Roy Rogers was my Godfather. He made five pictures with my mother, RKO actress Linda Hayes, before he ever met Dale Evans. (Dale was a lovely and fun woman.)
Some months before the book launch, it struck me to pair a companion song with “Francesca of Lost Nation.” Entitled, “Stories They Could Tell,” the piece was co-written by multi Grammy winner Carl Jackson and Nashville songwriter Cinda (aka Lucinda Sue Crosby – me!) and is based on a real experience from my life.
Several years before his death, Western film star Roy Rogers – the King of the Cowboys and my Godfather – had a serious heart attack. He was rushed to Loma Linda Hospital where his life hung in the balance for a time. As an unofficially official member of the Rogers/Evans clan, I was welcomed into the group keeping vigil and spent as much time as possible with Roy until he was out of danger.
Afterwards, parts of the experience remained vivid in my heart and soul and I discussed my revelations with close friends. The gist of the story: When I first arrived, Roy was understandably confused and very weak. His innate vitality was dimmed. He seemed lost and his thinking process was definitely impaired. But as he began to recover, his sense of humor and skill as a story teller returned amazingly fast. He spoke about the movies he and my mother, actress Linda Hayes, had starred in together before Roy met Dale Evans.
He reminisced about the all- night pokers games they enjoyed with the Sons of the Pioneers during location filming – and how good a bluffer my mother was … just like HER mother, Francesca. He recalled skeet shooting and dove hunting trips shared by the Crosby and Rogers families. He spoke about his boyhood in Duck Run, Ohio and shared the fact that the house where he grew up was now at the bottom of a reservoir that had been created by a dam.
What stories he could tell! I remember using that exact phrase in one particular telephone conservation with close friend and Christian recording artist Renee Martin. She said, “That is the perfect great idea for a song!” I wrote it with Carl Jackson and Renee sang the demo.
Additionally, I have always been grateful that my real life grandmother, Frances Ella Pittstick Mendenhall, revealed fascinating bits and pieces of her adventurous life throughout the thousands of hours we spent together, with me often content to sit at her feet in rapt attention. In fact, many of those recollections wriggled and sometimes elbowed their way into this narrative. Since I was about five years old, I relished these shared snapshots of the past and realized early on how blessed I was to have had access to the treasure trove of my grandmother’s memories and so many of her hard-won truths about life and living.
I’ve been told I take after her.
The highest compliment.
A portion of the revenue generated by this song, “Stories They Could Tell,” will be donated to Alzheimer’s research.