The Barnwell’s big red barn was packed full as usual for the Saturday evening get-together. After lots of fun and games, Freddie “Farmer” Barnwell and his wife Jessie were making certain everyone had a bag of popcorn and a cup of apple cider (which came from their apple orchard there on the farm) before the start of everyone’s favorite part of the evening – story time. The younger kids were sitting on the floor up front as usual. Dozens of teens and college age students, along with lots of adults filled every chair there, and occupied every square inch of space, sitting on hay bales along the walls on each side of the barn.
Jeff Cassidy is always real glad to be home for the weekend with his wife, daughter and two sons. Everyone who knows him is aware how much he loves horseback riding with his family every Saturday before they spend the evening together at the Barnwell’s Farm get-together. When asked if he would be willing to tell a story this evening, being the good-natured man he is, you could tell by his smile, he readily agreed. You also can tell he is a cowboy at heart, even if he didn’t wear a western hat and boots most of the time. He adjusted the microphone, and then looking around, seemed to make eye contact with everyone there. This was his way of letting each person know they were important to him and God, thanking them for being there and giving him this opportunity to share some stories.
Jeff told us his schedule the past week included a stop at a trucking company on Highway 111 in Tennessee. After parking his big rig, he walked over to the front entrance and went in. There was an attractive painting on the wall in the lobby that caught his attention. The painting titled “Owner’s Manual” by Carolyn Weaver, was of a cowboy lying on his side, bedroll under his left arm, propped up reading his Bible. Often, he felt like the cowboy in the painting. Driving a tractor trailer long distance every week, being away from home, made him lonesome for his family, just like cowboys riding the range on long trail drives must have experienced.
He said reading his Bible every evening was his source of comfort when away from his family. It was also his GPS system, keeping him on the right road in life, just like the GPS system on his truck keeps him on the right road when he is traveling. Jeff said he was also thankful that he had a GPS override that helped him when, at times, he encountered a situation on life’s highway where he wasn’t sure which way to turn. Scott Somerville asked him what was a GPS override system? Jeff smiled and said, “my wife”! When the laughter and “amens” quieted down, he told us no matter how many times he reads about all the miracles Jesus performed, as recorded in the Book of Luke especially, they never get old, enhancing his faith in Christ. He said God still performs miracles as evidenced by the story he was going to tell us tonight, regarding a truck driver like himself, someone shared with him years ago. He wasn’t sure of the original source, or he would share it with us.
Late in the evening a truck driver noticed the car ahead of him start to drift off the expressway onto the shoulder. Instinctively he knew the driver had fallen asleep. He leaned on the air horn. The loud blast startled the driver of the car who awoke just in time before going down the embankment and got the car back under control. The truck driver noticed a CB 2-way radio antenna on the car. He tried to make contact – success.
The driver of the car, a female surgeon, was traveling to spend the weekend with family members. He could easily tell by the quiver in her voice that she was shaking from this near-death experience. She thanked him repeatedly for saving her life. Jeff said for those that don’t know, CBers each use a personal nickname they call a handle, when communicating with each other. He wasn’t certain, never having heard what the truck driver’s and the lady surgeon’s handles were, but they were something like Big Rig Driver and Lady Surgeon.
When Big Rig Driver suggested Lady Surgeon stay awake by talking to him until she reached her exit, she readily accepted his offer. When she finally reached her exit, almost an hour later, Lady Surgeon told him she never would have stayed awake without him talking to her. She thanked him again for saving her life with heartfelt praise and gratitude. Jeff said he knew people don’t consider truck drivers angels but there are quite a few instances he was aware of how God used them like the Good Samaritan to bring glory and honor to the Lord, along America’s highways!
He then told us about an accident a few years after that incident when there was a major crash on the expressway through a large southern city. One of the people involved in that crash was brought into one of the local hospitals in critical condition. The doctors and nurses in the emergency room felt it looked hopeless. Therefore, they were all shocked when the man lying on the operating table, they thought was unconscious, struggled to speak, got out the words– “Is-that-you-Lady-Surgeon? -Its-me-Big-Rig-driver”.
