03 July 2018

Happy Trails to Trigger!

Intro Copy

For those of you my age and older (no, I’m not telling you my age), you might remember Roy Rogers, the “King of the Cowboys” and his horse Trigger. Admittedly, Roy was a bit before my time, but I do remember seeing several of his movies (which are still shown on Turner Classic Movies) and a few of his TV shows (which are often aired on RFD-TV). By a remarkable patriotic coincidence, Trigger was born on the 4th of July, 1934 and died on July 3rd, 1965. A Palomino, Trigger’s original name was Golden Cloud. Cinema enthusiasts may remember Golden Cloud from the 1938 movie Robin Hood. He was the horse ridden by Maid Marian, who was played by Olivia de Havilland.  When Roy Rogers (aka Leonard Slye) arrived in Hollywood to film westerns (after helping to form the musical group Sons of the Pioneers), he was in need of a horse. Rogers chose Golden Cloud (one of 5 rented horses offered him), and he so admired the animal that he bought him for $2,500 from the stable owner and renamed him Trigger. Roy taught Trigger some 100 tricks. Animals have always been a hit with kids, but it is difficult to overstate the popularity of Trigger in the 1940s and 50s. The horse was basically Roy Rogers’ co-star in almost all of his movies and TV shows. He was with Roy and his wife Dale Evans on most of their public appearances. Roy, on more than one occasion, walked Trigger up several flights of steps in hospitals to visit sick children. At one point, Trigger became so famous that he had his own comic book. Roy said that he often wondered if he would have made it in Hollywood without Trigger. When Trigger died, Rogers had him stuffed and put on display at the Roy Rogers–Dale Evans Museum in Victorville, California and later moved him to Branson, Missouri. After the death of Roy and Dale, the museum closed, and many of the exhibits, including Trigger, were auctioned off by Christie’s in New York.  RFD-TV bought Trigger for over a quarter of a million dollars and hopes to one day install him in a Western museum of its own. eLibrary has numerous articles about Roy Rogers, Dale Evans and Trigger, as well as several Research Topic pages about the American West. Enjoy the 4th of July and the rest of your summer vacation!

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Trivia: When a massive replica of Trigger was being fashioned (to stand in front of Roy Rogers’ museum), Roy was approached by representatives of the Denver Broncos. He allowed a separate replica to be made. That second statue, now known as “Bucky the Bronco,” stands over Denver’s Mile High Stadium. Dale Evans’ horse was a Quarter Horse named Buttermilk. At one point in his childhood, Roy’s family was so poor that they lived on a large raft that his father made. The makeshift boat, tied to the shore, floated in the Ohio River. His father constructed walls and a roof to keep the family out of the elements. (I got this story from Roy's autobiography Happy Trails. I recommend it!). When the Singing Cowboy, Gene Autry, went on strike in 1938 for more money, Republic Pictures held auditions for a replacement. Roy Rogers got the job. His first starring role, Under Western Skies, was a hit. BONUS! Roy Rogers' Riders Club Rules:
  1. Be neat and clean.
  2. Be courteous and polite.
  3. Always obey your parents.
  4. Protect the weak and help them.
  5. Be brave but never take chances.
  6. Study hard and learn all you can.
  7. Be kind to animals and care for them.
  8. Eat all your food and never waste any.
  9. Love God and go to Sunday School regularly.
  10. Always respect our flag and our country.