Remembering Roy Rogers and Dale Evans’ Happy Trails

February 10, 2012

By Lori Boyd

She spent a day at the zoo with “Rocky” Lane, played gin rummy between film sets with “Dobe” Carey, sat in on rehearsals with the Sons of the Pioneers and shared mayonnaise sandwiches with Trigger, “The Smartest Horse in the Movies.” The famous couple known around the world as “The Queen of the West” and “The King of the Cowboys,” were, to her, simply Mom and Dad.

Roy Rodgers and daughter Cheryl Rodgers-Barnett

Cheryl Rogers-Barnett, daughter of cowboy legend Roy Rogers and western star Dale Evans, has childhood memories that could themselves be scenes from a movie. From spending time in the company of celebrities such as ‘Gabby’ Hayes and Jane Russell to watching Keith Larson play the role of Brave Eagle in her own front yard, Cheryl grew up under the lights of the Golden Age of Hollywood. As a small child, she would often go with her father to the studio, at times filming commercials while Roy filmed segments for his television shows. “That was my playground, and the people that worked there were my baby-sitters,” Rogers-Barnett explains.

Her life had forever changed during one moment in 1940 when, as an infant, she reached up and grabbed hold of Roy Rogers’ finger during his visit to the Hope Cottage orphanage in Dallas, Texas. Rogers-Barnett became Roy’s first adopted daughter and, as the oldest of his children, had a part in many of the activities and events that took place throughout his career.

“I don’t remember not being aware that dad was Roy Rogers,” she says. However, she has a unique and personal insight into the man he was.

The public saw a side of Roy Rogers that reflected greatness: a gifted musician, a handsome actor, a talented horseman, a skilled hunter and a true humanitarian. As his daughter, Cheryl saw those traits and much more. He was someone who loved to sing in the car as he drove and eat mayo on his pancakes; a man who enjoyed surprises, flea markets and milkshakes from Dairy Queen; a “country boy in the big city” with a mischievous sense of humor, a deep concern for people and a genuine appreciation for his fans.

When Cheryl was seven and half years old, a year following the death of her adoptive mother, Arline, Roy married Dale Evans. “She had always been my hero,” Cheryl admits, and recalls going into Dale’s dressing room and even playing in her make-up on occasion. Still, it took a period of adjustment for Cheryl to come to accept Dale as her new mother. As time passed, they became friends and came to share many of the same personality traits. In Dale Evans, audiences saw a beautiful film star and Broadway actress. They would later come to know her as a successful song writer and published author. As her daughter, Cheryl saw those things and much more. She saw Dale as a woman with a strong spirit and a personality characterized by determination; someone who consistently “rose to the occasion” and whose faith helped her through difficult times; a list-maker with a sincere desire to cook and do the housekeeping (albeit with a “Ma Kettle” twist, as described by Cheryl’s husband, Larry Barnett, with a laugh).

On the big screen, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans became role models for children and adults around the world. They portrayed characters of integrity; characters with compassion but who also had the strength and courage to stand up for what was right. Roy came to represent the true American cowboy: the hero who always chose good over bad.

 Roy Rodgers and daughter Cheryl Rodgers-Barnett

“When you watched his movies, there was no question about whether he was going to do the right thing. He never let you down,” says Cheryl. Children everywhere wanted to look like Roy, talk like Roy, and “save the day” like Roy and he didn’t let them down off screen either. The roles he played in the movies and on television were reflective of the man he was in real life. “Roy was very concerned with his influence on kids. He felt a responsibility to them,” adds Larry. Country music singer Randy Travis wrote this about Roy Rogers after he and his wife met Roy for the first time: “As my wife and I listened to his stories, I saw that the Roy Rogers we saw onscreen—cowboy outfit, white hat, high morals—was the same in person.”

Tennesseans have several unique connections to the King of Cowboys of which they can be proud. His famous horse, Trigger Jr., a palomino and full-blooded Tennessee Walking horse, was bred in Readyville, just east of Murfreesboro. Trigger Jr. was the horse Roy used mainly in personal appearances, known for his dancing and clever tricks. Roy and Dale visited DuPont Grammar School, in Hermitage, to present them with the National School Safety award for the 1957-1958 school year, a campaign sponsored by Roy Rogers and the National Safety Council. Roy also performed several times as a guest on the Grand Ole Opry and in 1990 his tribute album was recorded and produced in Nashville with other leading musicians. He is the only person to have been inducted twice into the Country Music Hall of Fame, first in 1980 as a member of the original Sons of the Pioneers and then in 1988 as an individual for his personal career successes.

