As I said in an earlier posting, “I am inching my way home.”
Now in Kremmling, Colorado where Rosie and I will soon bid Adieu to each other.( She returns to West Virginia to teach nursing classes.) We have spent one restful week at a cabin she once owned outside Granby, CO. She has the good fortune to continue using it when it’s not occupied. Northwestern Colorado is magnificent, snow covered mountain peaks and wide open vista. We did short rides every day, keeping the horses in shape and just relaxing after the busy winter including the France trip. Am now winding the year of travel up. My book,”Lady Long Rider” is in its final stages and will be out, published by Far Country Press by the time I return to Trego, Montana. I will have signed copies available on the website.
One last stretch remains, Steamboat Springs to Green River Wyoming, then over to Montpelier, Idaho and back into Montana. Three weeks, until then, Happy Trails.
Wyoming, known as the “equality state,” played an important role in the suffrage movement. On December 10th, 1869 women were given the right to vote – some 50 years before the 19th amendment passed in 1920.
Western states led the nation in approving women’s suffrage, but some of them had rather unsavory motives. Though some men recognized the important role women played in frontier settlement, others voted for women’s suffrage only to bolster the strength of conservative voting blocks. In Wyoming, some men were also motivated by sheer loneliness–in 1869, the territory had over 6,000 adult males and only 1,000 females, and area men hoped women would be more likely to settle in the rugged and isolated country if they were granted the right to vote.
“According to a booklet published by the Laramie Plains Museum, “Laramie, Wyoming, Women Made World History,” the first Legislature for the new Wyoming Territory met in October 1869, they passed laws guaranteeing equal pay for male and female teachers and giving individual property rights to married woman.” by Eve Newman – Laramie Boomerang.
Laramie’s, Louisa Gardener Swain, a 70 year old Quaker woman became the first woman in the world to cast a ballot under laws giving women full equality to men on September 6th, 1870.
Martha Symons Boies became the first woman in the world appointed as a bailiff in Laramie in March 1870. In February 1870, three women were commissioned as justices of the peace in Wyoming, although only one, Esther Morris, was known to have actually served as a judge. She tried more than forty cases in the territory. She lost none on appeal and was widely regarded as a good judge, but wasn’t nominated for re-election when her term ended.
Elisa Stewart became the first woman subpoenaed to serve on a court jury. She was also Laramie’s first school teacher. The first women jurors began their service in March or April of 1870. In T. A. Larson’s A History of Wyoming, the author writes that male jurors stopped smoking and chewing tobacco once women began to serve alongside them. Men stopped gambling and drinking during their jury breaks.
It is a state rich in history but the role Wyoming played in the women’s suffrage movement can not be under estimated. We are nearing the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment giving women the right to vote. The more I think about the women who fought with single-minded determination against odds that stagger me I think, remember, remember these historical figures, don’t forget what they did for you.
Laramie, home of the University of Wyoming a beautiful old campus. I saw an old black and white photo of the campus in its infancy. There stood the historic limestone building “Old Main,” standing naked in 1886 like a new born baby all alone. No beautiful tree’s like now, no lovely green, no nothing but a barren landscape. Now 122 years later a proud, picturesque campus exists.
From Lewellen, Nebraska to Laramie,Wyoming
Two-hundred and thirty windy miles between Lewellen Nebraska and Laramie, Wyoming. Nine days of riding, three days held up in Pine Bluff ‘s rodeo grounds waiting out wet, stormy weather. Nebraska’s flat farm country now busy with million dollar tractors – seeding, spraying preparing the great plains soil has given way for Wyoming’s big, windy, audacious cattle country.
When I say, “No I do not travel with a support team,” I have to laugh. I had a team on this short run! Jeanie Grace, Barbara Burns, Rosie Rollin, Thelma Thompson and Deb Sullivan kept tabs on me,
checked up, made camping arrangements and route suggestions. Goodness ladies!!! I am now at the Hal and Barbara Burns residence north of Laramie, they are kindly hosting my stay. The Burns have been in the rodeo stock business for generations providing bucking horses and bulls for the rodeo circuit. The famous bucking bull, “Mr. T” came from Burn’s stock. Hal told me an interesting thing, He said anything western like rodeos and cowboy is a huge draw. The rodeos all across the United States are sell outs, packed audiences but… there are not enough contestants. Cowboy contestants came off ranches to compete. Ranches that work with “real cowboys” are in decline. “We just don’t have the cowboys like we once did” said Hal. Interesting,wonder what will happen?
Inclement weather and roads I planned on riding remain closed due to snow makes travel difficult. Nothing new when one is long riding. I’m inching my way back to Montana.
2008, packing Honor my beautiful grey Thoroughbred . In 2008 I did a 3000 mile ride from Needles, California – east to Nicodemus, Kansas – north to Montana, a 7/8 month ride. My third ride and first ride with a pack horse. Claire Dog now had a horse of her own, Essie Pearl. It was not a hard ride, but riding with two horses did challenge me. I traveled as far east as the National Historic town of Nicodemus, Kansas where I visited historian Angela Bates. From there I headed north by northwest. My route taking us thru Oberlin, Kansas crossing the North Platte River at Ogallala and following the river west to Lewellen, Nebraska. Now 10 years later my route has come full circle.
