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Dale Robertson’s Little Dividend

My first year of marriage to Dale has passed much too fast. There are times when it all—our five-day courtship, our whirlwind marriage, Dale’s constant screen commitments that continuously postponed our honeymoon, and now the new nursery—seems like a dream.

Sometimes my husband fixes his humorous eye on the horse heads in the wallpaper in our bedroom, which he selected just before we met, definitely intending to remain a bachelor, and grins, “What do you know? A little more than a year ago, I wasn’t even thinking of getting married Much less planning on being a family man. . . .”

Ever since we have known we were having a baby Dale has gone out of his way to be completely casual about the whole thing. The Jeffrey Hunters also are expecting a baby—and when the four of us get together, the boys really give Barbara and me a bad time. Consider the Japanese, they tell us, they have their children in a comer of the rice field without even seriously interrupting the day’s work. There’s nothing to it. Absolutely nothing.

Yet, it was my husband who was prepared to challenge the doctor’s decision that I could continue riding a horse during my pregnancy. And, always when he comes home from the studio, he takes a quick look in the medicine cabinet and says, almost throwing the line away, “Take your pills?” Moreover, we and the Jeffrey Hunters almost missed the Academy Awards when, en route to the ceremony, Dale’s eye was stopped by a baby crib in the window of his favorite furniture store, Mann & Fields, run by an ex-G.I. named Bob Cohen. A few blocks away, lights arc-ed across the heavens, limousines slithered up to the red carpets, and crowds roared while Barbara and I, rhinestone earrings, velvet wraps and all, followed the “casual” fathers-to-be into the store and discussed the respective merits of a plastic- covered baby mattress and the blue knobs on a baby bureau.

“Won’t they swear with the shade of the walls?” I asked. “Not if I have anything to say about it,” Dale assured me. “We can paint ’em or remove ’em. Nothing’s going to swear with those walls.”

By now my husband is something of an authority on the decoration of a nursery, having painted ours three times—to get the exact baby-baby-blue we wanted. The first time he painted at night, and in the morning sunlight the walls turned out to be almost indigo. He mixed some white paint with the blue and did the walls over again—on another evening. It still proved too dark. So in went more white. And the third job done in the daytime produced the desired shade of blue.

Personally, I would be very happy with a small seven- pound child. But not Dale. The current crop of children among our friends has aroused a friendly spirit of competition among the fathers-to-be. We may be in real trouble too. Kit and Boots Carson’s baby boy weighed ten pounds and nine ounces, with an eighteen and one-half inch chest. “The biggest chest of any baby ever born in the Queen of Angels Hospital.” Dale keeps saying, admiringly, and he adds, We’re going to have to have an eleven-pound baby to outdo Kit. Can’t let them get ahead of us.” Men seem to be convinced that a baby born with eighteen and one-half inch chest just can’t miss making an All-American.

Of course, if we have a little girl, that will let us off the hook,” he grins. ‘But I can just hear them telling me, ‘You’re the father of a six-pound boy,’ and hear the guys saying, ‘What, happened? What’s this? Where’s the rest of it???’”

Although Dale insists it “doesn’t really matter whether we have a boy or a girl,” I can see him making mental plans about the weight “it” will throw in the Oklahoma University backfield. “One day,” he says, “I think I’d rather have a boy Then I see a pretty little girl, and I think I’d rather have a daughter.” Almost always, however, he explains that he’s more qualified to help raise a boy. “I’d know what to do with a boy,” he says.

We’ve decided on “Rochelle,” if we have a daughter. At the moment, we still have no name picked out for a boy. Nothing would make me happier than to call him Dale Jr,—but, as of now, the reaction has been an emphatic “No!” Dale is of the opinion it sounds very conceited to give a son your name, “Besides,” he says seriously, “a boy shouldn’t have to carry his father’s name. He should have the chance to make his own,”

For a man determined to be completely casual about becoming a father, Dale is making fairly detailed plans. Our baby must have a tennis racket and golf clubs and a pony. Dale is shopping for a Shetland to breed with a Hackney pony for a colt. He says, “So, when the baby’s three, the colt will be two. They’ll grow up together. . . .”