Every emotion in her must have come alive, as indeed, it was her. How, in his condition, he recognized her voice from years earlier only God knows. She grabbed his hand in hers, imploring him to hold on. He had saved her life and now she was going to do everything possible to save his. Just by the touch of her hand and confirming words it was her, his vital signs miraculously began to improve. She performed the surgery with all the skill and care within her, saving his life. Jeff said there is no way this side of heaven we can fully understand these things but one thing we do know is God is still God and miracles like this should serve to strengthen our faith in the Lord and His majesty and power.
You could feel the emotion in 17-year-old Shawnia Garcia’s voice when she spoke and said that was the most remarkable story she had ever heard. When she asked him to please tell us some more, the barn filled with applause. Jeff was quiet for a few seconds, obviously appreciative and humbled by everyone’s encouraging response, before continuing.
He said even though some people refer to him as a highway cowboy, he is a genuine cowboy at heart, especially since his hero when he was a young boy in the 70’s was the King of the Cowboys, Roy Rogers. Roy and his wife Dale “Evans” Rogers, who starred in many of Roy’s movies and most of his TV shows, were at the end of their career, but their movies and TV shows were still popular. In a poll by a major magazine, Roy was the only Hollywood celebrity among the ten most admired people in the US at one time.
Jeff went on to say Roy Rogers’ huge star status never went to his head. Crowds in the tens of thousands came out to see him, no matter where he went, regardless of the time of day. Roy was so genuine and caring when he visited a city, he did what was most important to him. He would go to the children’s ward in the hospital and visit the orphanages, upon arriving in a city.
Roy would even bring his horse, named Trigger, known as the smartest horse in the movies, into the hospitals and orphanages. He would have Trigger perform for the kids, which brought laughter and joy to countless children. Jeff told us if you can get a hold of the Roy Rogers movie/DVD “Song of Texas” you will see Roy and Trigger perform in the children’s ward at a hospital. It is a scene you will never forget. Roy and Dale didn’t hide their personal faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
In front of huge rodeo, and crowds filled with cheering kids Roy would speak about getting the idea out of their little heads that there was anything sissy about going to Sunday School and to give a big hand to everyone who’s going to church.
Roy’s family had moved to California from Duckrun, Ohio. Roy had been picking peaches all summer when his oldest sister got him to go and perform at an amateur show in Englewood, California. He was 18 at the time. That experience opened the door to his musical career, singing with a few groups before starting his own group, the Sons of the Pioneers. The Sons of the Pioneers weren’t making much money but were making enough to pay $9 a week each for room and board, which included three meals a day.
During one of their performances on a local radio station during a barn storming trip, they mentioned how much they loved lemon meringue pie. A few days later a young women named Grace “Arlene” Wilkins and her mother came to the radio station with some lemon meringue pies for them. Those pies must have been good because Roy and Arlene got married. When, after 4 years, it seemed like they weren’t going to be able to have children, they adopted a baby girl named Cheryl; later Roy’s wife, Arlene, did get pregnant. Their first natural born daughter they named Linda. A couple of years later they had a son, Roy Rogers, Jr. who they called Rusty.
Tragically, Arlene died two days after giving birth to Rusty. Roy, brokenhearted over the loss of his wife, was now left with a baby boy and two young daughters to raise. Of course, we use the name Roy here even though at this time in his life, he was still known as Leonard Slye.
God does work in mysterious ways! Roy was at the cleaners one day to pick up his cowboy hat that he had left there to be cleaned when this big 6’6” guy named Carter came in. When he noticed Roy was wearing a cowboy hat, he offered him $20 for his hat. Roy turned him down, even though that was a lot of money at the time. Roy asked the guy what he seemed so excited about, and why he was anxious to buy a cowboy hat. The guy told him Republic Pictures was holding screen tests/auditions tomorrow for a singing cowboy. The guy felt he had a good chance of being picked.
