Roy and Dale had many stories to share with their family, friends, and fans. Many of these were happy, some were sad, and some were a mix of both. Whatever the feeling, Roy and Dale loved to share their life story with everyone around them. I think it was because they knew that their lives inspired and blessed those around them, and shared their faith in Jesus Christ. Roy and Dale both wrote autobiographies: King of the Cowboys by Roy Rogers, Woman at the Well by Dale Evans, and Happy Trails: Our Life Story by Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, with Jane and Michael Stern. In fact, it’s from this last title that I took the title for this thread. Roy and Dale each had their own way of sharing events and moments in their lives, and each is equally touching and genuine. After reading the first chapter of Happy Trails: Our Life Story, I felt like I knew Roy like a friend. After I finished the book, it was almost like I had been one of their family, or had watched a film of their lives. They both had a way of making you feel like you were having a conversation with them, rather than reading a book. That effect continues even though they are both gone. So whenever it’s possible, I will try to tell the tales in Roy and Dale’s own words. I may also quote from Tricia Spencer’s The Touch of Roy and Dale. Mrs. Spencer did a wonderful job of gathering and sorting through the millions of pieces of fan mail the couple received (and kept) and publishing it in book format. It’s a wonderful read and is a great way to learn more about Roy and Dale from their fans’ eyes. All four books listed are available on Amazon.com.
So here we go, traveling the happy trails of Roy and Dale’s lives. (cue Trigger – rearing)
The O-Bar-O Cowboys and the Ill-Fated Tour
In 1934, Roy joined a band called Cactus Mack and his O-Bar-O Cowboys. The band headed off on a “grand” tour of the southwestern United States. Unfortunately, their booking agent only loosely arranged the tour and the band’s first stop was in a ghost town. The rest of the tour didn’t go much better. The men barely had enough money to pay for their hotel rooms and meals. In fact, at one stop the band paid for their room with Roy’s wrist watch. At another stop, Roy borrowed a rifle from the radio station manager and shot a stringy jack-rabbit. At Cactus Mack’s home town of Wilcox, Arizona, “the boys” were received with a warm welcome home. The home town folks were so friendly, that Cactus Mack quit the band! Roy convinced the band to continue without Cactus – still billing them as Cactus Mack’s O-Bar-O Cowboys – and headed off on the rest of the tour. This hungry, anxious tour did have a silver lining. In Roswell, New Mexico, Roy met his future wife, Arlene Wilkins. This too, came about because the band was hungry. They were just about starved to death, so they took to singing about their favorite foods. Roy sang the wonders of lemon pies (which in his own words, “was no lie!”) and Mrs. Wilkins called the studio saying that if Roy sang “Swiss Yodel” for her on the morning show, she would bring him two lemon pies. She realized just how hungry the boys were when she delivered the pies. They nearly inhaled them in their rush to eat! Not even a crumb was left on the plate. So, like a true southern woman, she invited them to chicken dinner. During dinner, once Roy had satisfied his hunger, his attention was quickly snatched by Mrs. Wilkins’ attractive daughter. Roy and Arlene wrote letters back and forth for nearly two years. During that time Roy formed the Sons of the Pioneers and the group became an outstanding success. With the confidence that his paycheck would support a family, Roy asked Arlene to marry him. They were wed on June 14th, 1936, in her home town.
So that’s the story for this week. Just so you know, Cactus Mack did succumb to Hollywood’s call after enjoying his home town for a little while longer. He appears with Roy in a three of Roy’s films: Saga of Death Valley (1939), Sunset on the Desert (1942), and Heart of the Golden West (1942).
After waiting 5 years for a child of their own, Roy and Arlene adopted a daughter, Cheryl, from Texas in 1941. Arlene later gave birth to Linda Lou in 1943, and Roy “Dusty” Jr. was born in October, 1946. Sadly, Arlene dies from an embolism six days after Dusty was born. Roy married his leading lady, Dale Evans, on December 31st, 1947 at the Flying L Ranch in Davis, Oklahoma.
To hear Roy briefly talk about this trip, and other events in his life visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IrL-Cf9J7vk
It is the Roy Rogers interview on This is Your Life. Besides Roy, this includes appearances by Reverend Bill Alexander (he married Roy and Dale), Roy’s mother, father, and three sisters, Guy Baumgartner (Roy’s childhood school teacher), Rusty Rogers (of no relation, he was sick and Roy helped him get better), Dale and 6 of the Rogers’ children, the Sons of the Pioneers, and of course Trigger. It’s a real treasure, especially when the viewers get to meet Roy’s family (both the Slyes and the Rogers).
Just as a reminder, here’s the book titles:
Happy Trails: Our Life Story by Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, with Jane and Michael Stern
King of the Cowboys by Roy Rogers with Georgia Millard and Mark Pollard
Woman at the Well by Dale Evans
The Touch of Roy and Dale by Tricia Spencer
These books are all wonderful reads and can be found on www.amazon.com at reasonable prices.