In Cheryl’s book, Cowboy Princess, she allows readers a glimpse into her life as the daughter of Western royalty. She remembers thinking, “I could never write a book,” but with the full support of Larry and a foreword written by Dale, she completed the work and has given the world a heart-warming tribute to her legendary parents.

Her latest published work entitled, The All-American Cowboy Grill, is a cookbook written in collaboration with Ken Beck and Jim Clark. The cookbook not only provides recipes from some of Hollywood’s best known cowboy and western stars, but also includes pictures, quotes, and many fascinating extras. The recipe for G-G’s salad, one of Dale’s best dishes, is one of many family recipes that can be found in the cookbook. About the salad, Cheryl has two bits of advice: “You have to use a wooden bowl and you have to put it together in the steps that it says. It is wonderful!”

The years 2011 and 2012 mark what would have been the 100th birthdays of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans. Cheryl and Larry have been traveling across the country attending film festivals and events sharing memories of America’s beloved singing cowboy and cowgirl. “We want to keep the Roy and Dale legacy alive along with the Cowboy, and not let it die,” Larry explains. Their desire is that the 100th birthday celebrations will generate enough interest to do more. “Hopefully we’ll get a revival going,” Cheryl says. “All little kids drink Shirley Temple and Roy Rogers drinks, they just don’t know why.”

The trail that Cheryl is blazing today is characterized by fond recollections of what once was and the hope for what can be again. It is a trail that is meant to reach the hearts of a new generation as well as revisit the memories of Western fans from days gone by…and it is a happy trail, indeed.

To contact Cheryl Rogers-Barnett, and to find out where to buy her books or more about upcoming events, visit www.cherylrogers.co.

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Comments

  1. Donna whitworth says:

    They were very much the heros at my house growing up.. I Think every child should be allowed to watch them and become aware of all the good they did… I remember watching any thing they were in .. My father and step mother enjoyed them as much as we did… I hope in the coming years to be able to watch more of there movies and there T.V. show as well as special appearances they did….

  2. Anita says:

    Where would we be today if we had stayed with the simple God -fearing love and joy that Roy and Dale brought to us…They have their place in heaven…riding those “Happy Trails”…I will meet them again…

  3. Sue Sykes says:

    I remember Roy and Dale coming to DuPont Elementary twice–we were so thrilled to get to see them in person. My grandmother made a picture of Dale when she walked around the little business district near DuPont High where they made the presentation!!

    • Martha Petty says:

      I to remember Roy and Dale coming to Old Hickory at the DuPont Elementary and High School. it was a wonderful experience seeing them. I know Cheryl, Linda and Dusty was with them and I think it was Dodi.That was a day to remember. Thanks Roy and Dale for the memories of the way you encouraged us to have faith in God.

    • Jessy Yancey says:

      Thanks for sharing your memories! We’re happy to include some of your feedback in the upcoming summer issue of Tennessee Home & Farm.

      Jessy Yancey
      editor, Tennessee Home & Farm

  4. Bettye Woods says:

    Though I never met them, I grew up with Roy and Dale. Many times in my childhood when I had to make a decision, it was what would Roy do? I love them as much today as I did then and looking forward to meeting them in Heaven. Thank you for keeping the trail happy and alive.

    • Jessy Yancey says:

      Thanks for sharing, Bettye! We’re happy to include some of your feedback in the upcoming summer issue of Tennessee Home & Farm.

      Jessy Yancey
      editor, Tennessee Home & Farm

  5. JOHN VInson says:

    may God blessyou as you persue your mission. i ALways enjoyed ROy and Dale in their movis as well as the television programs they certainly set a god example it is to bad hat there are not more ndividual stetting the same type of an example.I will always remember their themesong happy trails to you,. also the saying that ROy usually said aid as rthey signed off ai th e end of the tv programs ‘ may the good lord take a liken to youy’ . by all means keep your memories they ar an extrmely imp[ortant gift that GOD gas allowedus to maintain.

