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...
Y'all come back now, ya hear?
What a beautiful welcome we've had into the state I was born in. Dusty Leatherwood hosted us at our last place in New Mexico. And that, I must say, was a perfect farewell to New Mexico. Dusty was a perfect gentlemen with a smile that makes you keep on smiling even after you've left him.
As it turns out, Dusty and Steve (who has hosted us here in Muleshoe, TX) are...
"Oh, we're like this, Dusty and I", Steve says as he crosses his index finger with his middle finger.
I am not surprised. The two of them are very like souls, that's for sure.
Dusty put Sojourner up in a corral and gave him all the hay he could eat. He also gave us 4 bales of wheat hay for the road.
Later on in the day after meeting Dusty, Walter and I were over at the little trailer we were staying in and we saw a bunch of little steers empty from a trailer into the corral next to Sojourner.
We went into to town to run a few errands and came back to see Dusty and his friend team roping with the steers. It was amazing to watch. The Steer have little "hats" (as I called them) on their heads so it doesn't hurt them when they get roped. Dusty said some people think it's cruel to rope a cow but that they really do try to make it so it's not hurtful to the cow.
The Steers actually have to be trained to rope. They weren't training the horses that day so much as they were training the Steers. They were sweet little cows and did a very good job in training, if I do say so myself.
After two days of rest in Clovis, we headed off for Texas. It's hot, but nice riding out here because there are so many county dirt roads. Hardly any cars go by. Every once in a while I will have a dog friend join us for a bit of the ride until he realizes he is too far from home and then finally meanders back.
I don't know what it is about horses that cows are so curious about, but there are a lot of cow farms out here and they love Sojourner...or they're fascinated by him. The other day we passed a massive cow farm and nearly every cow got up and ran straight for us, some bucking the whole way with tons of "moo's".
Soj is a little confused by it. I think he's learning now that they are confined so he doesn't worry too overly much, but his eye is always on them until we are well out of cow reach.
Back at the Rodeo Grill in Fort Sumner we had met a wonderful man named Allen. He told us if we needed a place to rest once we got into Texas to give him a call. He was only 16 miles from Clovis so I wasn't so sure we would be able to stop there, but as the heat rose and the day moved along I said to Walter, "Hey...maybe we should give Allen a call??"
We crossed the Texas border and got into the town of Farwell. A pretty, chipper, blonde headed woman pulled up next to us in a pickup truck with a big smile. She gave me an energetic wave and went over to Walter in the truck.
"Are you Walter?" she asked.
She was Allen's partner and had a place for Sojourner that night. She then came over to me and asked me what my favorite adult beverage was and said they would be fixin' us dinner.
Talk about hospitality! Lori worked at Napa Auto Parts so I rode Soj over to the store and Walter and I waited there for her to meet us again over there.
"Are you lookin' for the horse motel??" a woman asked as she and her husband pulled up beside us in their truck.
"Ummm....I don't think..." I said. I only knew I was waiting for Lori.
"Well! That's me!" she said.
She got out and told us to follow her up the road where Sojourner would be sleeping for the night.
It was a fantastic big corral full of grass, hay, and a full tub of water. Soj instantly rolled as he always does and then walked off to see her other 2 horses on the other side of the fence.
This woman was called Linda. She brought us right over to Lori's house and soon after that Lori and Allen pulled up, offered us some cold drinks and broke out the maps.
"Well, let's see", said Linda, "we could send them this way, but then how are we going to get them around Plainview?"
Linda was quickly on the phone calling her friends to help get us across Texas and into Frederick, OK.
"Do you need another drink? That's not cold enough anymore. Let me get you another drink", interjected Lori.
As it turned out, we ended up sticking to the original route Stephen had planned for us because he had already put time into calling people up ahead and the mileage is exactly the same, but Linda's energy towards helping us was so appreciated. That kind of kindness gives you the energy you need to get anywhere.
Lori and Allen took us over to Allen's house where we slept on 1,200 thread count sheets, wa wa we wah, and had a delicious homemade spaghetti dinner.
The two of them bustled around the kitchen and would absolutely not let us lift a finger to help. We left the next morning with a home baked loaf of bread (that is incredible), and a monetary donation they insisted on giving.
Lori was running around trying to see what she could give to us.
"What about water? Do ya'll have enough water?"
