By chance, I get to visit the set of The Roy Rogers TV Show and meet its star!
One day, while watching my brother, Bobby, work as an extra on the Fury TV Show shooting at the Upper Iverson Ranch, I heard gunshots coming from a tree-lined area nearby. At the time, I was busy filming some behind the scenes shots of the Fury Company with the little Kodak 8-millimeter movie camera Santa had brought me on my tenth birthday, three years earlier.
While the Fury Company was shooting a scene, I pantomimed to my mom that I wanted to mosey on over and see what or who was making those gunshots. She nodded her okay and I was off.
Making my way across several unoccupied insert roads (non-descript, earthen thoroughfares where chase scenes are filmed), around a large clump of bushes and onto a tree lined lane, I came across the film company that had been making all the noise.
At first, it looked to me like just another, regular, Western Movie Company, with its grip, camera and horse trucks parked alongside the road in the shade. Then my eyes were drawn to an old gray jeep -- a very special old, gray jeep with the name, "NellyBelle" painted on the doors. I began to smile. I knew what TV Show I had stumbled upon.
As I walked closer to the shooting set, shielding my eyes from the reflectors’ glare, I could see a very familiar golden Palomino — one that was all decked out with just as familiar a saddle and tack. It was Trigger. That could only mean one thing to me. I was finally going to get the chance to meet my idol, Roy Rogers.
I settled in behind my 8mm camera and began shooting some film, watching through the viewfinder as the director staged a scene between Roy and Dale with two bad guys. I got some good shots of both of them and Trigger, but transferring the 8mm to still photos didn’t work as well as I had planned, so please enjoy what I have to share anyway, will you? It’s the best I could do under the circumstances.
On the way back down the road, I passed a guy dressed in Levis and a denim jacket. One quick double take. Holy Cow, it was Pat Brady, Roy’s sidekick on the show and a long-time member of Roy’s original singing group, The Sons of the Pioneers. Brady was very congenial, allowing me to shoot close-ups of him with my movie camera as he made faces and told jokes. I spent more than a few minutes with Pat, got an autograph and left laughing.
I still wanted to meet Roy and Dale. I trotted back toward the shooting set but when I arrived, found it deserted. The crew had moved off the road some distance, and were setting up near some rocks and bushes. There was absolutely no sign of the stars. I turned away, very disappointed.
As I sauntered back down the tree-lined road, I passed several canvas directors chairs. I saw something on one of them that stopped me in my tracks. It was something belonging to Roy -— the very familiar brown, tooled leather gun-belt he always wore, along with his two nickel-plated 45s gleaming from their holsters.
I looked around. No one was nearby. There I was, alone with Roy’s guns. I had to try, didn’t I? I moved over to the chair, subtly lifting the gun-belt. Man, it was heavy. I had never given thought to how much those things weighed when I saw my favorite cowboys riding hell bent for leather across the open plains, firing two guns at the outlaws they chased.
I carefully put it around my waist, buckled the buckle. It fit perfectly! I should have known, I was a growing teenager and Roy had very small hips. I put my hands on the gun butts. I had no intention of doing anything more than trying them on, but then—
“Excuse me,” the voice said from behind. “You must have made a mistake, I think those are my guns.”
Oh, shoot, I thought, turning slightly, with an embarrassed grin on my face. And there he was — Roy Rogers — looking me straight in the eye with the same solemn squint he always used on the villains.
“Uh, sorry,” I said, as I began to unbuckle the belt.
“Keep em on,” he told me. “I want to see how fast you can draw.”
“Uh, I’m sorry,” I repeated. “I was just looking and I couldn’t resist.”
“Keep em on,” he said again. “Show me your fast draw.”
He took a step closer. I looked down, staring at his colorful, leather boots. “I’m serious, son. Let me see you draw.”
Slowly I lifted my hands, trying desperately to hold them steady. They shook so much I was embarrassed. “I, I can’t,” I said. “I just can’t.”
“Then maybe you better un-strap em like you were about to do before,” he said, smiling softly. “A man shouldn’t wear a set of irons like that if he isn’t about to use em.”
I unbuckled the gun-belt, handing it over to him.
He took the rig, strapped it on snugly. It sure looked better on him that it had on me.
“Here, let me show you,” he continued, drawing both guns in a flash quicker than lightning.
He began to twirl them. He did several switches - tossing one gun over the other, then backward, over his shoulders, catching them both in opposite hands. He did a little dance with the guns, a short juggling act, then swiftly spun both again, holstering them just a quickly as he had drawn.
“You see, son,” Rogers went on. “A man’s guns are something real personal, like that camera of yours over there. You wouldn’t want someone coming along and taking pictures with your camera when you weren’t around, now would you?”
I had forgotten my camera. I had set it down on the same canvas chair where the gun-belt had been hanging and forgotten about it completely.
“I, uh, sorry” was all I seemed to be able to say.
“Well, just remember,” said Roy. “Never touch another man’s guns if you don’t intend on using em.”
I nodded. I had gotten his message.
He turned and walked toward the set and that was the last I saw of him.
I made my way back to the Fury location. I waited until we were in the car and on our way home before I told my brother about meeting The King of the Cowboys.
Boy was he upset.