years. Even though Trigger had been dead since 1965 and stuffed by his owner, it still hurts to think that he would now be out of the control of the Double Rs and wrangled by some other outfit. Every buckaroo knows that a cowboy’s horse is always his best friend and to think that Roy’s Trigger will now become a part of a TV company’s office complex rather than to be a part of all of the other items that belonged to the real King of The Cowboys, it just sort of completes the last verse of Happy Trails.
I lost my Hopalong Cassidy watch a few years back, my Red Rider BB gun is no more and the Mattel Fanner 50 trick holster and pistol Santy Claus brought me many years ago no longer exist. Now, the Roy Rogers museum is scattered all over the country with no way for one of these sidekicks to ever see all of Roy’s stuff again. I understand that both Trigger and Roy’s faithful dog companion Bullet will both now call Omaha, Nebraska home. RFD-TV bought Trigger for $266,500 and Bullet for $35,000. Patrick Gottsch from RFD says plans are to eventually display Roy’s faithful companions at the main offices of the company in Omaha. The station is also going to start showing Roy Rogers movies as well and is seeking rights for the TV shows as well. But, there is still something about Trigger galloping across the plains of Omaha that just doesn’t sound the same.
Back in the fifties, there was no trouble finding a real hero for a kid. Sports figures seldom got arrested, movies were rated G, and you could tell the real heroes from the bad guys because they all wore white hats. I can’t remember wondering if my TV stars would get out of jail due to over- crowding or be shocked by what they may have called their spouse during a family “discussion.” No, I had models like Roy and Dale who rode horses named Trigger and Buttermilk on and off the silver screen. They sang songs that are still understood and used today. They rode their horses across the TV screen into my living room and even the commercials were viewable by the entire family without anyone being embarrassed or left wondering about something they should not be wondering about.
The very first time I was allowed to eat supper in front of the TV was back then when Roy and Dale entertained a nation by catching all the bad guys and proving right always wins. My mother would let me spread a newspaper on our linoleum floor and watch Roy on his golden Palomino Trigger (which was a Tennessee Walking horse), and Dale on her buckskin horse Buttermilk, followed by their wonder dog Bullet, for thirty minutes saving the West from crime and evil.
When Roy Rogers passed away on July 6, 1998 at the age of 86, he took with him that trademark smile and goodness that he projected on the TV screen and in real life. However, he left many of us with memories of a time when things were right with the world and the good guy always wins the girl. This world sure needs more heroes in white hats. With more white-hatted heroes, we could all enjoy a lot more happy trails.
Roy’s museum in Victorville, California was very special to him. It gave him a chance to meet a lot of his old “buckaroos” from days gone by as they often made the pilgrimage to visit their hero. It took only 12 years after his death for his memories to be sold and scattered to the wind much like the tumbling tumbleweed he often sang about. At least, maybe we old buckaroos can now make the pilgrimage to Omaha to see Trigger and Bullet if RFD creates a museum. But the sound of Roy Rogers and Trigger connected to Nebraska along to hitting the trail to Omaha will take some getting use to.