On March 1st, 2010, my friend Walter and I set off on an adventure with my Arabian horse, Sojourner. I rode Soj across America and Walter drove our little truck (with no trailer). The trip began in Los Angeles, California and successfully ended in Bath, New Hampshire 8 months and 14 days later. It was a 3,700 mile ride.
We rode in celebration of family and as an outreach to those dealing with divorce-related depression.
This ride tells a tale of love in many forms - through the people we meet along the way, our connection with the horse, with the land, and with each other.
As this blog goes on it gets more and more in depth with tons of photos and experiences. Snuggle in with a cup of tea and read this like a book. I have switched the blog around so it reads start to finish so you don't have to read backward (except the first entry).
Here is our story...
I'm so sorry I have been unable to post for a couple of days!! Internet has been really spotty. I am so terrible at using the keyboard on my phone so I don't even bother when it is the only thing getting service. To type "I am here and safe" takes me 8 years on that phone.
Jordan, Walter, and I are at my aunt Betty and Uncle Gary's house in Phoenix now. My mom flew in yesterday and will spend today and tomorrow with us too. It's so wonderful to be with all of them. Sojourner is a mile from the house at a wonderful ranch. You know, I don't even know the info. about the ranch yet. I rode in kind of anxious to get to my mom and aunt and uncle and I don't even think I realized where I was! I will get the name of the ranch and be sure to post a link to their site though. They were all there and waiting with everything for Soj. It's a wonderful facility. They are feeding Soj as well so I can relax a little more which I am extremely appreciative of.
You know though, this is the first night I've actually been away from him so that I can't just walk around the corner to him or have him right outside my tent and I MISS him! I'll go see him after this. He has a little Arabian horse in the turn out next to him so I am sure he is hanging over by him sleeping happy as a clam.
Sojourner, by the way, is looking fantastic. He is so fit and strong now. He doesn't pee more than he should anymore, he's actually putting on weight and his coat is getting so glossy. He just looks amazing. I think this trip is making all four of us super healthy.
Let me go back a bit....
Clare, who was in Salome, set us up with a woman named Sharon in Wickenburg, AZ. I was too tired to make it all the way to Wickenburg after Salome so we camped out on BLM land about 18 miles away from Salome. It was a great spot to camp and gave us all a chance to enjoy the land a little.
We went walking around exploring a bit and I carried this stick just in case that big bull decided to come at me.
Sunset a few nights ago
We tied Soj off in a little pen like we always do when we camp, but I had a funny feeling that night that it wasn't going to work. I let the thought go though and eventually went to sleep. Jordan tells me Soj laid down and slept for a while, but then he really wanted to get out to the hay I had set outside of his pen for the next morning. Jordan went ahead and threw him the hay to get him to chill out and then went back to bed. It seems, though, once Soj finished his hay he was still interested to see what was on the other side of that rope. I got up at 5am the next morning and Soj was gone.
What is on the other side of that rope is miles and miles and miles of open land. I wasn't worried though. In fact, I had absolutely no reaction inside or change of expression in my face when I didn't see him there. I kind of expected it for some reason and didn't feel anything inside to tell me he was hurt. I started walking down the dirt road that led to the hills and off a bit into the field, but realized there was no way I would be able to see him this way. There are trees that grow to just above my head and they didn't allow me to scope out the area very easily.
I turned around and climbed onto the hood of the ambulance. Out there in the distance was this little white shape that was Soj and I could see his little ears poke forward and his neck perk up the second I got on top of that ambulance. He instantly came trotting to me. I think he just got disoriented. He trotted all the way back until he got to a ditch and then got confused and started walking the other way again. Now, he had gone over that ditch to get to where he was, but James in Joshua Tree taught me that horses have a left brain and a right brain and both brains need to figure things out. :) So, I think Soj hopped over the ditch with his left brain and then came back with the right one looking at it saying "no way man!!!!!! NO THANKS at the idea of crossing that!!" (It was just a tiny little wash). So anyway, I crossed that and then he came right to me and put his head in the halter himself. We went back to the ditch and the silly horse jumped it and back we went to tack up.
We pitched our tent right there next to Soj the next night and he stretched out right there next to us just like a dog would. He was dreaming away and it made me think about animals and their understanding of existence. Obviously he is able to go back and think about things in his head if he dreams like this. He was clearly running around in a field. That little guys legs were moving all over the place! It was great. I stayed up until past 2am watching him and laughing. (Notice Soj is on high line now...no more rope fence)
Soj had gotten in to all of his rice bran and grain when he got out so I didn't give him any grain. We tacked up and rode and had another one of those days where I was asleep in the saddle. This day, in fact, was the toughest yet. I was running on low fuel from so many late, late night and early mornings. We rode 37 miles that day to Wickenburg. As I was getting into town a beautiful woman pulled up in a pick up truck and said "Linny!?"
