In these days of discontent and destruction, hate and harangue, we could really use Roy Rogers. And Trigger, his Golden Palomino. Dale Evans and Bullet the Wonder Dog. Not to mention the Sons of the Pioneers. I believe if we could get this group back, we could find our kinder and gentler selves.
For those of you too busy posting warm-spit comments with cutesy-poo anonymous names on social media to know what I am talking about, Roy Rogers was King of the Cowboys. Yeah, there was Gene Autrey and Sunset Carson and Johnny Mack Brown and Lash LaRue and assorted others, but there was only one Roy Rogers. The King.
I’m not one for strolling down Memory Lane, but I can never forget the excitement of taking my Capitola Flour Five-Cent token (currently worth $5 or more these days, assuming you can find one) and a nickel to the East Point Theater on Saturday afternoon to see Roy make the world right for all mankind. It usually took him about an hour-and-a-half, but he never failed. Not only did he take care of the bad guys, he also found time to sing a song or two while doing so. Take that, Mr. Terminator!
If Roy and Dale and the Sons of the Pioneers could have shown up on the battlefields of Portland or Seattle or Atlanta singing Tumbling Tumbleweeds, maybe folks would have put down their firebombs and stopped spray-painting obscenities on public buildings and be inspired to sing along. It’s hard to spray paint obscenities when you are singing Tumbling Tumbleweeds.
Roy Rogers was a law-and-order guy, but he did it the right way. He used his gun only to shoot some bank robber’s hat off or the gun out of their hand. Roy made over a hundred pictures and I think I saw them all, but he never killed a soul. That wasn’t his style.
For those foolish enough to try and escape, I could have told them they were wasting their time. Roy Rogers would chase them down. Nobody could outrun Trigger and Bullet the Wonder Dog. Roy would pull them off their horse and then knock them cold as a cucumber before tying them up and putting them in jail.
On those rare times that the bad guys did get a jump on Roy and Dale, Bullet the Wonder Dog would bite the gun out of their hand and then manage to untie the pair with his teeth. Even Trigger had to be impressed.
Later, Roy and Dale, Trigger and Bullet made the transition from the movies to television. Other than not needing a Capitola Flour Five Cent token and a nickel to watch them, little changed. The bad guys were still robbing banks and rustling cattle and Roy was still making the world right for all mankind, only this time in 30 minutes — minus commercials — instead of an hour-and-a-half. Time didn’t matter. He always succeeded.
While I loved my dad passionately, I didn’t like watching television with him when Roy Rogers was doing his thing. I would sit enthralled as my hero chased down a scoundrel, knocked him off his horse and then watch as the two of them rolled down a hill before serious fisticuffs began. Roy prevailed, as usual.
My dad would wonder out loud why Roy’s hat never came off. I thought the comment superfluous but I never said so. My dad was a railroad man and railroad men didn’t use words like superfluous.
My theory was that Roy Rogers didn’t lose his hat because — well — he was Roy Rogers. My dad’s theory was that he wore a toupee and if his hat came off, so would his toupee. I thought that a sacrilege, but railroad men don’t use words like sacrilege, either.
Whether Roy Rogers really had a toupee on under his hat was not important to this little boy and still isn’t. What was important is that he was about good vs. evil and in his case, good always won out.
Looking around now, I don’t see anything comparable to Roy Rogers. It is all about flesh-eating zombies and laser-eyed robots, space invaders, promiscuity, murder, nudity and dropping the F-bomb every other word. Evil seems to have the upper hand on good these days.
I miss you and all that you stood for, Roy Rogers. You did it the right way. You were truly the King of the Cowboys. And don’t worry about the hat. That’s between us.