She would study our faces waiting for even a seconds pause.
"Oh! Yup, I'm gonna get you some water."
A minute later the front doorbell rang. Allen, Walter, and I all walked to the front door to answer it and there was Lori. She was kind of giggling with us at the fact that she had rung the doorbell and said she had left water outside the truck.
We are going to be riding in a parade in Frederick that is celebrating the 100 year anniversary of the Abernathy Boys ride back in 1910. The boys rode 5,000 miles round trip at the ages of 6 and 10 years old! They left their home town of Frederick, OK to meet Teddy Roosevelt in New York City.
Walter and I want to honor our sponsors by putting their banners up on the truck in the parade, but we had forgotten the banner back at the Cortese Feed Store in Fort Sumner! It just so happened that Allen was going that way so he picked up the Kent Feeds banner for us and he, his lovely niece's, and Lori, met us at Steve's in Muleshoe, TX.
Steve Friskup, Pastor of the Cowboy Church and hat maker at the Muleshoe Hat Company.
We said our goodbyes to Allen, Lori, and the girls and Steve brought us over to where we could hose off Soj and let him out to pasture.
If I could look at a map, make a dotted line and cut along the little town of Muleshoe, I would cut it out and relocate it right next to Bath, NH.
We met Steve later on at the Cowboy Church to hear him give his sermon. I told him I didn't really have anything to wear for church.
In his southern raspy voice (or "kinda wore out" as he put it) he said,
"Ah, that don't matter. We'd throw you out if you came in a dress".
His face lit up a bit and he looked at me with a grin, "true story."
And in fact, while we were at the service he paused his preaching to make mention of the mother who had walked in a little late with a baby on her hip. The baby had a massive, gigantic flower on her head and Steve said through laughter, "well look there, you put a bowl on it's head" and continued preaching.
It was hilarious, but that was the beauty of this church. There was no lack of belief or passion in his words, but there was no pretension and it was okay to throw a joke in here and there. As soon as we walked in a man in a cowboy hat who turned out to be a vet came to shake our hands to welcome us. Two other young men made sure we had chairs and put them beside us.
Steve and the Cowboy Church have put us up in motel room here for two days and plenty of people from the town ahead came to give us their number and offer a helping hand.
Welcome to Muleshoe, TX.
Steve was surprised I hadn't roped yet. He had to go off to Oklahoma this morning, but he said if he didn't have to go he could have had me roping within two hours. I think I might just have to make a trip back here.
This morning we went over to the hat shop where Steve was. He was there creasing a few hats before he left later for OK.
"So, Linny, what kind of hat do you ride in?" he said as he looked around at his hats.
"How big is your head?"
"It's kind of big, that probably won't fit." I said with a smile as he walked towards me with a hat he had pulled off the wall.
"Yeah it wi....whoa!"
He pressed down on my head, but it stayed perched on the very top of my head like that bowl on the babies head the night before.
"It's all that hair!" said the owner of the store, Roger.
Steve came back with another hat and set it on my head. It fit. He started picking at the hat so I asked him what he was doing.
"Well, I'm just taking this silly tag off so I can see how it looks."
He looked at me.
"Now, if a man were to give you a hat..."
I smiled at him, "Oh no! You have given us too much already!"
"No, no, no. If a man were to give you a hat would you have your picture taken with him?"
Not enough time. We didn't have enough time with this wonderful man. Walter has said we should take a road trip one day again and stop and visit every single person who helped us along the way. I think we just have to.
I am so overwhelmed by the generosity and openness that is out here in this country. No matter what the belief, no matter what the history, people are here to help and to offer a smile. The amount of people who are out to get you compared to the amount who are out to help is incomparable.
Songs pop into my head all the time like Cole Porter's, "It's Too Darn Hot", but also songs like Bob Thiele and George David Weiss', "What A Wonderful World".
Walter and I have so much desire and energy to give back because of all that we've been given on this trip. All the smiles, laughter, dinners around the table, and stories, are enough to keep us running strong for the rest of our lives.
Oh man, if there is one thing I know to the bottom of my core, it's to open up to the people around you. Know them. There is just so much out here, so much to learn, so much to feel.
Walter and I are off again tomorrow to head to Earth, Texas. We have 240 miles to ride in 13 days to get to Frederick in time for the parade.