Sunday, June 10, 2012

Waking the Dead: Happy Trails

Sunset Hills Memorial Park & Mortuary - Apple Valley, CA

Don't you love when things come full circle?  When we were very young, my grandparents took us to the Roy Rogers Museum.  There we saw all kinds of amazing things, including a fully-taxidermied Trigger.  My grandparents were great for taking us to some off-beat places and that day is one of my fondest memories with them.  The memory can't be entirely relived because the museum as it was, was moved to Branson, MO, and that outlet of western wonder has subsequently shuttered its doors as well.  Now the closest we can get to that sunny afternoon with my grandparents is the final resting places of those great stars of the West, so we headed on over to Sunset Hills Memorial Park in Apple Valley to visit the graves of Leonard Franklin Slye and Frances Octavia Smith, otherwise known as Roy Rogers and Dale Evans.

"The Cowboy's Prayer" - Roy Rogers

In the dappled sunlight of what I like to think (although I have no substantiation by a certified horticulturist) is a cottonwood tree, is the final resting place of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, the King of the Cowboys and the Queen of the West.

Who knew Dale's birthday was Halloween? Spooky!

Obviously, as regulars on TBN, the Rogers were devout Christians.
I did a search for the meaning of the 33 inside the triangle and came up with some lame answers like
"Perhaps it was his brand," and "I think it has something to do with the age of Trigger when he died."
A more likely explanation was that Roy Rogers was a Mason and there are 33 degrees of Masonry.  Masonhood? Masonship? Masonism?  In looking up the significance of the 33 and the triangle, I was directed to all kinds of occult, conspiracy theory, and secret society websites...a little too creepy for my taste, so I'll just go with a simple,
"Yep, he was a Mason alright." 

And don't even get me started on their western wear...
If they weren't already dead, I might kill 'em for it.
(I'm a pretty terrible kind of a person, aren't I?)

Amber, Bobby, and Mary paying their respects under a beautiful desert sky.

The graves of the Rogers can be found quite easily; they are immediately to the left of the main entrance, under a shady tree and next to the fish pond.  As long as we were in the area, we decided to see if there were any other noteworthy headstones or wacky tacky epitaphs.

I was a little perplexed at the Sironi's marker.
Were they buying engraving on the installment plan?
Why do we know so little about them?
Their individual headstones revealed a little more about their personalities.


Visiting Roy and Dale's graves was a bit like visiting the markers of my own grandparents', which I try to do at least once a year.  The very last song played at my grandma's funeral service, as performed by the women of her choral group and played on the organ, was "Happy Trails."  See what I mean about everything coming full circle?  So to you, I also say, "Happy trails, until we meet again."

"Happy Trails" - Roy Rogers & Dale Evans

Sunset Hills Memorial Park & Mortuary
24000 Waalew Rd
Apple Valley, CA


Mr. Tiny


  1. Love this post. And Ed and Doris' markers. And wow, that your grandmother had "Happy Trails" played at her funeral! That's most excellent. I'm with you on those mysterious masons. We have a temple just up the street from our house (shaped like some kind of pyramid-esque architectural wonder) and every time that we go past and can see that they're holding a meeting at night, I implore of my husband, "Let's try and peek in the windows!" He always warns me that they have ways of taking care of snoopers like us.

    1. Thanks! My grandma was a one-of-a-kind but I'm not sure that she approved "Happy Trails," I think the organist snuck it in at the last minute. Now, it is going to become a tradition...a funeral won't be over until it is played. My cousin-in-law is a Mason and as much as I hound him, he refuses to give up the secrets!!!

  2. The Hebrew word MIZPAH means, roughly, "May the Lord watch over both of us until we are together again"-- basically the same as the message of "Happy Trails"! There used to be a WELCOME arch in Denver which read MIZPAH if you were leaving.

    1. Thank you! That gives me a good head start on the new Cowboy/Klezmer band I am starting!!!

  3. Hey Mr. Tiny,

    The 33 in the Triangle is a symbol of the Highest Honorary Degree in Scottish Rite Masonry. In True Masonry there are only 3, Apprentice, Fellowcraft, and Master. Scottish Rite is an append ant body in the Masonic Fraternity, same with York Rite..and Shrine. I am a Mason, local to Victorville and we have some of Bro. Roger's Masonic items on display as well as Tom Mix's. When you guys are up here next...lets have lunch at Emma Jeans and talk Western Stuff!


    1. Thanks for the clarification, FV21! I figured that it had something to do with the Masons but I wasn't exactly sure what. My grandfather and my cousin are both Masons. I just asked my mom and she seems to think my grandfather is in the Scottish Rite as well. How cool to have items from Rogers and Mix! Next time we're up that way, we'll give you a holler!