A Walk Down Memory Lane With My Childhood Heroes, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans

Tuesday, December 30 2008 10:57   Kieser Outdoors

For me, Saturday morning television in the 1950s and 1960s always included Sky King, a few cartoons and the remarkable Roy Rogers and Dale Evans show. They were movie and recording stars long before the invention of television. Many from that era claimed that their movies always sold-out theatres during the days of black and white pictures.

America loved their message and longed for their next movies that co-starred Roy's horse Trigger, Dale's horse Buttermilk, Bullet their remarkable German shepherd and Nellybelle, their beat-up Jeep. This entire supporting cast is on display at the Roy Roger Dale Evans Museum in Branson, Mo.


While fighting the bad guys, Roy always showed that right was better than wrong, and shooting the guns from their hands was a better way than trying to kill them. Each movie left audiences feeling good through their expected happy endings. I believe that Roy and Dale's sense of right and decency has never been needed more in this country.

My guess is most of the Baby-Boomer Generation doesn't realize this treasure of their youth is located in the Missouri Ozarks, but it's here where starry-eyed visitors relive cherished moments from their youth while viewing Roger's impressive collections of an impressive lifetime.

At the Happy Trails Theater in Branson, Mo., you can hear Roy Rogers Jr., better known as "Dusty," sing his father's songs that were originally made before the invention of men with long hair and stretch pants, groupies, big contracts and huge record deals.

Dusty's band and backup singers provide sounds for a good feeling lost with time in this less innocent world, including a beautiful lady named Kristen who smoothly echoes tunes sang, and sometimes written by, Dale Evans, Roy's wife.

Dustin, Dusty's son, is singing too. He has an almost eerie resemblance to his grandfather Roy from his younger days. Dustin, like his dad and grandfather has an excellent voice.

Recently I interviewed Dusty. The very talented singer and his family moved their theater and museum to Branson, Missouri from Southern California.

Roy Rogers was very accomplished in many things, including as an outdoorsman too. The following is an interview with his son, Dusty Roger's about their outdoor experiences and lives:

KK: Tell us about your father's hunting and fishing experiences.

Dusty: Dad hunted and fished throughout his life until it became physically impossible for him in his 80s. He learned to hunt on the farm in Ohio to help feed his family. They had a .22 rifle but could not afford the ammunition during the Depression, so he learned to hunt small game with a slingshot.

Dad loved to raccoon hunt too. Later he could afford to keep coon hounds and owned 35 of them. Mom and dad actually hunted coon on their honeymoon night. Mom liked to hunt until dad shot a goose. The bird was floating in the water. Still alive. Dad rung its neck to avoid wasting a shell. That ended her hunting days.

KK: I heard that Roy once lost a pair of oiled-up boots to a wild cougar and really took exception?

Dusty: That story has been told in many ways. The cat actually came out of the hills and chewed up his favorite boots. He hunted the cougar down and brought it back draped over his saddle. Mom stepped out of their cabin and said, "Pardon me Roy, is that the cat who chewed your new shoes?" to the tune of "Pardon Me Boy, Is That the Chattanooga Cho-Cho."

KK: I heard that your father did a lot of big game hunting?

Dusty: Yes, he hunted caribou, polar, brown, black and Kodiak bears, moose and most North American species. He made three trips to Africa and hunted elephants, hippos and many other varieties.

KK: What was his favorite hunting?

Dusty: His passion was hunting upland birds over good dogs. He loved pheasant and quail, but mostly pheasants. He owned German weimaraners and German shorthair pointers.

KK: I noticed Clark Gable's shotgun in the Roy Roger's Museum. Did he hunt with Gable?

Dusty: No, but he shot a lot of trap and skeet with Clark, who was a good shot. Dad had his own shooting club and they shot together quite a bit. They may have done a couple of coon hunts together. Dad had his shotgun, a Model 12, because they were shooting one morning and Gable couldn't hit the broad side of a barn. He held up the shotgun and said, "Does anyone want to buy this S.O.B?" Dad bought it and used that gun for the rest of his life.

