Trigger the Lives and Legend
of Roy Rogers’ Palomino
Beyond a great screen persona and the talent to match, what made Roy Rogers special was his proximity to a charismatic animal. Trigger was an equine reflection of his master and as much a star as leading ladies and sidekicks. While I eventually understood the whistles and bells behind the fantasy of a wonder horse, my affection for such a beautiful illusion has never wavered.
I rediscovered B-western movies in the 1970s. While they still nurtured me as they had when I was a boy, I saw them through the eyes of a grown man. The simple plots and one-dimensional characters were not fully credible as before; however, they had personality, the music was still great, the action sequences remained thrilling, and they still resonated with honesty and fair play. I had renewed admiration for what the humble B-western accomplished on the edges of the Hollywood mainstream, and the cowboy and horse connection was at their core.
My passion for Trigger, and for horses in general, represents an idealized view of life. As an adult, living in a world of terrorism, political scandals, corporate crime, built-in obsolescence, spin doctors, fast food, overt opulence, toxic narcissism, and a diminishing natural environment, it’s an uphill battle to be optimistic. Good doesn’t always triumph and sometimes crime pays. Trigger and Roy Rogers brought a sweet innocence that, unfortunately, cannot exist the same way any more.
I wrote a biography on Trigger for a number of reasons, though mostly out of fun and curiosity. Specifically, I proceeded out of the desire to organize his often intentionally confusing history; as an analysis of how the fantasy of “the Smartest Horse in the Movies” was realized; and as a celebration of talented individuals and animals. Trigger’s story is also very much about image and branding; about controlling a narrative; a bit of a cautionary tale; and, as such, not in the least bit anachronistic.
In spite of my age, the cynicism of the times, and the discoveries I made regarding Trigger, I cherish the fantasy of this special horse and will be forever grateful for having lived at a time when I could believe it. —Leo Pando, 2019
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