Roy Rogers' Horse Is Auction's Grand Prize

Memorabilia from the Roy Rogers and Dale Evans Museum went up for auction this past week at Christie's in New York. Host Liane Hansen speaks with Patrick Gottsch, president of RFD-TV in Omaha, Neb., who snagged the centerpiece item: Rogers' stuffed horse, Trigger.

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LIANE HANSEN, host:

In the 1950s, Roy Rogers was the ruling king of the cowboys.

(Soundbite of TV show, "The Roy Rogers Show")

Unidentified Man: The Roy Rogers Show, starring Roy Rogers, king of the cowboy, Trigger, his golden palomino.

HANSEN: This past week, Roy Rogers fans gathered at Christie's auction house in New York to bid on memorabilia from the movie star's famous work. Up for sale: Rogers' 1964 Bonneville convertible, his wandering jeep, Nellybelle, and about 60 pairs of cowboy. But two of the biggest items were Rogers' now taxidermied animal sidekicks: his golden palomino Trigger and his wonder dog Bullet.

The horse sold for over $266,000. The German shepherd went for 35,000. And the highest bidder for both was Patrick Gottsch, the founder and president of RFD-TV, a television network aimed at rural America. He joins us from member station KIOS in Omaha, Nebraska. Congratulations, Mr. Gottsch.

Mr. PATRICK GOTTSCH (Founder, President, RFD-TV): Thank you.

HANSEN: Why spend more than $266,000 on a taxidermied horse?

Mr. GOTTSCH: Well, RFD-TV's been dedicated to family values and television the way it used to be. I grew up watching the Roy Rogers movies and television show. And the theme song to our Daily Horses on TV block has been "Happy Trails." Plus, we had plans already to bring back Roy Rogers movies on Saturdays. It's just one of those things, I think, where everything aligned at once and we did it.

HANSEN: Now, tell us exactly what you're going to do with Trigger and Bullet now that you have them?

Mr. GOTTSCH: Their new home will be Omaha, Nebraska. We're building a new corporate headquarters and, obviously, they'll be the centerpiece to the entrance. It'll be available to the public. That's what Mr. Rogers wanted and we certainly want to continue that tradition, where if people do fall in love again with the television shows and want to see and get their picture taken with Trigger and Bullet, they're going to be able to do it in Omaha, Nebraska.

HANSEN: What have your friends and family said about your purchase?

Mr. GOTTSCH: I think everyone was a little concerned at the start. But I have gotten more emails - I've got over 900 emails in my inbox right now to answer -that they say we're saving Trigger and Bullet. I don't know what they thought, where they were going or whatever, but this is very emotional. They're a lot more than just a couple of stuffed animals.

HANSEN: Patrick Gottsch is the founder and president of RFD-TV and now the proud owner of Roy Rogers' old horse Trigger and his wonder dog Bullet. He joined us from member station KIOS in Omaha, Nebraska. Thank you, Mr. Gottsch.

Mr. GOTTSCH: Thank you folks so much and happy trails to you.

HANSEN: Happy trails to you.

(Soundbite of song, "Happy Trails")

Mr. DALE EVANS: (Singing) Happy trails to you, 'til we meet again.

HANSEN: This is NPR News.

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