KK: Did Roy hunt with any other celebrities?

Dusty: He hunted with Air Force Generals Curtis Lemay, Chuck Yeager, Jimmy Doolittle, and other celebrities like Carl Switzer who was Alfalfa of Our Gang, Lee Majors, Steve Kanaly who was best known for his part in the television show, Dallas, and many others. He taught Barbara Mandrel how to shoot at our ranch one day.

KK: Is there a lot of evidence of his hunting days in the Roy Roger's Museum?

Dusty: There are many photos, tusks from his African elephants and even coon hunting stories. Most of the trophies dad had were left in California because we had a lot of animal lovers who hated the fact that Roy shot animals. They would come in and raise a fuss. We would have brought the entire exhibit had we known that Missouri people love hunting and fishing. They probably would have loved to see them.

KK: You have an incredible vault of Roy's guns. Was he a collector?

Dusty: No, he really was not a collector, but just a guy who would buy a gun he liked. Many of his friends would leave him a gun for the museum. Most were presented by organizations or avid hunters. There are probably over 100 long guns and 200 hand guns. Dad owned a lot of Model 12's after shooting 25 straight blue rocks with Gable's gun.

KK: Did you dad have any other hobbies besides hunting and fishing?

Dusty: Dad was an avid racer. He loved to race boats, motorcycles, hydroplanes, cars and anything he could race.

KK: Tell me about your band and the music?

Dusty: I am the only one who can do what we do. I am his son and can talk about his life. We do songs from The Sons of the Pioneers where Roy was a member. We do his Western music, not country and western music. I answer a lot of questions at each show and am always gratified to find how many lives were touched by their music. I love the singing but love to meet the folks afterwards. Many came from an abusive family and they considered dad as their family. Dad was special to me and many other kids too.

KK: You and your kids are excellent reflections of your mom and dad, you are very nice people.

Dusty: That is the way we were raised. We treat people the way we want to be treated. Try to be nice as possible. I was raised that way, my kids were raised that way and hopefully my grandchildren will be too.

KK: Are you drawing younger crowds?

Dusty: Yes, many younger people visit. Some are home schooled and gained Roy Roger's movies through recommended lists. They know the running time, when these movies were released and many other facts. They are excited about visiting here. That is nice to see young people appreciate their work.

KK: What did you dad think of modern movies?

Dusty: Dad once said, "There are movies being made that I would not want Trigger to watch. When I was in the movies you didn't blow someone's guts all over the walls, it wasn't necessary."

Movies compete and sometimes they go in wrong directions. Sometimes they go too far with romantic looks of the West, but they had tough times in the real West. They have always had the guns fights where people faced each other, but most gun fights ended with back shooting.

KK: You have a very impressive museum and theater in Branson. Tell me about it.

Dusty: Dad wanted to start the museum years ago and started saving his things. He visited Will Roger's museum in the late 1930s and only found a rope, saddle and a pair of boots. He opened this museum in 1967. There are many photos, his outfits including hats and boots.

My job is to keep his memory alive through the years. He was important to young people through the years. Our museum allows visitors to visit mom and dad throughout their lives. We have everything people remember including Trigger, Buttermilk, Bullet, and Nellybelle.

Roy and Dale were major stars in this country and throughout the world. But they were very humble stars who felt they owed the people and paid people back in a big way. I think leaving this world in a better condition because of your work is a great thing.

KK: I was shocked at Roy's accomplishments besides theater and music.

Dusty: Roy had 27 different careers. He was second only to Walt Disney in merchandising. He was a spokesman for Marriott and other places too. He was always into something. People want to attach to him because of his image.

I had a great visit with Dusty and his son. For more Information about the Roy Rogers and Dale Evans Museum and Happy Trails Theater in Branson, call (417)-339-1900 or check the web site at:
www.royrogers.com .

All that's left for me to say, is, Happy Trails to You!