Reaching for Trigger’s golden mane
Roy Rogers told his son, when the visitors to the museum falls off, sell the collection. And so it’s gone to the auction block – including, I imagine, Roy Roger’s (now stuffed) horse, Trigger. Buttermilk, Dale’s horse, probably meeting the same fate.
It was the era of Bucky Beaver and Ipana toothpaste, Howdy Doody, and serial westerns at the movies (in black and white…but no matter, everyone knew what color dust, dirt, and the sky was!). Whole house fans and open windows, not air conditioners, created wind storms inside the houses all summer long.
The kid network went wild when one of the neighbors bought a TV set.
We were all allowed to stand outside the front picture window and watch a show on it. It had to be outside. That was one of those houses where the kids were sent out to play after breakfast, allowed into the kitchen for lunch, then, back outside until dark. Locked out. Well, it kept the house clean..that one anyway. The other moms got mad and accused them of dumping their children on others – and messing up everyone else’s houses. Thus was initiated the block rule of alternating houses to visit and play inside…yards were still open at all times – but playing inside and lunch invitation were strictly take turns hosting or your kids get left out.
It was a Texas post-war “Leave it to Beaver” subdivision carved out of farm fields and prairie.
The city downtown skyscrapers were just a quick ride away. Pretty removed from the cowboys – except in the minds of those from the East Coast. In truth, we had the best of both worlds: ballet, symphonies, art lessons at art museums, libraries, as well as poking crawdads in the bayou with sticks, going with friends for riding horses or kicking hay out of the back of pickups to feed cattle.
But one event that was strictly Texas was the yearly Rodeo and Fat Stock show.
The whole town returned to its cowboy roots: boots and hats were hauled out of the closet and became acceptable wear - even in school for ‘Go Texan Day”. Trail rides with covered wagons – not motor homes – and cowpokes-for-the-week began their week-long “living history” treks from multiple directions. On the friday before the rodeo opening, roads would be closed and traffic slowed to allow the trail rides to roll into Memorial Park for rest and campfires before the big parade and rodeo opening the next day. It was said if you could get into Memorial Park, and talk your way onto one of those wagons for the parade, you could get into the rodeo free.
But one of the best things about the rodeo was the featured entertainers each year: movie stars, singers, celebrities – all those people you desperately wanted to see in person. At the end of the performance, the star would ride the perimeter of the ring on horseback or in a convertible. Children rushed to the railings and stretched out their hands. It was an unwritten rule: entertainers had to reach out and shake hands – or at least brush or touch the children’s hands. Sometimes it was a bit of a disappointment – and they didn’t live up to expectations. One famous “cowboy” was drunk and fell off his horse. Some, the ones usually in the cars, drove by really fast and just wanted to wave. But most smiled and greeted their fans carefully.
Roy Rogers and Dale Evan were two of the best.
They loved their fans and children. They sang. They performed feats of horseback riding. Their horses, Trigger and Buttermilk, did tricks. Then the moment that all the kids had been waiting for arrived: the time to circle the ring. The railing was jammed with children. Arms and fingers stretched out like cactus thorns. Roy Rogers dipped Trigger into a bow and swooped his hat onto his head. ”Please,” he addressed his eager small fans – shoving and pushing along the railing – “We want you to be careful, now. We’ll get to everyone, don’t worry. But please don’t try to pet or touch Trigger. He’s a little shy and will be frighten.” Thus they started their long slow journey around the ring.
My heart was pounding.
We had managed to badger our parents to take us to this particular night of the rodeo – to see Roy Rogers and Dale Evans. We were firmly planted by the rail – not about to give way to any late comers. My brother may have worshipped Roy Rogers, but I adored Trigger. Trigger, the beautiful golden Palomino – the most amazing horse of all the western movies. And there he was coming closer! I knew Roy was right. Horses don’t like to be poked or have hands grab at them suddenly for no sensible reason. I wouldn’t want to startle him or accidentally poke him in the eye…or provoke him into biting. I had been taught about horses from the time I was little, and would be expected to behave appropriately. Still, this was likely to be my only chance to ever touch this famous golden creature.
But I knew I couldn’t.
Roy had asked us not to.
So I stretched out – reaching for Roy along with all the other arms. Oddly enough as Roy approached our position,Trigger stopped right in front of me and did a little halting stand-in-place step. The golden horse of the big screen seemed to wink and purposefully toss his head. It was just like a movie. That tossing flipped those long silky strands of mane across my hand. Then Roy smiled, steadied Trigger, shook my hand, and then was gone.
It was perfect.
Happy Trails, Trigger.
Still appreciatively yours,
Phil, the Philosopher Mouse of the Hedge.