When Receiving His "Wrangler" Statue and Induction Into The Hall Of Great Western Performers
Robert was introduced by his friend, singer Red Steagall
"Thank you Red for that wonderful introduction. I can't tell you how pleased I am that you did me the honor of being my presenter on this very special evening for me.
Red has been a close friend of mine for over 40 years. We've spent a lot of time bird shooting and fishing together. Even had a sody pop or two, but that's another story. As most of you know Red is the poet Laureate of the State of Texas and we're mighty proud of him. He's also one of the best dadgum entertainers I've ever known. And fortunately he and his lovely wife Gail don't live too far from me in Texas, so we get to see each other from time to time. And it's always a pleasure. Thanks again Red.
Now at this time I would like to thank: Whitt Lee, Charles Schroeder, Shayla Simpson, and the board of Directors of the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum for this great honor. This is a special moment for me, to receive the Western Heritage Award for doing something I love, playing cowboy. And sharing this stage with one of my favorite cowboys, Johnny Mack Brown, and three other gentlemen who have also helped to preserve our western heritage: Clem McSpadden, Howard C Haythorn and John Palmer Parker. I'd say I'm in good company all the way around.
I'd also like to thank everyone in the audience who has supported me all these years. I have alot of friends out there this evening, some have crossed state lines. Some have crossed oceans. And if you'll bear with me I'd like to give them a nod. First off, at my table: my good friends Dick and Patty Haayen, David and Nancy Moore, Ken and Cindy Stormer and Pat Winstead, all from Texas. And last but not least , my ranch hand, barn goddess, the light of my life, my wife Jennifer Savidge Fuller. Also in the audience, August and Jean Long from Ohio, Bill and Elizabeth Markham from Colorado, Keith and Charlotte Mills from California, Denny and Marcella Waller from Texas, Amy Mintzer from pennsylvania, Kim and Kari baker from Montana, Guiseppe and Andreina Catalano from Italy, Tony Gill from England, Atsuko Yamaguchi from Japan, Neebee from Michegan.
Thank you all for being part of my life and for being here tonight.
When I was 12 years old and growing up in Florida, I couldn't wait for Saturday to roll around. Two reasons: One, no school. Two, the Saturday matinee at the movies. And if we were lucky, that meant three movies all westerns. My cowboy heroes in those days were Don Red Berry, Bob Steele, Johnny Mack Brown, Roy Rogers, Gene Autry and the great Joel McCrea. I learned a lot from those men. I learned about honesty, about right and wrong, about respect for women and loyalty. I guess you might say, they taught me the code of the west.
Little did I know that a short fifteen years later that I would not only know these men but I would work with them and become friends with them. Sadly I never had the pleasure of meeting Johnny Mack Brown but I did have the pleasure of working with Don Red Berry and Bob Steele on my series Laramie. I also spent many hours on the trap and skeet field with Gene Autrey. And finally got to meet and work with my hero and best dadgum horsebacker there ever was, Joel McCrea. That was magic for me.
Most folks don't know it, but in the fifties and sixties there were thirty two westerns in prime time. Now that's a whole lot of cowboys running around Hollywood and I was lucky enough to be one of them. Having worked extra and doing stunt work in western films in the early fifties, I already knew how to ride and pull a forty five pretty good. When I got out of the army in 1955 and started studying acting with Richard Boone I was ready to try my hand at some of those westerns. Well, four years later and fifteen or so of those westerns in my back pocket, I was lucky enough to get my own western series, Laramie. And I was grateful for all that experience that lead up to it. For now, I found out what it was like to spend five hours a day in the saddle, five hours a day fighting and shooting and one hour a day kissing a leading lady. And I loved every minute of it. After 4 years, 124 episodes, I got lucky again and was asked to join the series Wagon Train with my old pal John McIntyre. So, three more years of riding, fight, shooting , and you guessed it, kissing the leading lady. Only this time, I got to kiss the woman of my dreams. Ever since I could remember, I was madly in love with Rhonda Fleming. You all remember Rhonda Fleming? The gorgeous redhead with the beautiful eyes.
Well those were the good old days of westerns. And I'm thankful to have been a part of it.
Magic also happened for young and old one hundred and five years ago, when the first western The Great Train Robbery hit the silver screen on 1903 and we got our first cowboy hero: Bronco Billy Andersen. Bronco carried the reins until 1915 when William S Hart picked them up and rode with them 'til the mid twenties. Then came along Hoot Gibson, Ken Maynard, Jack Holt and Harry Carey. Then in 1929, Paramount released their first sound western, The Virginian starring Gary Cooper.
And so it began. A genre that thrilled us for the next 80 years and will continue to I hope.
There were hundreds of cowboy heroes in between and I'd be remiss not to mention some of them. The Duke of course, led the pack. But in that great posse were: Roy and Gene, Hoppy, The Lone Ranger, Herb Jeffries rode tall beside Jimmy Stewart, Glenn Ford and Henry Fonda. And believe it or not, Randy Scott was riding behind Jimmy Cagney and Humphrey Bogart hollerin' "Put the hooks to them boys. We ain't got all day". I've got Audie Murphy, Dale Robertson, Slim Pickens, Dub Taylor and Alan Ladd riding up my tail. And they're being chased by Clint Eastwood, Tom Selleck, Sam Elliott and Bob Duvall.
Well this posse could stretch clear to Red River if I let it, so I'm going to pull it up. Even though there are hundreds more, too many to mention, I think they know we'll never forget them.
There is an actor friend of mine, that did a TV series called Laredo, his name is William Smith and he loves westerns and likes to write poems about cowboys. One in particular is my favourite and if you all don't mind, I'd like to share it with you.
It's simply titled "Cowboy".
Cowboy, you were America. You were the West
You were the legend you were the best
A long time ago you carved that Chisolm Trail
You and your pony carried US mail
And you learned how to live with nature's awesome might
And sang your lonely ballads to calm the herd at night
You rode that barbed wire for weeks all alone
When your only companion was the cold winds moan
You shared all your dreams with the man in the moon
Your mouth harp would croon like the cry of the loon
In the dawn's early light you'd hear the coyote's song
Bone marrow cold with your coffee black and strong
You rode straight and tall never talked too loud
Mostly shy and humble but always proud
The lines in your face marked the trails that you'd rode
The truth in your eyes mirrored the Cowboy's code
That code of the West that we lost long ago
We still love you cowboy where did you go
Cowboy you were America you were the West
You were the legend you're still the best.
Well I think it's time for me to hook it out of here. So once again, I'd like to thank everyone for this great honor I've received tonight. Now I can ride into the sunset a very happy cowboy.
God bless you all and God bless our men and women in uniform.
Robert Fuller Acceptance Speech. 12th April 2008.
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