Every time I pass through this small western town my heart fills with the knowledge that at one time both of my great-grandmothers, my grandmother, and my mother (as a small child) have been here. They walked these very streets, looked out upon the eastern front of the towering Rocky Mountains, fought with the belligerent westerly winds, and surely must have experienced the same excitement I do of simply being in this wild, open country.
I will be back at the cabin by tomorrow.
My mind is far from settled. It continues to reel with thoughts from the book tour trail. The long 8-month route which covered 18 states affected me more than I thought it might, I think in part because the book tour truly became a “reunion tour”.
Ninety talks, and at nearly every one someone I’d met from a past ride appeared. Meeting once again with people who helped in one way or another during those incredibly difficult years when no one knew just how hard the journey I’d embarked on was because I’d always covered my face with a thin veil of strength and determination. I don’t think anyone knew how much I needed and appreciated the help offered me.
So the book tour in many ways became an opportunity for me to reach back and say, humbly, sincerely, “Thank you, I could not have done it without your help.” Offering a book in gratitude with hugs, laughter, and smiles upon faces I remembered. I repeated, “Yes I remember, I remember.” I shouted it many times, and it meant more than you can imagine to me. (I have a very good memory.)
The list is long, of those who reached out once again to make the book tour possible. You know who you are… those of you who set up talks, hosted my overnight stays, worked out dinner parties, made arrangements for my horses’ comfort, a mechanic when I needed repairs, or drove me to the talk so I could rest a bit. Assuring and reassuring me as I slowly, and I do mean slowly, drove my old ’69 Ford and two Fjords across the United States.
I sold a lot of books, covered my expenses, and most importantly came back rich with memories as I reached back once again to say, “To each and everyone whose path I crossed I send a hearty “Thank You, I could not have done it without your help.”
Just as in the old Western movies, Montanan Bernice Ende of Trego has traveled across North America passing from town to town on horseback, embodying an American legacy.
“You are an iconic, legendary, romantic image that comes riding into town,” Ende said. “… It’s a really powerful, powerful medium.”
She added that when people see her riding through their towns they are immediately interested and mesmerized. Doors open and smiles spread across peoples’ faces as she brings the image of a lone mysterious rider passing through their town.
Ende, better known as Lady Long Rider, is coming to Montana State University-Northern’ Hensler Auditorium in the Applied Technology Center Tuesday at 7 p.m. to talk about her book, “Lady Long Rider: Alone Across America on Horseback.”
Long riding is when an equestrian rides 1,000 miles or more on horseback. Ende said that when she first started on her journey 15 years ago, she didn’t know what long riding was, but always wanted to ride.
She started her book tour in November and has given more than 90 talks in 18 states, said Sarah Wilson, her book tour administrator.
Ende, 64, got off her horse for the first time in 15 years and is traveling for her book tour in her pickup truck, Wilson said. She is still traveling with her horses, but because of the commitments of her book tour is driving.
Ende said starting long riding was the end of a period of time in her life when she decided to stop teaching ballet, which she had been teaching since her mid-20s, and the end of a relationship that was not going anywhere.
“I got on my horse, I said, ‘I’m going to ride until I forget about this man,’” she said.
Wilson said that Ende started long riding when she was 50 years old, after teaching ballet for 30 years.
Ende grew up on a poor dairy farm in Minnesota and then left to attend college, but quit college to live on the West Coast, living in Portland, Oregon, Seattle and San Francisco, Wilson said. When Ende was 23 she became determined to learn ballet, taking a course for 2½ years to become a ballet teacher. She was married and later divorced.
After the divorce she moved to Trego, living in a cabin and teaching ballet in the community center to local girls and boys.
Wilson said that Ende was ready for a change and in 2005 took her first long ride to visit her sister in New Mexico, a grueling 2,000 mile ride. Wilson added that Ende was physically fit and was already an expert horse woman, but she was not prepared for a number of things involved in a long ride.
The first ride was hard, but was something that she knew she wanted to pursue further, Wilson said.
Since Ende’s first ride, she has now ridden more than 30,000 miles, Wilson said.
Ende said that she has seen a profound change in her life, living outdoors and living a singular life.
“I’ve really stepped away from what is normal in life and it’s changed me,” she said. “I don’t know, not always such a good thing but it’s what I’ve become. … For most people it is a lifetime dream, it’s something that they’ve always dreamed of, but for me it became my life, it’s just a way of living.”
She added that she dedicates her rides to her great grandmother, grandmother and her mother. The next book she has coming out includes more about her the women in her life who made her who she is.
Wilson said that Ende rides to encourage leadership in woman, to encourage leadership for women to learn, grow and explore.