There are certain indications that he will, in some ways, be an old-fashioned father. He insists a daughter would have to be in from dates by ten o’clock in the evening. Also that she should not be allowed to have dates too young. “Not as young as you did,” he says emphatically, forgetting that if my father hadn’t mellowed in that respect, we wouldn’t be married now. However, having observed the gentle, loving hand of my husband in training our thoroughbred, his German shepherd, “Chief” (he’s taught him to spell), and the conscientious homework he does reading animal psychology books about how to train his pointer pup, “Radar,” and being fully aware of his deeply rooted sentiment and sensitivity, I’m not unduly alarmed. He will have mellower moments, too.

Dale, I’ve discovered during the past year, is a man long on action and short on conversation. He may forget the bonbons or the bunch of violets, but he will walk in with a package and say, “Here’s a set of golf clubs for you.” Or we go to an auction “just to watch” and when I admire a beautiful black stallion, he will nod in agreement, and continue nodding and before I realize what’s happened, the auctioneer says, “SOLD!”—and I’m the new owner of a thoroughbred racehorse named ‘Beau Jack.” Or he will economize on his clothes and come home from a personal appearance tour with boxes of beautiful maternity clothes he’s bought in different cities for me!

On the other hand, just let me put in a request for a snapshot of him tor my wallet—and nothing happens. I went around without one for months, then got one from the studio. It’s the same photo fans get when they write in for a picture. In fact, the other day, when my wallet fell open in the grocery store, a cute teenager saw my picture of Dale and exclaimed, “I have one just like that!”

We’ve had our share of personality adjustments, of course . . . When we were first married, when Dale would come home from the studio, stretch out in a chair and gaze into space for thirty minutes, I would be alarmed lest I had—or had not—done something to offend him. “You don’t love me!” I’d tell him, weeping. He would just look at me for a stunned moment, then patiently explain that he was just concentrating on something. “I’ve always done this,” he would say gently. “It has nothing whatsoever to do with you.”

When he didn’t show more enthusiasm about becoming a father I was most upset. Although, so many erroneous rumors had been columned about our expectant parenthood, that the truth hardly could have come like an ecstatic bolt from the blue. The day I knew definitely that we were going to have a baby, I telephoned Dale at the studio on the set of “Outcasts of Poker Flat.” Above all the racket and hammering I could hear in the background, I shouted, “The doctor says we’re going to have a baby—in JUNE!” There was a moment’s hesitation, then, “Oh . . .” I heard Dale say, “Well, I’ve got to run. Goodbye.”

“You surely didn’t sound very enthusiastic,” I taxed him when he came home that night. “Well,” he said, “I’d been hearing and reading about it pro and con for so long—and telling myself maybe yes and maybe no—I’d gotten kind of used to the idea. Besides,” he grinned, “at the exact minute you told me—they called me back for a shot.”

He’s such a man’s man, so taken with horses and hunting, that I was surprised to discover his many artistic accomplishments. He could make a handsome living as an interior decorator. I was happy the first time I saw what is now “our” home, to note the rich cocoa brown backgrounds with accents of coral and chartreuse, the smart free-form modern furniture, the large curved cocoa metallic couch with cornices to match, and the indirect lighting behind the couch that was Dale’s own inventive idea. “This house was going to be the fanciest thing ever,” he laughs now. ‘Then I got married—and haven’t done a thing to it since—except paint and repaint a blue nursery.”

He also could have been a fine musician, had he wanted to .apply himself. He plays almost every instrument by ear. No doubt it came as a surprise to the studio that he could carry a tune as well as he does in “The Farmer Takes a Wife,” in which he co-stars with Betty Grable. He says, “I’d been walking around the lot for months singing as loud as I dared. But the right ears were never around.” Then, out of the blue, Producer Frank Rosenberg asked him if he could sing. “No,” Dale told him, “but I like to.” Upon which Mr. Rosenberg suggested, “How about dropping in and letting us hear you?” So Dale dropped in—and recorded a number from the picture, “With the Sun Warm upon Me.”

With the sun warm upon him, that’s for Dale. For he loves the simple way of life and I do too.




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