  6. Joyce Wyatt says:

    Thank you Cheryl for keeping the memories of Roy and Dale alive! They were my heroes while I was growing up and still are!!! Children today are missing out…if only they could have known your mom and dad, then their lives would be richer. I feel blessed to have had them as my role models. I have some Roy and Dale memorabilia and have made a scrapbook which I will always cherish. Their memories are precious and special to me and I’m doing my best to pass them on to my grandchildren. I wish I could hear from you, but if that’s impossible, I want you to know that I will always be grateful to you for what you’re doing now to preserve their memory. Happy trails and may God bless you!

  7. Nola Ritter says:

    Thank you for what you are doing.. I never knew Roy and Dale had a daughter.. if memory serves, I saw Roy with a son, at one time, on some program, etc..

    I grew up with Roy and Dale movies and them ending the show with Happy Trails to you.. such a beautiful couple..

    It’s nice to know, they were wonderful people off stage and loving parents…from what I’ve read, they did well in their lives. The world needs more people like them..

    Thank you for sharing your life with your Mom and Dad with all of us, who enjoyed them in the western movies….so long ago…still fresh in our minds…

  8. Eloise Kell says:

    Love this!!!! So many wonderful memories. Tom and Barbara lived close to us in Sacramento……was so surprised to walk by their house and see an estate sale.
    Please give them my love…..my husband Max passed away in July.

  9. Lisa Rose Theophilus says:

    So proud of you mom! Love you, miss them and hope to see you soon. Great job!

  10. Patricia Cannon says:

    Oh, how I loved Roy Rogers and Dale Evans! I grew up dirt-poor…a family of 6 living in a 3 room house with an outdoor johnny. My father was an alcoholic. BUT Roy and Dale were my heroes and their tv show allowed me an escape from reality. I used to go to bed every night and pray that if anything ever happened to my parents that Roy Rogers and Dale Evans would adopt me. I wanted so much to have a loving family like Roy and Dale’s. I read everything I could get my hands on about them…had their paper dolls (which my father burned in a drunken stupor), read and re-read Angel Unaware countless number of times and cried each time I read it, and dreamed of one day having a family like theirs. I am happy to report that those dreams did, indeed, come true. What I learned from Roy and Dale…the way they looked into each other’s eyes as they sang “Happy Trails”…will always be a fond, happy memory. Thank you, Cheryl, for sharing your story.

  11. Dick Antram says:

    I go back to 1939 when “Roy” performed in Roswell, NM at the Yucca theater. I
    later had the privilege of meeting him in Victorville, CA at the museum. He
    was my childhood hero. And I wasn’t disappointed. He was who he was.

  12. Hannah says:

    We are a family with seven children and baby number eight on the way. We LOVE Roy Rogers and Dale Evans! All seven of my children love to watch DVDs of their movies and the TV show. All of them also LOVE to dress up in Cowboy/Cowgirl attire. My soon to be eight year old boy, got to meet Roy Rogers Jr. on his third birthday at the Fiddler’s Feast in Pigeon Forge, TN on February 24, 2007. He has wanted to be Roy Rogers ever since that night. He is learning to play the guitar and can sing several of his songs by heart! My parents grew up watching Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, then my brothers and I watched them, now my children are watching them! As a child my mother was asked if she could choose any parents in the world other than her own, who would she choose. Her answer was Roy and Dale! There are many other families in the homeschooling community who also love Roy Rogers and the great moral values he promoted! Vision Forum sales many of his DVDs as well as Western costumes and toys for children and continues to promote the values of the American Cowboy and Roy Rogers. Roy and Dale will always be true American heroes. Unfortunately, there are not many good role models for children these days. However, we are continuing the legacy of Roy Rogers and other real American heroes in our family! Best of luck to Cheryl in keep the legacy alive! Our family is willing to do all we can to help! Thanks TFB for the article and to Cheryl for sharing her story!

  13. Eugene Wilson says:

    Growing up with so many Cowboy heros Roy Rogers was at the top of my list. One could not pry me away when they would come on our black and white tv we had. In later years my Mom got the pleasure of meeting Roy in person, always ready for a photo my Mom had her picture made with him. This is a great keepsake for me. I would like to know how to get the cook book. May God bless You and keep the memory of Happy Trails alive.

    • Jessy Yancey says:

      Thanks for sharing! We’re happy to include some of your feedback in the upcoming summer issue of Tennessee Home & Farm.

      Jessy Yancey
      editor, Tennessee Home & Farm

  14. Rose & Don says:

    The world would be so much better off with more folks like Roy & Dale.
    They were definitely our heros back in our growing up days.