“Her mom gave her the love of the horizon, her dad gave her, her can-do-ness,” Wilson said.
Wilson added that Ende has been featured in the New York Post, several different television news shows and newspapers. She also spoke to the Susan B. Anthony Organization in New York and will celebrate the centennial of women’s right to vote in New York, dressed as a suffragette and riding her horse in the parade.
Ende said that when she first started long riding she wasn’t doing it for any cause or reason other than that she loved to ride. But over the past 15 years, she has embraced her ability to inspire women to be fearless and encourage female leadership.
“I never started out thinking that I was riding for anything,” Ende said. “It was simply my love and longing for the ride. I just love to do it.”
She added that she also never thought about writing a book, but every ride was well-documented including her maps and notebooks from her time riding.
“Not that I thought I was going to write a book, it’s just that I just felt compelled to document everything,” she said. “… It wasn’t too difficult to put it together.”
The biggest change for her, she said, was when she reached 25,000 miles, after her 8,000 mile ride that took her from Trego in the northwest corner of Montana to the coast of Maine and back to the West Coast.
“I said, ‘You know what, now I’m going to call myself a long rider,’” she said. “I felt for the first time that I was seasoned, and I have never experienced that in my life, not even when I was teaching. Never did I feel like I was a seasoned ballet teacher. Now I could say that I was a seasoned long rider. I know what I’m doing now.”
Lady Long Rider Bernice Ende plays with her Norwegian Fjord horses Montana Spirit and Little Liska Pearl Tuesday, June 4, after spending the night at the Crow Wing County Fairgrounds. Ende was returning from the East Coast on a book tour and a trip to see Susan B. Anthony’s home, trailering her horses as she heads home to Montana. For the past 13 years, Ende has lived outdoors during her long rides. She holds the honor of being the only person to ride round trip from one coast of the United States and back.
Heading Back to Montana – or, Back to the “Montana End(e)” of the Book Tour
Stopping to take a deep sigh, stopping to take time for Thank You’s. This is the first of two thank you letters I will be posting.
I remember thinking when I left Montana in September of 2018 with Bill’s Old Blue Truck, bravely pulling my two girls in a horse trailer nearly as old as the truck itself, facing a daunting book tour and thinking, “You are out of your mind. NOW, this IS nuts.” To which you might think, after the number of solo equestrian trips I have made, it would be a piece of cake for me.
But driving a truck! Pulling a horse-trailer! I had to learn how to drive again. A fifty-year-old truck no less!! It just seemed far more complicated with the vehicles and committed dates I had to fulfill.
I think the most remarkable thing about the entire 8000-mile book tour has been Bill’s Old Blue Truck. Noble steed. Not one problem, not one problem! At least not one thing serious enough to stop or which hampered my progress forward. I think I could write a story called, “Bill’s Old Blue Truck’s Great Adventure.”
I often tell this story at my talks…. An older gentleman wearing a baseball cap drove up to me in a brand new white Ford pickup truck, a truck with all the bells and whistles, a big thing!, somewhere in Arizona, in a parking lot. I turned mid-step into my truck when he stopped, rolled down his window, leaned on his elbow and called out, “Well gall-darn that’s the best truck Ford ever made” to which I replied, “Yeah well, ya wanna trade straight across?”
It is, I must admit, testimony to a truck well built to be capable of driving/pulling as far and as much as this truck has after 50 years of use. My hat however goes off to the mechanics that restored the truck to its current running condition. Roy Kern who rebuilt the engine. Then Kelly Mee, owner of The Trego Shop–he had his hands on it. But Tim and Wayne Bosworth, owners of Eureka Auto, really did a great deal of final work on the entire engine and running gear. Thank you, gentleman.
However, let’s not fool ourselves. I am a reminder of where we don’t want to go. You want to go back to these old trucks, back to horse travel? Believe me, the new Ford trucks ARE better. The level of comfort and ease and safety of driving–not to mention how much better the newer vehicles are on the environment. Yes, I have “recycled” an older vehicle for my use but it probably pollutes more than a newer vehicle. Trade offs.
Anyway, thank you, Bill Griffin, who left me the old blue truck many years ago. I pat the dashboard many, many times affectionately saying, “You are a champion, you are a champion.”
End-of-Book-Tour “Thank You’s”
Thank you’s, thank you’s, the list is long-spaced with deep appreciation and gratitude. 90 talks, 18 states, 33 interviews.
