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Evans To Heaven
By Danny McBride - 06/06/2007 - 09:27 AM EDT

I don't remember the first time I saw Roy and Dale. Maybe on TV or maybe it was at the movies on a Saturday afternoon. Whenever it was, they stuck with me from the git go. Oh sure I liked Hoppy and Gene and The Lone Ranger and The Three Mesquiteers and The Range Rider and Ken Maynard and then Maverick and Rowdy Yates and lots of others who came later (Steve McQueen, Nick Adams, Richard Boone) but Roy and Dale always came first and they've been there all my life.

When we were kids my sister and I played at being them. We knew every detail- -Trigger (of course) but also Buttermilk and Nelly-Belle and Bullet and the Pats- -Brady and Buttram- -and Smiley Burnette, Gabby Hayes, The Sons of The Pioneers. Everything.

We had the albums too, not knowing until much later who the songwriter was. (It was Dale. "Faith, Hope, and Charity" stands out in my memory.)

But the most important memory I have only goes back a decade and a half, to a radio gig I was doing at the time, yakking every morning as talkradio hosts do, when my boss brought Roy into the studio for an interview. He had a new album out, and had just shot a music video with Clint Black, the Country star (who looks like he could have been Roy at 30- -uncanny the resemblance.) We hit it off, and Roy came back to make regular appearances on the air from time to time, telling stories of his life in movies and music, and being very amusing and friendly and always referring to Ms Evans as the reason he was successful.

That's one of the amazing things about being in Southern California. If the guy in Starbucks looks like George Clooney or Ted Danson, chances are it really IS George or Ted. Here nobody much blinks if you happen to see the Olsen twins at the movies or John Tesh in line at the store. They all have to eat too, and most try to live as normal a life as possible.

The first time I actually met Dale Evans was in line at the candy counter of a movie theater, surrounded by a flock of kids, grandchildren and neighbors and friends, and all of them clamoring for whatever their favorite gooey treat was. She was trying to keep the order straight, and since it was just me and a couple of kids, she invited me to go ahead of her. Of course, I could not. I introduced myself as that radio guy who had had her husband on recently, and of course she had been listening, and we struck up a conversation. I have no idea what the movie was now, but I will always remember that silly moment with all the kids asking for Goobers or Raisinets, and oblivious to the fact that a cultural icon was trying to buy them all candy as they kept changing their minds. After all, to those kids, she was just a Grandma, and like all Grandmas, she was enjoying just being with the kids and didn't care how long it took.

We saw each other on a number of occasions over the next couple of years until Roy's health declined, and they didn't go out as much, and he no longer came on the radio program. (Roy wore hearing aids in his later years and would put the headphones on in the studio and then say they weren't turned on. In reality, they were turned up so loud, it's a wonder his ears didn't bleed.)

Once or twice I performed at their charity fundraisers, which always featured their son Dusty and a continuing version of The Sons of The Pioneers. (Remember, Roy had been a recording artist before he was in the movies. Dale also had been a big band singer.)

At one fundraiser I did for a local church they had been slated to perform with me, but health concerns intervened and they had to bow out. Dale wrote such a heart-felt letter for me to read to the gathering that truly touched everyone. I will never forget it. I still have it.

Lots will be said and written about the amazing lives of these two people. I am one of the lucky ones who got to share a little saddle time with them. The King of The Cowboys moseyed on in 1998. Now The Queen of The West has joined him.

Happy trails to you 'til we meet again.

(In warmest tribute to Dale Evans: October 31st, 1912 - February 7th, 2001.)

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