September 8, 1999

daleroy ROY ROGERS AND DALE EVANS (above), America's favorite cowboy and cowgirl couple, probably will be remembered as much for their public and unapologetic evangelical Christian faith as they will for their professional achievements.

DALE EVANS at the beginning of her career.
All not 'happy trails' on Dale Evans'
walk of faith

___By Kevin Eckstrom
___Religion News Service
___ORLANDO, Fla. (RNS)-- Dale Evans knew this decision would affect her career, but to her, the answer was obvious.
___She and her husband, cowboy legend Roy Rogers, were hosting an hourlong variety show for ABC at the 1962 World's Fair in Seattle. Evans was scheduled to close the show by singing "How Great Thou Art," an old gospel hymn.
___A studio executive called, telling Evans to take the word "Christ" out of the fourth verse. Evans refused and sang the hymn in its entirety. Several weeks later, the couple's contract for the variety show series was not renewed.
___"What is that?" Evans, 86, recalled during a recent interview in connection with the release of "Rainbows on a Hard Trail," her newest memoir. "That's nothing compared to what Christ did for us. Paltry. I mean, you either mean business with the Lord or you don't, and I had to fish or cut bait, so I fished."
___Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, America's favorite cowboy and cowgirl couple, probably will be remembered as much for their professional achievements as they will for their public and unapologetic evangelical Christian faith. Their lives were as unblemished as the characters they played in a lifetime of Westerns, where the good guy always won.
___But their private lives were racked with pain, both physical and emotional.
___The couple lost three of their nine children, and a 1996 stroke left Evans confined to a wheelchair four years after a heart attack nearly killed her. That public faith, and private pain, is recounted in the new book, co-written with author Norman Rohrer.
___Evans now journeys into the sunset of her life alone, following her husband's death in July 1998 at 86. It has been a hard and lonely time.
___But she has taken comfort in her faith, and the church she has attended for 33 years, Church of the Valley Presbyterian near her home in Victorville, Calif.
___She said that God, who has brought her this far, will lead her home.
___"I couldn't have done it without the Lord, and I've been very conscious of his presence," she said. "He promised he would never forget us nor forsake us, and he hasn't forsaken me."
___The couple's first daughter, Robin, was born with Down's syndrome in 1950 and died two years later.
___In 1964, their adopted daughter, Debbie, was killed in a church bus accident on her way to a summer mission trip. Just three years later, their adopted son, Sandy, died of alcohol poisoning while serving in the U.S. Army in Germany.
___Such a string of tragedies, coupled with a demanding career in the public spotlight, would have been enough to test anyone's faith.
___Evans writes she emerged stronger for her trials.
___"God is good in his benefits," she writes. "I know, for he has cushioned the hardest moments of my life and given me strength to go on. However hard the way has been, I am at peace. Forgetting that which is behind, I press forward to the mark of the high calling in Jesus Christ. I know I can trust him."
___Born Frances Octavia Smith in Uvalde in 1912, Evans worked at several small jobs before landing a job playing the piano and singing on a local radio show in Memphis, Tenn. She worked her way through Louisville, Ky., and Chicago before moving on to the bright lights of Hollywood in the 1940s.
___Within her first year there she appeared in six movies and went on to star in 26 movies for the Roy Rogers Western Musical Series. The couple married in 1947.
___Life in Hollywood was more than glitz and glamour for Roy and Dale and their large brood. Evans said they struggled to find a balance between their Christian values and Hollywood celebrity, and she hopes she's better remembered for her faith than her stardom.
___"That's more important to me than all the rest," she said.
___She also bemoans the changes in Hollywood since the couple's heyday in the 1950s. Life has become more "overt," she says, with gratuitous sex and violence all too common in movies and television. What's more, Evans worries about the influence of the Internet on America's children.
___"I'm disappointed when I see all the killing on the screen, and overt sex," she said. "I don't like the Internet and what's free for (children) to log on to. They're not ready for it. I don't think you ever get ready for it."
___For all their public adoration and their private pain, Evans says she and her husband learned in their 50 years of marriage that nothing is more important than their faith in God. With that, she said, nothing else really matters.
___"God is bigger than any disability," she writes. "Love him, appreciate his blessings and trust him for the rest of the journey. He puts the rainbow at the end of the hardest trail."


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