The Animas Valley
Long eared desert hare silently burst out from under mesquite brush as I ride north on long straight gravel roads. There are so many we are only momentarily startled as they go bounding off run, run, run leap – run, run, run grand jete’, quick, graceful animals. Canadian geese strung out in an enormously long straight V shape herald their journey north. The wind shoves more air down the throat and up the nose than the lungs know what to do with. The land makes you breath because there is so much space between you and over there with grass, water and shelter only if you are lucky enough to find it. A crow fly’s by. I shout “Where’s the water?” If you see birds your bound to find water.
I now know why these cowboys wear high-top cowboy boots and chaps because there is every kind of sticker known to human-kind here in the Southwest. They get down your boots, stick on your socks, pants, sweater sleeves, they bake into your skin and refuse to be shook off, stickers everywhere.
A Cowboy Story
A young man dreamed of living the life of a cowboy. His eyes and heart beamed southward to the land of buckaroo’s, wranglers, flank riders, come along little dogie. Where roping and branding and wild cattle were real. A land where cowboy hats, cowboy boots and spurs were not out of place. And all the time he lived in Alaska a long, long way from “cowboy.” But he reached for his dream by learning the art of horseshoeing, by riding and training horses. He learned veterinary skills. And then one day at the ripe old age of 18 this young man saddled up his horse “Mr.” packed up two others, called his dog Traveler and headed for the U.S./Mexico border for the land of “cowboy.”
A long ride by any stretch of the imagination, an epic journey. One arduous year and he’d reached southern Alberta. Long days, sleepless nights. His ears froze his fingers and toes numbed by the cold, he rode. As the young man traveled he took on bronc’s and throw away horses no one wanted, trained them – made them good again, sold them and added more to his string to make money. He worked for ranchers training young colts, branding, roping and sorting cattle. He had a good hand with horses. Made a little money and moved on.
In the glorious state of Colorado he saw something that caught his eye, a pretty young rodeo gal who rode like nothing he’d ever seen. And she caught his eye and the adventure that rode in them. She gave him strength to go on. She believed in him.
With no support vehicle behind him nor in front, just his desire to be a cowboy and to find that place where he belonged, another year passed.
And now that Mexico border was in view and friends and family cheered him on and he knew he’d reached the place he so longed to be. The many miles and hardships behind him had bred cowboy into his bones. And he turned around and knelt down and asked that girl who believed in him, who’d caught his heart, if she’d marry him. And she said yes. And now that young man with the dream of becoming of cowboy works on one of the biggest ranches in New Mexico south of Animas.
But what he did not dream of, what he did not know when he set forth on his journey to be a cowboy was that he’d find so much more. That he would find love and happiness as a father and a husband. That an entire community would welcome and embrace him. That ropin and ridin and cowboy boots, spurs, good horses and cattle were but a small part of being a cowboy.
I first heard about this long rider in 2006 while crossing the United States on a 5000 mile ride. Someone handed me a newspaper clipping with a photo of a cowboy coming head on, riding one horse, packing another. A dog ran out front. Flanking him were 6 or 7 horses on leads. I thought, even as a very inexperience long rider at that time, “He’s nuts.”
Well I had the pleasure of meeting Jeremiah John Karsten, now 32, in Animas, New Mexico a week ago. I had dinner with him, his beautiful wife Joetta Rae and their three young daughters, Charlee Rae, 7 – Jemma Jo, 3 – Cora Kate 5 months.
I went away from our meeting thinking this man is my idea (maybe a romantic notion some might say) of a true cowboy. Tall, straight, lean, his attire careful, tidy. His boots, spurs and jeans seem to fit just right as did his colorful cowboy style scarf he wore around his neck. And of course the hat, not at all like mine, a real cowboy hat, with sweat and dirt worn into its years.
But that’s only the look. The important part of a true cowboy rides inside. Polite, soft spoken, yet not shy. Confident but with a measure of humility. He loves his trade, his wife, his family. He resounds in contentment for his life as a cowboy. Jeremiah left Alaska an 18 year old “greenhorn” now thirteen years later he’s probably on of the happiest men alive at least his smile and eyes and family showed it.
Photos – From Douglas, Arizona to Silver City, New Mexico.
Ok all for now, am heading north to visit with my sister in the Albuquerque area and another friend Leslie Adler whom I met in 2006 on another ride in Madrid, New Mexico. Best to all who follow the rides, and of course many thanks for the Facebook page comments and interest.