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Jewish World Review / July 8, 1998 / 14 Tamuz, 5758

Cal Thomas

Cal Thomas My lunch with
Roy Rogers

ON MANY OCCASIONS I have eaten lunch at Roy Rogers, but not until last December had I ever had lunch with Roy Rogers.

It was the eve of the Rogers' 50th wedding anniversary. Roy and Dale Evans Rogers had graciously agreed to meet with my wife and me at their museum in Victorville, Calif., indulging my childhood wish to see the King of the Cowboys and Queen of the West.

No caption necessary
Neither had been well. Roy moved around slowly, accompanied by a full-time nurse and an oxygen tank. Dale continues to recover from a stroke she suffered some months ago. Both were in wheelchairs.

Until we arrived it was not certain whether Roy would feel up to seeing us. But there he was in the office of his wonderful museum with memorabilia from a life well spent. And there was Trigger, stuffed and looking as good as he did on TV for so many years (Gene Autry once told me that when his horse, Champion, died, he was asked if he would like him stuffed and placed in his museum. "How much would it cost?" asked the multimillionaire. When he was told the price, Autry responded, "Hell, no, bury the SOB!'')

For those not of a certain age, it will be difficult to understand the influence that Roy and Dale had on America's children in the '50s. Yes, we first learned right from wrong at home from our parents, but Roy and Dale and so many other programs, either reinforced, or at least did not damage, that moral standard. Culturally, they not only fulfilled the first admonition of another profession -- "first, do no harm'' -- they sowed the seeds of much good. Dale's marvelous book, Angel Unaware, about their retarded daughter, Robin, who died within months of her birth, was an inspiration to my parents as they struggled with my retarded brother. They adopted other children, two of whom also died. Their generosity of time and money for others is legendary.

So there I was, sitting across from one of my childhood heroes. Roy was used to this. He played his part perfectly. The clothes were cowboy, including the hat. Those wonderful eyes that always smiled looked directly into mine and I felt like a child again.

One of the many nice things about the films of Roy and Dale, I said, was that you could show them to your children and grandchildren without embarrassment, something today's children will have trouble doing when they try to show current films to their descendants.

Some people say Roy and Dale's programs didn't reflect reality. That ought not be television's primary role. Television teaches through images, words and situations. It gives permission for people to be good or bad. Each must make his or her own choice, but television can reinforce good choices and show the error of bad ones. Roy said, "We always tried to get a message out -- that right triumphs over wrong.'' We agreed that is the antithesis of today's immoral messages.

After many stories and questions were answered, we prepared to leave. I asked if they would mind posing for a picture with us. Both got out of their wheelchairs and a photograph I will treasure more than those with presidents I have known is the one of the four of us with our arms around each other.

At the end of one of his shows, Roy removed his hat, bowed his head and invited viewers to join him in "A Cowboy's Prayer.'' He said, "Oh Lord, I reckon I'm not much by myself. I fail to do a lot of things I ought to do. But Lord, when trails are steep and passes high, help me to ride it straight the whole way through. And when in the falling dusk I get the final call, I do not care how many flowers they send. Above all else, the happiest trail will be for you to say to me, 'That's right, my friend.' Amen.''

Roy has now joined his children, Robin, Debbie and Sandy at the end of his final and happiest trail of all. Happy trails, Roy, 'til we meet again.


7/06/98: News unfit to print (or broadcast)
6/30/98: Smoke gets in their eyes
6/25/98: Sugar and Spice Girls
6/19/98: William Perry opposed
technology transfers to China
6/19/98: The Clinton hare vs.the Starr tortoise
6/17/98: The President's rocky road to China
6/15/98: Let the children go
6/9/98: Oregon: the new killing fields
6/5/98: Speaking plainly: the cover-up continues
6/2/98: Barry Goldwater: in our hearts
5/28/98:The Speaker's insightful remarks
5/26/98: As bad as it gets
5/25/98:Union dues and don'ts
5/21/98: Connecting those Chinese campaign contribution dots
5/19/98: Clinton on the couch
5/13/98: John Ashcroft: another Jimmy Carter?
5/8/98: Terms of dismemberment
5/5/98: Clinton's tangled Webb
4/30/98: Return of the Jedi
4/28/98: Desparately seeking Susan
4/23/98: RICO's threat to free-speech and expression
4/21/98: Educating children v. preserving an institution
4/19/98: Analyzing the birth of a possible new nation
4/14/98: What's fair about our tax system?
4/10/98: CBS: 'Touched by a perv'
4/8/98: Judge Wright's wrong reasoning on sexual harassment
4/2/98: How about helping American cities before African?
3/31/98:Revenge of the children
3/29/98: The Clinton strategy: delay, deceive, deny, and destroy
3/26/98: Moralist Gary Hart
3/23/98: CNN's century of (liberal) women
3/17/98: Dandy Dan
3/15/98: An imposed 'settlement' settles nothing
3/13/98: David Brock's Turnabout

©1998, Los Angeles Times Syndicate, Inc.