The horses lie next to me as I write, and I breathe contentment into my lungs. It’s the one thing about Fjords–traveling with them is a pleasure–there’s little nonsense, they adapt to new environments with calm and ask only, “Where is the food?” We stopped often, did short rides anywhere safe enough to do so, ears forward, alert, welcoming the road ahead of them with curiosity and interest. Little Liska Pearl, now with us 2 years (and who I continue to call Essie Pearl) has settled into her new life like a little puppy in a new home. She has blossomed from the adventure and matured with experience. The two horses have bonded–probably more so than Essie and Spirit ever did. They have mastered the art of travel.
Spirit lays back and stretches out completely flat on the green grass, covered with a thin sheet to keep the flies off her. Shes dreaming and makes running feet, as dogs do. Liska’s lower lip hangs and twitches as she stands nearby.
I am going to begin by thanking Sarah Wilson who orchestrated the show from behind the curtain as administrator. This was the very first time I had a professional working for me attending to details, calling ahead, securing dates, times, locations, editing, arranging interviews, or simply encouraging me with, “You’ll be fine, you’ll make it, take a deep breath.” So to Sarah Wilson, a most sincere thank you. I will miss her, and if the website does not look as tidy it’s because she’s no longer behind the scene.
Vigil is a computer geek/artist/adventurer and more. Linda has been
working for me for years supporting me with website troubleshooting and
updating. She orders DVD’s, hand-out cards, and is there quick as a wink
when I need help–never lets me down. Thank you, Linda.
Zac Basinger, marketing with FarCountry Press, was instrumental answering questions like “How does one do a book tour?” (smiles) I must have driven him and the staff at FarCountry Press nuts. FarCountry sent out books as I needed and were supportive throughout the entire book tour.
I may be the only author they have published who’s done a book tour with horses! Well, I am sure of it!!
Thank you, sincerely, thank you.
The next posting will be the long list of thank you’s to those I met for the first time on this book tour, and to those with whom I reconnected from earlier visits. I just wanted to get something out now, while I stop here in Minnesota, recovering from exhaustion!
Lady Long Rider: Alone Across America on Horseback
By Carole Ann Clark
“In the midst of space–age, high-speed technologies, a band of humans has slowed down the earth and sky sweeping past them by seeing the world from the back of a horse. They are called Long Riders”—quoted from the Long Riders Guild.
If you picked up a copy of the October/November 2018 issue of Montana Senior News, you are already familiar with Bernice Ende and her famous straw hat. The cover of her book gives a back view of Bernice, her hat, her two horses and her dog, Claire. The back view is fitting, since this famed member of the Long Riders Guild seems always to be heading away, down the road, on to the next adventure, leaving behind new-found friends.
For some of us, a “long ride” is from Great Falls to Hamilton, a few hours in an air-conditioned (or heated) vehicle with padded seats. For a Long Rider, it might mean several thousand miles sitting on the back of a more-or-less willing horse, on a not-so-cushioned saddle, at the mercy of the hot sun, cold rain, gusty winds, even snow. Evenings are not spent relaxing in front of the TV, sipping a favorite beverage. Well, a beverage may be at hand, but sipped while unpacking, grooming and feeding the horse or horses, setting up a shelter, and finally feeding oneself. Is there a piece of jerky in the bottom of the pack, perhaps some fruit? Long Riders pack light. (A note on Bernice’s saddle—she uses only Tucker saddles, particularly their Endurance Trail saddle. Apparently, there are eight different types of saddles for different purposes, not including the cavalry McClellen style, and it is vital to use the right one!) The right horse is paramount, too, and she eventually discovered that Norwegian Fjords were ideal for long riding, packing, and carrying Claire Dog when she grew tired.
This fascinating volume includes the description of seven “long rides”. The first, Montana (her home is in Northwest Montana, when she is there) to New Mexico, was a mere 2,000 miles. The seventh covered 8,000 miles coast to coast and back again (including a few detours into Canada), and lasted from April 2014-June 2016. Ms Ende was the first—the FIRST PERSON to do this. Part of her interest in making this particular trip was to visit the sites connected to the early women’s suffrage movement. Her desire to do this was because of her family connections to suffrage and the history of women’s rights. Bernice was also curious to find out how “Easterners” might differ from “Westerners”.
What she discovered were “Trail Angels” all along the road and in the small towns which welcomed her and her menagerie, giving food, water, shelter and medical help as needed. Oddly, she does not consider herself an adventurer—“I just really like living without walls”. Ride on, Bernice—“Happy Trails to you” and the friends you make along the way.
Saddle up with these great reads:
Prairie Tales: Adventures of Growing Up on a Frontier by Orland E. Esval
Horse Packing in Pictures by Francis W. Davis
Tough Trip Through Paradise, 1878-9 by Andrew Garicia
Rough Magic: Riding the World’s Loneliest Horse Race by Lara Prior-Palmer
Adventure Tales of Montana’s Last Frontier by Gary Wilson