05 Jan Noblesville and Hollywood: Trigger
By: David Heighway, Hamilton County Historian
Sometime the connection between Noblesville and Hollywood can be really oblique, but is interesting nevertheless. One connection has to do with horses – and one horse in particular.
It begins with Roy Fletcher Cloud (1881-1940), part of the Noblesville family of Calvin and Ella Cloud. Sometime around 1900, he left town and headed west, where he worked as a teamster. In 1904, he enlisted in the army at Tulsa, Indian Territory (now Oklahoma) and served in the 17th Infantry Regiment until the expiration of his service in 1910. He evidently stayed near the military since his World War I draft registration says that he was working as a barber at Camp Travis in San Antonio, Texas. However, no service record for the war can be found. After the war, in 1920, he was keeping a hotel in Comanche County, Texas, where an oil boom was going on. Some sources say that he also had done work as a border patrol agent. By 1927, he had moved to San Diego, California and eventually became manager of the San Ysidro Stock Farm.
In 1937, he registered a horse with the Palomino Horse Association. It was a stallion he had purchased from a Captain Larry Good sometime after it had been born in July of 1934. Cloud began to train the horse and named it Golden Cloud. There were claims that one of its parents had been a racehorse, but there are questions about this. However, it was recognized as a good horse. In 1938, Roy Cloud sold Golden Cloud to the Hudkins Stables, which rented horses to the movie industry.
Golden Cloud’s first major movie appearance was in The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) where he was ridden by Olivia de Havilland as Maid Marian. However, the horse’s greatest fame was to come. Later in 1938, when Gene Autry failed to report for work for the film Under Western Stars at Republic Pictures, another singing cowboy named Leonard Slye was cast in the lead role. Before filming began, Hudkins Stables brought a group of horses to the studio so the cowboy could select a mount. As the actor later recalled, the third horse he got on was a beautiful golden palomino that handled smoothly and reacted quickly to whatever he asked it to do. This was the beginning of something great. The studio changed the actor’s name to Roy Rogers and Rogers decided to change the horse’s name to Trigger. Rogers would soon purchase the horse from Hudkins for $2,500.
Roy Rogers and Trigger went on to become possibly the most famous cowboy and horse combination in the movies. For many years, Trigger even had his own fan club and was occasionally listed above Dale Evans, Roy’s co-star and wife, in the film credits. When Tigger died in 1966, his skin was mounted on a taxidermy form and displayed at the Roy Rogers Museum until it closed in 2009. The mounting is now in the hands of a private owner.