- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 2, 2001

VICTORVILLE, Calif. — The Roy Rogers-Dale Evans museum here in the high desert country of Southern California may be nearing the end of the trail.
Visitors to the museum, built to resemble an Old West fort, still hear the strains of "Happy Trails" and the other songs of the Sons of the Pioneers, which now fill 19 compact disks.
They still can see the rearing stuffed and mounted remains of Mr. Rogers' famed Palomino stallion Trigger and Miss Evans' beloved mare Buttermilk, not to mention a host of silver-trimmed saddles, bronzed cowboy boots, pearl-handled six-guns, 10-gallon hats, fringed and sequined costumes and other movie and television memorabilia.
But a combination of inheritance taxes and aging buckaroos may bring about the demise of the museum, or at least a relocation from its current site just off the Roy Rogers Drive exit from the I-15 freeway between Los Angeles and Las Vegas, as early as next winter.
That's when curator Roy Rogers Jr. and other heirs to the legendary TV cowboy-cowgirl couple must pay a still-unspecified amount of inheritance taxes on the remains of Trigger and the other contents of the museum. Though the museum itself is a nonprofit corporation, its contents belong to the family and inheritance taxes are due in November, nine months after Miss Evans' death last February.
"We're not losing money here yet," said Mr. Rogers Jr., usually known by his nickname Dusty, "but the tax bill could precipitate a lot of change."
The museum gets about 50,000 visitors yearly, an average of 137 daily, with adults paying $8 admission, but the baby boomers who grew up watching the elder Mr. Rogers and Miss Evans on their flickering black-and-white TVs in the 1950s are getting older.
"The median age of our visitors is 55 and up," said Mr. Rogers Jr. "People below 35 or 40 won't even know who Roy Rogers and Dale Evans were unless they've seen some of the old movies and shows on cable TV. We've tried to interest television networks in doing a cartoon version with new plots, but they're not interested in anything without drugs and violence. If you look at some of these networks, all they play is the dark side of life."
There was none of that in the Rogers-Evans shows, which their son calls "the adventures of a moral cowboy."
"It's not just that," he added, "but a lot of kids today don't even know what a cowboy is."
One solution under consideration is moving the museum from Victorville, where the Rogers-Evans duo opened it with a Western musical gala in 1976. The Las Vegas museum of the late, flamboyant entertainer Liberace, for instance, draws more than twice as many visitors yearly, but Mr. Rogers Jr. says Las Vegas is no place for this collection.
"We've thought about moving it to Branson, Mo., where it would still be under the family's control but might get a lot more visitors," he said. The country music Mecca in the Ozarks draws 7 million visitors annually, without offering anything very risque. "We certainly would not be out of place there. The median age of visitors there is over 55."
Even in Missouri, though, mourns Mr. Rogers Jr., the museum's lifetime would be limited. "At some point, there just won't be many people left who remember Roy and Dale," he said.
Then, he guessed, the collection would either revert to the family or go to a museum like the Smithsonian or one of the several Los Angeles-area film museums.

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