Roy Rogers Double R Bar Ranch: Happy Trails and Cowboy Tales Lives On

There was a time when cowboys ruled the day, or at least the airwaves, and the good guy always won.  From Tom Mix in the early 1900s, to Clint Eastwood and Kurt Russell today, most of us have wanted to be a cowboy or cowgirl at one time or another.  Many of us grew up knowing that among the cowboys of the cinema, Roy Rogers was king, and Dale Evans was his queen. 

 

Like any respectable western royalty, Roy and Dale had a horse ranch.  It wasn’t in the wilds of Montana, and not even in the prairies of South Dakota.  Nope.  Not even close.   The Roy Rogers Double R Bar Ranch, built in 1920, was sittin’ regally along the banks of the Mojave River in the small Route-66 community of Oro Grande, just outside of Victorville, California, and a few miles from their home in Apple Valley.  Roy died at the age of 86 after a life well-spent. 

 

Roy owned the ranch until the day he died in 1998, and after Dale followed him a few years later, the ranch was owned by a succession of investors and such, including Ernesto Enriquez, the son of one of Roy’s horse trainers, Carlos.   Still, the 67 acre ranch seemed to be lacking the drive and spirit that was present when Roy would ride the range on one of his many horses and, sometimes, even a Honda motorcycle, much to the dismay of the local sheriff (something about a pesky helmet law).

 

Leonard Slye changed his name to Roy Rogers at the suggestion of the studios. He chose “Rogers” as a tribute to the famous Cherokee Indian, cowboy and humorist, Will Rogers.

Okay, now some of you might not know about Roy Rogers.  Don’t feel bad.  It happens.    So just in case ya’ don’t, let me tell ya’ about the King of the Cowboys.  Roy started out as a fellow from Ohio by the name of Leonard Slye.    He was born in 1911, and when he was about 20, he followed his sister to Lawndale, a town near the Pacific Ocean.    By early 1931, with a few family businesses in decline, Leonard took up picking peaches for a time.  This was during the Great Depression.  See the Steinbeck film, “The Grapes of Wrath” to get a feel   for what that was like.

 

Anyway, by about 1932, Leonard, with motivation from his sister, auditioned for a spot on a local radio show, even though shyness just about did him in.  A local music group, “The Rocky Mountaineers” offered him a job.   As they say in Hollywood, the rest is history.  Even if Hollywood doesn’t say that, by August of 1931, Roy–I mean Leonard, was a member of the band.  

 

After changing the name of the group to “The Sons of the Pioneers,” and changing his name to Roy Rogers, the cowboy genre would never be the same.  Soon to become the King of the Cowboys,  he starred in 88 feature films and,  along with Dale Evans,  had the long-running “Roy Rogers show” on television, from 1951 to 1957.

Roy Rogers and Trigger, “The smartest horse in the movies.” Photo courtesy: Dell Comic

It might have been the syndicated re-runs of the Roy Rogers Show that caught the eye of a young Jim Heffel, growing up in Wilmington, just a few miles from Roy’s original California home in Lawndale.  In any case, 10-year-old Jim saw a cowboy riding down a street in the famous western town of Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and knew what he had to do.  Just like Willie Nelson sang in 1980, “My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys.”  And they still are.

Jim Heffel fulfills his lifelong dream of riding his horse in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, just like he wished when he was ten years old. How many children do you think Jim inspired to carry on the proud Western legacy?

Fast forward.  After going through a few years of relative dormancy,  in 2015, the Roy Roger’s Double R Bar Ranch came into the sights of Jim Heffel.  Now an accomplished horseman and part-time stunt rider, Jim and his wife Deena bought the farm in a friendly manner of speaking. 

Saddled up and ready to ride.

 

Roy and Dale at — No, sorry. That’s Jim and Deena.

A few guests gettin’ ready for a sociable ride to the Cross-eyed Cow Pizza joint, just down Route-66, or by dirt trail along the famous upside down, backwards Mojave River.
Volunteer ranch hand Nathaniel Souza rides a rescued Mustang.
Jaylyn, taking lots of notes as Jim Heffel tells the story inside the ranch saloon. He prefers riding his horses into bars and probably has set a record. Like Roy Rogers, Jim is a down-to-earth gregarious man full of cowboy tales. Wherever Jim goes, fun is sure to follow.

Within a few months, the Double R Bar brand was on Jim’s truck.  Nowadays, the ranch has a full-time foreman, “Frenchy,” Martel-Preacher and an assortment of other ranch hands.  Not quite like the days of Roy’s trusty “Bullet the Wonder Dog,” or Pat Brady and his jeep, “Nellie Bell,” but darn close.

“Tarnation!”

~Gabby Hayes

Since Roy and Dale owned the ranch, Jim and Deena have added a complete western movie set.  Suitable for shootin’ the next big blockbuster, or for social gatherings or tours.  Let’s take a look inside that barn.  You know you have a hankerin’ too.

We had the privilege a few months back of being extras in an ‘Indy’ film that was shot at the ranch.  This barn was packed with so many actors, cameras and other stuff that it looked like the back lot at Warner Bros.  No set date on when “Heat of the West” will be released.