It was Sharon Simpson from the Simpson Ranch where we were staying that night. I was so happy to see her. She is a person who instantly shows warmth and she also was the sign of the end of a long day.
I later learned that Sharon used to work with women who had eating disorders using horses. She worked with them for 16 years before retiring and as Clare said, "who wouldn't benefit from being around horses. Who wouldn't benefit from being around Sharon!?!"
Sharon took us out to dinner that evening after spending the afternoon having a Margarita and chatting a bit with Sharon and her husband, Larrie, Clare, and her daughter, Amy. I still didn't feel like I got enough time with her.
I felt bad the next morning (Easter morning) because I was trotting Sojourner away and from behind me I hear "Linny! Linny!"
Sharon had come running down her driveway to give me a kiss and hug goodbye, take a picture, and hand me $60 that she just insisted on giving and a little gold tag that said "God answers prayers". I hoped inside that she didn't think I was leaving without saying goodbye. I was told by the men who were feeding horses that everyone was going to be at the park for a big town Easter picnic so that's where I was headed thinking I would see them all there.
At least I got to see her on the way out. I did end up going to the park and stayed until a little after lunch time, but we weren't able to meet up again unfortunately. Clare was so excited about us staying with Sharon at the ranch. Sharon has something so special that other people are excited to share them with you. I know that feeling, that's for sure.
"You have to meet my uncle Chrissy, I can't wait for you to meet Gary and Betty, oh, if you could meet my Aunt Val!! What a woman...and my mom's best friend, Gracie...my uncle John..." on and on and on and on and on!!!! I say these things all the time about so many people in my life. You're almost dying for this person to meet that person because this person is just so overwhelmingly wonderful and....oh! It's the best. It takes one to know one, they say, and I say this to Clare.
The morning after arriving in Wickenburg, the boys and I played around a bit by Soj. We were messing around on the fence and I flipped over it and ripped my jeans and hurt my bad ankle and cut my knee a little, but I tell ya, I'd flip again!! :)
Soon after that the three of us walked down to the Hassayampa River to see if there was a good place Soj and I could cross the next morning to cut out a few miles and the traffic of town. As it turned out the ground was so soft. Walter was out there in his shoes and jeans and sunk in to his knees. This prompted me to take off my shoes and jeans and the three of us ended up playing around in the river for the afternoon. It was such a perfect, beautiful afternoon.
I walked by Jordan and he was chipping at a piece of wood with his knife. I asked him what he was doing and he said he was going to make a pipe. It was a really cool piece of wood that many would just walk by, but not Jordan. He is someone who sees things in things, you know what I mean? Like this "linnykenney.com" thing he made in the dirt. I was born in 1981, and if you look closely you can see that it even has 1981 in it!! He saw a bunch of little things by the train tracks and turned it into this. I love it:
It's great having someone who is so good with his hands and also happens to have a fully equipped leather shop ambulance with him. Soj's girth was causing a little bit of a swell on one side so I asked Jordan if he had any sheep's wool we could put to the underside of the girth. He did and now it's not only soft against him, but it looks cool.
Fixing the girth
Jordan and Walter found a dead snake on the side of the road and so Jordan skinned it and stretched it on a stick to smoke over the fire. He's going to use it in his leather creations. The stinker didn't want to touch the scissors again though after cutting into that snake to cut the wool for the girth!! ha! He was holding the wool and said we had to wait until we could get some other scissors. I said "What!!!? Give me those scissors!" and cut the hide. Now my hands are gangrene, but that's okay.
This is a biggie. My SPOT now stays with me because of this leather pouch he made that is open enough that the SPOT can still give off it's signal. I've told Jordan he has really got to make an ETSY account because his stuff is not only beautiful, but really, really useful and well made so it's strong. I am a big fan of his work and definitely put it through some serious wear without any problems. Here's a picture of the SPOT case.
As far as my own leather work goes, I thought of an idea as I was walking along the road the other day. I want to make things from the trail...kind of a little series of things from this ride and call it "treasures from the trail". I was inspired by the beautiful flowers in the desert. I thought I would dry some and seal them into the leather. I have lots of other little cool things I've found and have lots of ideas as far as incorporating them into messenger bags, cuffs, and belts.
You know how NPR has a day where they will play a Bernadette Peters concert or something and you can get the DVD with a donation? I was thinking maybe I could do something like this with the "treasures from the trail" series. It's something that will come with a donation. This will help me with funds for the ride and also allow me to create something that I think is really special. Each piece will come with a little story of where it came from. I think it would be kind of a cool gift to give someone for Christmas or something. What do you all think about this idea?
I am going to Tandy Leather today to get some stuff and working tonight and tomorrow. It will be nice to paint out in the sun. The weather is just perfect here.
