The beloved cowboy poet delves into Western history with the daughter of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans — Cheryl Rogers-Barnett — and treats us to a poem.
Red Steagall: Let’s talk about the [now defunct] Roy Rogers-Dale Evans Museum a little bit, because I only saw it once. I interviewed your dad and took my son, my middle son, and he didn’t have any idea who your dad was. ... My son Carl didn’t know who Roy Rogers was, but he sure did after we left that museum and after we talked to your dad, and I did some interviews with him. I really enjoyed that. I was absolutely astounded at the number of items that had their image on them.
Cheryl Rogers-Barnett: Oh yeah. I think second only to Disney. And that really came about, Red, because Dad was due. I mean, he signed a contract in 1937 for $75 a week, and he ... thought it was all the money in the world. ... I mean, in 1937, that was a really big deal. So just a year later, Gene [Autry] was off on strike and Dad got a chance to star in Under Western Stars. Well, I think one of the reasons was because they had him under contract for $75 a week. And he didn’t make more than that for, I don’t know, two, three years, I think, before he got paid more than that.
Dad, he got his name because he met Will Rogers the weekend before Will Rogers left to go to Alaska. And when Dad got the chance to do Under Western Stars, they asked him what he wanted his name to be because his name was Leonard Franklin Slye. And nobody thought that would look great up on a billboard. So, Dad said he really didn’t care about the first name, but he wanted Rogers to be the second name. And the gentleman in this meeting called out names. Dad wrote them down, and he said Roy just looked the best with Rogers, so that became his name. He and the Sons of the Pioneers were touring, and they went to Will Rogers’ old house in Claremore ... Is it Claremore?
Red Steagall: Mm-hmm. Claremore, Oklahoma.
Cheryl Rogers-Barnett: Daddy said there wasn’t very much stuff there at the time, and he was a bit disappointed. So, he said right then and there, he promised himself if he ever made it in show business, he would have a museum full of his stuff. And holy cow, it was. I mean, it was crammed full to the rafters, especially in the back where the storage was. And I could never get him to label anything. When he asked me to go in and work, I told him, “You’re not here every day now. You’ve stepped back a little bit, and people are interested, and they want to know what this stuff is.” He says, “Well, they can ask me.” I said, “But you’re not here every day.” I never could convince him to go and label, but it was marvelous.
Cheryl Rogers-Barnett was featured on the Cowboy Corner radio show in October 2021. She is the author of Cowboy Princess: Life with My Parents Roy Rogers and Dale Evans.
All That A Man Really Needs
I sometimes let little stuff bug me,
When I don't keep my eye on the ball.
But never again will I get all worked up,
Over things that don't matter a'tall.
'Fore I pour my first cup in the morning,
I again will get down on my knees.
"Lord, I am thankful that you've given me,
All that a man really needs."
Got a horse I can catch when I need him,
A dog that'll come when I call.
A good friend who owns an arena,
And a trailer that's legal to haul.
A woman who shares my frustrations,
When the cow market's fallin' apart.
A pair of good spurs and a saddle that fits,
And a one-ton Ford pickup that starts.
Excerpted from the 2019 album Hats Off to the Cowboy.
This article appears in our October 2023, available on newsstands or through our C&I Shop.
Photography: courtesy of cherylrogers.com.