You know those little paper footballs you make? The ones where you fold a piece of paper into a triangle and flick it across the table until it's hanging over the edge, for a touchdown? For us, before they were paper footballs, they were guns. We'd play cowboys and Indians at school with those paper guns. And Roy Rogers was the hero we all wanted to be.
At home, many of us would have the full outfit. The fringed shirt and pants; the white cowboy hat; the toy pistol in a cheap leather holster. If we were real lucky, we would have a real live dog we could call Bullet for play time, even though she might have been Suzie the rest of the day. As for Trigger? A broomstick would do just fine. If our parents were really nice, we might have a broomstick horse with little leather reins and a plastic horse head.
No matter how we played make-believe cowboys, Roy Rogers was always the ideal. This was a time in America when the good guys fought the bad guys, but never fought dirty. Roy would shoot the gun out of the bad guy's hand instead of putting a cap in his ass, like the villain's all-black outfit screamed out for.
Can you imagine that now? A real hero who fought fair and didn't curse and who loved Jesus as much as he loved his family? A hero with a constant smile on his face, except when he had to rid our perfect world of the bad guys? I can tell you that your outlook on life is a whole lot different when you had just a glimmer of this when you were little. I worry about folks who never have a wholesome role model: Not even one to reject.
Roy died of congestive heart failure at the ripe old age of 86 back in 1998. He had made over 100 films and touched many little kids' lives by then.
He was born Leonard Slye on November 5, 1911, in Ohio. When the Depression hit, he packed up his guitar and moved to California. Swimming pools; movie stars. Well, not at first. He drove a truck and formed a group called Sons of the Pioneers. They got some radio work, and then he got a gig with Republic Pictures in 1937.
Some good marketing dude came up with King of the Cowboys. This stuck and helped shove his rival, Gene Autry, into second place in the hearts of the audience.
He met Dale Evans in 1944 and they got married in 1947. Roy's first wife, Arlene, had died a year earlier. The real success years were the 1940s and 1950s. He was the Number One Western Star (according to votes by theater operators) for 12 straight years, and he has a TV show from 1941 to 1957 which had great ratings.
Part of the appeal must be given to the curmudgeon sidekick, Gabby Hayes. Gabby was Chester to Roy's Marshall Dillon. And, of course, Dale and Bullet and Trigger all chipped in. However, it was always that million dollar smile of Roys which sealed the deal.
As a good Christian and Republican (I'm guessing), he didn't waste his money. He was second only to Walt Disney in the secondary market of souvenir sales and licensing arrangements. His estate was once valued at over $100 million. And that was back when a million bucks meant something.
He and Dale left behind two boys, three girls, fifteen grandkids, and 33 great grandkids (so far). And he left behind a great taste in my mouth for some good clean fun.