Oh man!!! I miss Soj! I've got to go head over to that boy soon.
So...back to the river...
as we were playing in the river and Jordan was chiseling at his soon to be pipe while Walter threw rocks at him, my phone rang on the bank and it was Stephen telling me Clare was going to be coming through town with her daughter and to meet up with her when she got into town.
(reverting to cave man days. Walter catching his mate.)
(Jordan got him back though. Not interested)
We met them and went up to Sharon's house where we had Margarita's and talked on a patio that overlooked some of the 650 acres of the Simpson ranch.
The Simpson ranch has been in the family for 5 generations and they all live on the property. I told Sharon that this was exactly how I wanted things to be with my family and how perfect the ranch was. Sharon agreed. She is a Grandmother (although you would never in a million years guess that looking at her) and she says her Grandchildren are always up at the house.
My mom and I talked last night about all of the emotions and thoughts this ride brings up and all the different opinions that are coming in as I ride from town to town and ask people about their love life and their thoughts on those buzzing bees and singing birds. She has started to write down all of her thoughts and feelings as she goes through this with me. I hope my dad will too...
The one thing I am so sure of, I know, I don't just think this, is that we are all so connected to this incredible land out here and it is absolutely a necessity to be out with it...on it...bare foot (even in the desert). Just kidding, don't do that. Look what happens when you do...
I got off the horse to try and get some artsy pictures of him in the flowers and this cactus got me and it was awful taking all of those prickers out. They don't look like they're in deep, but they were hanging on for dear life. Each one was so painful to pull out and I had to pull them out one by one (about 20 of them!). They would stretch my skin out like warm gum every time. It was awful. For the next few miles one would make it's way further through my flip flop and get me again. Not fun.
Anyway, lots of things to think about...
Yesterday I was in the saddle by 6:30am to try and make it to my Aunt and Uncle's by 10am because that was when my mom flew in. Jordan dropped Walter off so he could walk with me and Soj for about 6 miles.
on our short cut through the desert...
I lost my cowboy hat somewhere in this field. :(
Hey Bri! This is when I was trying to pose for that sign picture. :) This was taken right before meeting Nancy on the road...
Before cutting into the desert, we came across a woman named Nancy walking down the road. We got to talking with her and told her what we were doing and she said "Oh! You just have to meet Betty next door here!"
Me and Betty Henderson. The second I walked in the door she opened her arms to welcome me in for a hug and said "Oh! I'm so proud of you!"
Me, Betty, and Nancy
Betty is an 87 year old woman who's husband, Emery just died in November. She met him when she was 16 years old at a dance in town. She said she went home that night and said to her mother "I met the man I'm going to marry".
Betty and Emery trained Morgans and you can even see a couple of their Morgan's in a movie made in the 60's. I have to get back to you on the name of the movie though. Or, Nancy, if you're reading this, what was the name of that movie again?
Emery trained Green Berets in the army. He taught the berets how to work with horses and how to pack them. She said none of them knew anything about horses when they started and "they couldn't keep up with Papa."
One time a group of berets Emery had trained were out in the field and the army sent some recon planes out to find them. The recon planes returned to base and said they couldn't find the soldiers. As it turned out, the soldiers had heard the planes coming and got under their horses. Emery was the first person to show soldiers how to train their horses to let them hide under them so that when aircraft flew overhead it just looked like livestock in a field.
Emery was honored by having his memorial celebration at the foot of the cross in the front yard of Emery and Betty's house on November 13, 2009. He was 88 years old.
Emery rode a hundred miles in one day during the 1978 Tevis Cup race. I have a photo of him on Cougar Rock right here in front of me that is very similar to an oil painting I'm working on for Lari Shea at Ricochet Ridge Ranch in Mendocino. Lari has a kindred spirit here in Phoenix, that's for sure, by the name of Betty Henderson. I do believe Lari and Emery Henderson would have gotten quite a kick out of each other too. This goes back to the whole "oh! If you could only meet....!" thing.
Emery and Betty were married 65 years, I asked her what she thought made it work and why she thinks divorce has become so common now a days. This is what she said...
Well, the day is moving on and people I love very much are back at the house that I want to go see.
Jordan has a hide waiting at Tandy leather for him too so we all need to head over there. I am going to pick up a few things too.
I have to give a huge thank you to Sharon for her $60 donation, to Tom for his $30 donation, and I just received another donation for $200 from a lovely man I met on the road named Colin.
It really blows me away when this happens and I will be sure to put the money to good use and make a really great documentary at the end of all of this.
There is no way in a million years I could do what I'm doing without the help and support of everyone and to say I appreciate it is an understatement. I am overwhelmed and I thank you and will thank you forever.
This is that rattle snake we ran in to: