The first time Linda saw "Trigger" she was eight years old. Her parents had taken her on a day trip in their Red Jeep Cherokee and the drive from Riverside, California to Victorville, California, where the Roy Rogers Museum was located, was pleasantly void of conversation. Linda's daily routine wasn't particularly a stressful one, at the age of eight, but none the less, she enjoyed any opportunity to sit in the backseat of the moving Jeep, listen to her Walkman, and daydream out the window. She often wondered why she found it nearly impossible to completely relax unless she was idle in transport. Be it a Jeep, a bus, a train, or a plane. She always found it most restful to be still, while also being moved. Maybe it had something to do with that fact that in those instances, she was as out of control as her young mind and body would ever let her be. Just floating through time.
When they pulled into the parking lot for the museum, which only contained three other cars aside from their own, Linda's father spoiled the surprise of the museum's main attraction. It would have been spoiled the minute they walked inside, as there were signs pointing in its direction hung all throughout, but still. Linda liked surprises, and was disappointed that the opportunity to have a new one had just been taken from her.
"You know what they have in there?" Linda's dad Jim asked, turning around in his seat to provide full delivery, and to catch Linda's reaction.
"What?" Linda asked, while wrapping up her headphones and placing them, along with her Walkman, into her green backpack that she brought with her everywhere.
"A dead horse. Two dead horses, actually. And a dead dog," her dad said, flatly.
Linda looked over at the building they were parked in front of, wondering how something could be a family attraction while also housing a variety of dead animals.
"Do we have to see them?" Linda asked, unsure if she wanted such a thing to happen, or not.
"They're pretty much the only reason people come here," her dad said. And her mom punctuated the statement by flapping closed the visor she'd been checking her makeup in and saying "Let's go in, I have to use the bathroom."
The museum was small, and mostly boring. All Linda really knew about Roy Rogers was that he was an actor in cowboy movies back when her dad was a little boy. And not the cool kind of cowboy movies, like the ones that Clint Eastwood made. Cheesy movies. With singing and stuff. The main room of the museum, manned by a grumpy looking old woman who spent her days making change and wrapping up cheap snow globes and key chains, housed the gift shop section, and a few introductory displays of movie stills and magazine covers. Linda breezed by them and the snippets of what she saw, when pieced together later in memory, left her with a feeling of sadness. To have lived a life so specifically adored, for so long, and then be shut away behind glass to grow dusty, yellow, and then, eventually, archived or auctioned off. Depressing. She forced herself to focus on happier things, like what she'd select for the souvenir her dad said she could pick out. After fingering all the offerings she went with a thick pen, the top section of which was filled with water and a small plastic horse. She held the pen up to the light of the room's large window and tilted it back and forth, making the horse inside appear to gallop. Written in gold glitter on the lower half of the pen was the word "Trigger." She shuddered a bit reading it.
Further into the museum black and white TV screens played scenes from a selection of Roy Rogers' movies and television shows, some of them with his wife, Dale Evans. The volume of each set was turned off, as to not create a headache inducing mash-up of singing and shooting, and Linda stopped in front of one briefly to watch. She saw an old man and an old woman smiling, almost to the point of hysteria, while silently doing a little dance and kicking up their heels. Again, Linda felt a bit sad. She was starting to get eager to leave. As was so often the case, the drive to the thing was turning out to be so much better than the actual thing, and she was looking forward to the trip back.
"Dad, can we go?" Linda said to the back of her dad's wavy brown head. She saw him shoot a look over to her mom, who shrugged and then moved off to get a closer look at a case containing old toys and costumes.
"Sure," her dad said, after a bit of a pause. "Let's go see "Trigger" first, and then we can hit it." Linda said that she'd prefer not to, making it seem as casual as possible. She watched her mom and dad disappear into a room, and then come out a few minutes later, looking no different than they had when they went in. She searched their faces for expressions, but there weren't any. The three of them made their way to the register to have the crabby old lady ring them up for Linda's pen, and the red hanky with "Dale" in lasso print on it that her mom wanted.
Once in the Jeep Linda realized that she should have used the restroom before they left. Her dad grunted as he turned the car's ignition, and told her to make it snappy. He didn't want to get stuck in bad traffic, which makes no point to even say because traffic in California was almost always bad. Linda exited the car and walked back to the museum with dramatic urgency, not even having to look back to know that it was making her dad laugh.
When the door to the museum chimed the crabby register lady looked up and raised an eyebrow. Linda asked if it would be okay if she ran back to use the bathroom, and the lady almost looked as though she was considering saying no, but then jerked her head in the direction of the facilities. Linda walked to them, did her business, and then stood frozen with her back to the door, staring down at the worn carpet of the showroom under her shoes. She had to see them. It was, at this point, not an option not to.
She knew that eventually the lady at the register would realize her bathroom visit was taking longer than it should, so she made a beeline for the last room in the museum, the one she hadn't been in yet. The first thing she noticed about the room was that it was darker than the others, colder, and much quieter. The next thing she noticed was that a huge dead horse doesn't even register as being a horse until you really think about it. Linda didn't care much about horses one way or the other, but she thought of them as graceful creatures. Majestic even. This thing in front of her, with its amusement park pond at night black marble eyes, stiffly reared up and positioned in front of a plaque reading "Trigger," seemed more like a blanket hung over a chair to dry than something that was once alive, washed, loved, fed, and ridden to actual death. The other two things in the room were identified by their plaques as "Buttercup," which had been Dale's horse, and "Bullet," their German Shepherd. They were equally not right seeming, but didn't draw Linda's attention quite the way "Trigger" did. She circled the former horse, looking up at its flaws, searching out all the loose seams, and sunken bits of old hide loosely clinging to the wearing plastic and sawdust underneath. She started thinking about how sad it would be to see this thing topple over. The half hollow thud it would make. The way it would potentially just crumble apart, revealing itself as nothing more than a hasty selection of materials, half meat, and half garbage. The idea of it falling over troubled her to such a degree that she could feel her body moving closer and closer to it, as though if she didn't snap out of it soon she'd take a flying leap at the thing herself.
"Miss. Miss! You can't be in here unless you pay admission again," the grumpy lady hissed, now standing right behind her and grabbing for her shoulder.
As though emerging from a dream Linda looked up at the lady, right into her eyes, and started crying. Wildly crying. Not knowing what to do the lady told her to get back to her parents, and then exited the room. Linda followed shortly after, taking one last look behind her at "Trigger." The angle of where she was standing allowed for a bit of the overhead lighting to catch the thing's eye. Nothing was reflected in it. Nothing at all.
Many years later, when Linda was grown, and her parents had both passed, she read in the paper that the Roy Rogers museum was being moved to Branson, Missouri, following the deaths of both Roy and Dale. She did a bit of investigating as to when exactly this move would take place, and picked a day to drive out. She parked in the lot, facing the museum, and watched the contents being loaded out into waiting trucks. The last to come out were two large wooden crates. The men hired to do the moving seemed to have trouble lifting them by man-power alone. They eventually had to call for a forklift rental. As the crew finished up minor details, waiting for it to arrive, the two crates just stood in the parking lot. Linda watched them until the street lights came on, and then she drove home.