LIKE COWBOYS AND INDIANS or steak and eggs, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans are a classic Western duo. Roy was raised in Duck Run, Ohio, but Dale is Texas’ own, born in Uvalde and raised in tiny Italy. From childhood she was determined to become an entertainer, and after false starts as a big-band singer and radio-show regular, she paired up with Roy and found lasting fame as a cowgirl icon. From the mid-forties on, they reigned as King of the Cowboys and Queen of the West, performing everywhere from Uvalde’s centennial bash to New York City’s Madison Square Garden and—during their six-year TV series—in millions of American living rooms. Dale has endured great personal tragedy but maintains that her faith, her love for Roy, and her Texas upbringing always saw her through—a philosophy reflected in her best-known song, “Happy Trails.”
Dale Evans was born Frances Octavia Smith on October 31, 1912. In 1954, however, when she requested a copy of her birth certificate to apply for a passport, she discovered that it listed her given name as Lucille Wood Smith and her birthdate as October 30.
Roy Rogers is her third husband. Her first marriage was an elopement at age fourteen (she bore a son the following year). Her second was to a musician she met while working as a staff singer for Dallas’ WFAA radio.
She arrived in Hollywood in 1941, where her first agent insisted that she claim to be 21 instead of 28 and that she pass off her 13-year-old son as her little brother.
She flunked her first screen test, for the Paramount Pictures musical comedy Holiday Inn, starring Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire.
In 1943 she dumped her second agent after he annoyed her by lavishing attention on another client, a hot young cowboy singer named Roy Rogers.
Roy was a widower with three small children when they wed in 1947. During their honeymoon, he took her raccoon hunting in Oklahoma.
She has received premonitions about loved ones’ deaths, including that of her only child with Roy, a girl born with Down’s syndrome. They later adopted three children and took in a foster child, two of whom also died tragically: a daughter in a bus wreck and a son of alcohol poisoning.
She eventually made 28 films with Roy. Trigger, however, made 88, and he usually out-billed her.
Dale has written 32 books about her Christian faith. For the past eleven years, except for a brief recuperation after her stroke last Mother’s Day, she has hosted a weekly “Date With Dale” segment on the Trinity Broadcasting Network.