Actor Johnny Crawford and Jim Heffel ride together at Roy Rogers Double R Bar Ranch. At age 12, Mr. Crawford rose to fame for playing Mark McCain, the son of Lucas McCain, in the popular ABC Western series, The Rifleman, which originally aired from 1958 to 1963.
Deena and Jim Heffel, the present owners of Roy Rogers Double R Bar Ranch in Oro Grande, California, two of the nicest people you will ever meet.  We believe that Roy and Dale would approve.

Deena, too, is an accomplished rider, and the two heirs apparent to the Roy and Dale happy trails are often guests at various western events, including the Sturgis Bike Rally and the Western Film Festival in Lone Pine, California.  Jim often takes his horse, Trigger (naturally) for rides inside saloons during these events. 

Jim and Deena continue the Double R Bar Ranch tradition. The Heffel’s had a Western town replica built on their 67-acre property, often used for filming movies, complete with saloon, blacksmith shop, and undertaker. The couple have had roles in recent movies, but Jim prefers stunt riding.

Jim says that his favorite event has to be riding cowboy style with the with American Flag alongside 7,000 motorcycles for the Memorial Day, “West Coast Thunder Event.”  The ride starts at Riverside Harley Davidson, and ends at the National Cemetery, also in Riverside.  Horses aren’t allowed, so each year Jim is kicked out soon after his arrival.  That hasn’t stopped him in the past, and won’t stop him in the future.  Sometimes, a cowboy just has to do what’s right.

Jim Heffel proudly riding with Old Glory in the West Coast Thunder Event on Memorial Day at the Riverside National Cemetery, where John’s Mom and step-Dad lie in eternal peace. God bless America. Long may she wave.
“Cowboy Jim” rides his Palomino, Trigger, and Deena rides her Pinto, Shimmer. Trigger is not related to her namesake but is just as lovable.
The wood fence surrounding Roy Rogers Double Bar R Ranch was made from using the lumber from the Roy Rogers Museum in Victorville when it was dismantled before moving to Branson, Missouri.  The Heffel’s maintain the Double R Bar Ranch in the Western tradition of raising longhorn cattle and horses, and is available for special events.
The Tennessean, Nashville, TN 2 Oct 1949
The Corpus Christi Caller-Times, 6 Dec 1956
Roy Rogers Double Bar R miniature ranch replicas were a very popular item with children as exhibited by young Greg’s letter to Santa.  The Call-Leader, Elwood, Indiana, 10 Dec 1956
Jim, Deena, Ranch Foreman “Frenchy” Martel-Preacher and lady friends at Randsburg Western Day, 2017.

Roy Rogers Double R Bar Ranch is located off Route 66 at 14433 Roy Rogers Road, Oro Grande, California 92368. If you want to arrange an event at this historic ranch, please call (760) 954-7262 for details.

 

The movie, Heat in the West.

Interested in learning more about the American West? Check out our accompanying articles featuring Oro Grande, Randsburg, Ballarat,  the movie ‘Heat in the West,’ and more.

 

 

Jaylyn

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comments
  • coolest picture ever american flag riding your horse with the harley riders you should get some 8x10s of that

  • How cool is this! It is great that Roy and Dale’s Double R Bar Ranch is being used again in such a productive way! Love the picture of the American Flag Jim is carrying among the parade of motorcycles! We didn’t always have a TV growing up but when we did Roy Rogers was our favorite cowboy. Like Roy I was born in Ohio. At 71 yr now I am enjoying his old movies on the internet. Back then good and evil was well defined and good always won in the end. Have a great day!

  • Hi I am trying to figure out if this is still an event venue? Our company is interested in the possibility of scheduling an event here.
    Many thanks

    • Hi Teresa! Yes, The Double R Bar Ranch can be used as a venue. And what an awesome one it would be! The Heffel’s phone number is at the bottom of our article. Thanks for contacting us! Happy Trails.

  • Love this write up, nice job!

  • I’ve resumed watching The Roy Rogers Show, after 53 years of allowing a down right mean treatment by Roy at Catherine ‘ s Landing, when Ray had a cast on his leg and sneered at my 13 year old brother and me to , “…LEAVE US ALONE!!!…” In hindsight, I now realize that even stars need time out of the limelight. Television shows, nowadays, are trashy, not like the Roy Rogers Show. I wish all of his descendents the very best. I hope the whole brood realizes what lucky people they are to have been adopted by Dale and Roy! Keep their memory alive!!

  • My husband and I will be traveling Route 66 this summer and would love to see the ranch. Do they do tours or have a vents we might be able to attend?

  • Sounds like trip of a lifetime. I’m sure you’ll have a blast, Dave. Please call Double R Bar Ranch owner Jim Heffel at 760-954-7262 to make arrangements. Happy Trails!

  • Hi yes i would love to take my husband to see the ranch he would love it! And we alive in apple valley i did not know this was here.

  • Linda Kruse Crandell

    May 12, 2018 at 3:23 pm

    Good story. Memories…….. Thank you….

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