Roy thought since he played the guitar, and could sing, he would go and audition. Roy was in a long line waiting his turn to audition when he discovered it cost 50¢ to audition. Not having any money on him, he got out of line and was leaving when someone stopped him. “Aren’t you Len that sings with the Sons of the Pioneers?” the man asked. The man had seen them sing several times and recognized him. He asked him why he was leaving. When Roy told the man he didn’t have the 50¢ to audition, the man gave him the needed 50¢. Roy said obviously God had a plan for him.
Within a couple of weeks after winning the screen test with Republic Pictures, Roy encountered the man named Art Rush who gave him the 50¢ so he could audition. When Roy discovered Mr. Rush was a personal manager. he said “Well, in that case, how about being my manager?” Roy, who was 26 at the time, shook hands with him and for the next 60 years, Roy honored his agreement with Art Rush without a signed contract.
When you look at the lives of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, you might tend to think life was only full of glamour and good times for them. That was far from the truth! As the song about Roy says – “There was laughter, and there were tears”. Roy asked Dale Evans (who starred in many of his movies) to marry him after losing Arlene. Their first child named Robin died from the mumps at age 2. Robin, who was a downs syndrome child, was deeply loved by Roy and Dale. She brought lots of joy into their lives in her short time here on earth. People encouraged Roy and Dale to put Robin in an institution. They refused, saying “God has a special reason for Robin; if we put her in an institution, we would never know what it is”. Dale Evans’ book “Angel Unaware” that she wrote about Robin has been a great source of encouragement to families with special needs children.
After the loss of Robin, they adopted 4 children and added a foster child. When they visited an orphanage in Scotland, a little girl named Mimi sang them a song titled “Will You Buy My Pretty Flowers.” That did it! Roy and Dale couldn’t stop crying, they were so touched.
When Mimi became a teenager, they brought her to America as their foster child. Their family grew to include an American Indian girl, a Korean orphan, and their Scottish daughter. Nine children in all. They loved their blended family.
Roy and Dale also lost 17-year-old Sammy as the result of an automobile accident. They later lost their daughter, Debbie, who died two weeks before her 12th birthday. The church bus she was riding in blew a tire while coming home from a trip to visit children in an orphanage. So much heartache and tragedy to have struck such loving, and good people. Adversity after adversity, yet it appeared their faith in God grew stronger. It’s hard to find heroes like that today who loved their family, country and acknowledged God the way Roy Rogers and Dale Evans did.
Jeff went on to tell us the reason he knew so many details about Roy Rogers and Dale Evans is he was able to get Roy’s grandson, Rob, on the phone. Rob, who of course is an adult now, was most gracious in sharing so many stories about his grandparents. Rob laughed when he told the story about helping grandad Roy unload some frozen turkeys. In addition to being someone he loved and admired, Roy was also the star of all those 200+ cowboy movies and TV shows in which he won dozens of fights, jumped off cliffs without getting hurt, stopped runaway stagecoach horses, dodged hundreds of bullets, was quick on the trigger and even faster on Trigger, and the list goes on.
Roy was, after all, the King of the Cowboys. Therefore, you can imagine how Rob felt, both embarrassed and concerned when at age 10, he dropped one of those frozen turkeys on grandad Roy’s foot, about breaking his toes. Roy let out a yell and was dancing around in pain. One of many childhood memories Rob had with his beloved grandfather and laughs about today.
Jeff concluded by singing the song Roy and Dale sang after their TV shows – “Happy Trails To You Until We Meet Again.” He then said “We will assuredly meet again, no matter where life may lead if we have a personal faith in Jesus as Lord, as it says in John 3:16 –
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life””
“In my Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” John 14:2-3.
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