  15. Ron Smithfield says:

    Cheryl,
    As a small boy I was and still am a huge fan of Roy and Dale. Many years ago I was priviledged to meet Roy in Victorville at the Museum just before the famous A&E TV interview in which Roy said “I told Dale when I die just stuff me and put me on top of Trigger.” His autographed picture hangs in my office today along with the pledge we look as part of the Roy Roger’s Club. They served as role models that re-enforced what our parents were teaching us, unlike many of today’s “role models”.
    Would you come speak to our Clarksville Kiwanis Club on a Tuesday in March, April or May? Please contact me to arrange the details.
    Our local “Bone Show” on WJZM always signs off at 9AM with “Happy Trails”.
    Thanks, Ron

  16. #1 Dale Evans fan says:

    In reply to Eugene Wilson’s comment that he would like to know how to get the cookbook:
    There is a link at the end of the article to http://www.cherylrogers.co (NOT .com)
    Or you may go to http://www.amazon.com or other online booksellers, and search “The All American Cowboy Grill Cookbook”.

    When I was five years old, I informed my family and relatives that they were to “Call me Dale Evans” and when they asked for an expiration date on that order, I answered, “Call me Dale Evans FOREVER.” Those who are still alive sometimes call me “Dale Evans Forever” and it is always good for a laugh.

    My husband’s initials are “R.R.”, just like, I kid him, “my first husband’s” (that would be Roy Rogers, of course, if I am Dale Evans Forever).

    What wonderful memories, sweet through and through.

  17. Mother of #1 fan says:

    Every word is true, her husband’s initials are RR. We still have the vest and skirt
    with fringe and cowgirl boots, that she wore day after day. #1 Fan is loving and
    decent, and I have to believe that Dale and Roy Evans had some influence.
    We need more loving and decent heroes right now.
    Thank you for the 100th Anniversary revival of memories of Dale and Roy,
    lest we forget. Happy Trails to you.

  18. Betty Yambrek says:

    Your Dad was MY Hero! One of the highlights of my childhood was seeing your
    dad at a rodeo in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He was everything I dreamed of from
    the Saturday movies! My brother liked that other cowboy Gene Autrey. My mother used to sing me to sleep with “Happy Trails To You”.

    THANK YOU FOR SHARING
    Betty Yambrek

  19. mary says:

    I have so many photos signed by Roy and Dale from the time I met Roy when I was 6 until I saw him at the Roy & Dale collectables Museum back in the late 80′s. I always sent them cards and Blessings and Prayers for all they did and the clear message of God;s love, I miss them so much. I am so glad to see you are doing great and would like very much to know more about your books. So, I will be in touch and see if you ever travel to Alabama. Thank you and as Roy would say ” May the Good Lord take a Liking to you!”………….mary

  20. Rose Allen says:

    My husband and I grew up loving Roy and Dale, as most of America did. Now as adults our church is sponsoring a costume ball for valentine’s day this year. We decided we would like to go as Roy Rogers and Dale Evans but are unable to find outfits or even patterns that I could use to make our outfits. Any help that you could provide would be greatly appreciated.

    Thank you,
    Rose Allen
    1185 Madeleine Ct.
    Greenwood, AR 72936

  21. Rex Moore says:

    Just finished watching Outlaws of Paradise Valley & saw that you were in it. Roy was my hero. The questoned was asked of me, “If you could have been anyone in the world, who would you have been?” It would have been Roy Rogers. I had visited the Roy Rogers museum in Victorville and also the year that it moved to Branson, MO. The last time I was in Branson, I went to see the museum and was extremely disappointed to see it had closed. Trigger was still out front so it was picture time. I am a big time western enthusiast. As I stood there in front of that closed museum, many good memories went running through my mind about the era in which I grew up. I only wished my children and grandchildren could have had that same experience that I enjoyed. Thanks Roy & Dale. Thanks Cheryl for keeping the experience alive. HAPPY TRAILS!!!

  22. pat bream says:

    I grew up with parents loving Roy and Dale, and I have always loved them, too and followed them on TV for years. Watched every movie and TV show, never missing any. They were my idea of model parents. I wish I had known them! I still check online to keep up.
    They were my heroes and always loved. Loved them on the Billy Graham crusades and the comfort and ease of sharing their faith in Jesus with others.
    They were rare jewels. Know their crowns are full of gems!