Now and then: When I rode through the tiny town of Lewellen in 2008 Cynthia and Dennis Miller had not yet established The Most Unlikely Place Cafe and Art Gallery. But they did greet me, a lone rider, looking, I am quite sure – homeless. They invited me into their private home for lunch. I spoke at the senior center which is now a bed and breakfast/motel. I camped in town and the next day rode north on dirt roads which led into the Nebraska Sand Hills. I’d not ridden far when a car passed, slowed to a stop and asked if I needed help. The driver, Sheila Litke was shocked to see a woman in the saddle. Her husband and family lived and worked at the Turner Ranch just up the road. “You’re welcome to stop if you’d like, there are storm warnings out you know, looking very serious.” I had in mind, “more miles, more miles.” But as I rode on it was obvious a serious storm was brewing. I turned around and headed back to the Turner Ranch driveway but an auto-gate stopped me. An auto-gate without a side gate for horses and cattle. About a half mile back I passed an abandoned homestead/church, not sure what the buildings were but it would have to do for shelter. Not long after I had my tent up, (in an open shed with a partial roof with wind whipping madly about) a truck and stock trailer showed up, of course I thought, “Oh no they’re coming to tell me, Hey this is private property, get out.”
Turned out to be local ranchers Pat and Diane Thelander. Sheila had called the Thelanders, told them she’d seen a lone woman riding down the road and now a storm approached, maybe they should go find her. And they did. I was if you can believe it, reluctant to go, “I’ll be ok,” I said. But Pat was pretty insistent, (rancher sensibility.) I spent the night inside while the horses remained dry in the Thelander barn, the storm raged on through the night. I remember it all so well, before falling asleep, worried about the horses being scared, frightened, my not being there to console them. We all survived. The morning brought sunshine, a big ranch breakfast, hay for the horses and a visit from the Litke’s. These are photos Sheila took,( a professional photographer)
How did I land back in Lewellen? Rosie Rollins that’s how. Jeannie Grace and Rosie are long time endurance riding friends. Rosie’s old endurance horse Maple is retired here. Jeannie offered to keep my horses when I rode in France and so here I am back in Lewellen – meeting, with smiles, faces I never thought I would see again and remembering, humbling remembering all that others had done for me. I look at these photos and see a young inexperienced long rider. I am critical of my packing. I laugh at how precariously Claire perched upon the saddle pad, her first year of riding. I only had 9000 miles under my saddle. This time I shared stories with the community of Lewellen from 14 years and 30,000 miles of equestrian travel. Who would have thought.
On April 21st I gave a slide show presentation at “MUP” as the establishment is referred by the locals. The Most Unlikely Place Cafe filled with people curious to hear my stories. Later that day Rosie, Jeannie and I returned to the Cafe for dinner and music. The old building once a theater, a hotel, a meeting hall, still filling with “community.” Warm, friendly music from a 6 piece band, Aspen County entertained a full house. A delicious Mexican meal served up, wine glasses clinked, “cheers.” Dancers danced arm in arm.
And I thought as I looked out at these people who had come together by the eternal magic of food and music, at the beautiful sight of lights, hearing the music filling our hearts and words written, embellishing the upper walls.. humor, believe, sing, care, thrive, integrity, dazzle, harmony, abundance, light , grace, mercy, gratitude. And I thought, “This is the truth.” The truth is here among us in the stories we share in the friends and neighbors and family whose lives we care about. It matters, this coming together for leisure. It matters because it gives a sense of belonging. It matters because brought together like this refreshes our souls, restores our hearts, reminds us to smile and rejoice in community. And I had to say thank you for the Millers who created this lovely space and for the people who filled it and to all the ranchers who have reached out with kindness to help me then… and now.
In the morning I set out on a 600 mile ride across southern Wyoming. Wind and open space await me. Happy Trails
I have breathed the scent of my horses into my lungs. My clothes now covered in shedding horse hair. I wrapped my legs around sturdy bareback, spirited horses and we rode like the fierce Nebraska wind. I am home.
I don’t think I have ever seen Liska Pearl looking better. She has a nice round belly on her. Their winter coats are shedding nicely. Spirit, well Montana Spirit is what we call “an easy keeper.” She looked magnificent. I never, not for one moment ever worried about the horses. They had safe and really luxurious accommodations here at “Graceland,” in the hands of Jeannie and Butch Grace. From the bottom of my heart I thank you both and thank you again. Jeannie and Rosie Rollin are good friends. (see earlier post) Now Jeannie & Butch I claim as…”friends.”
The Journey from Ferme de Fonluc to Lewellen, Nebraska
I take a deep sigh when I recall it from memory, however I recall the journey with a smile.
Lynx, Herbert and Isabelle linked arms around one another, all wearing smiles as I drove off – with two young Frenchmen. Simone driving and Jon Baptiste navigating we left Ferme de Fonluc behind us. Both of my “knights in shining armor,” had taken Lynx’s workshop and were headed back to Paris. My good fortune as I HAD TO HAVE HELP with my 3 – 50# bags of horse-gear. So with a knight in shining armor to my right and one to my left, riding a somewhat aging white steed, but dependable (a 95 Nissan van) we headed north. A 9 hour journey lay ahead of us. This was no hop on a freeway and go. The roads were many as we weaved our way to Paris. Lost? Many times. Chatter in French passed back and forth while I sat between them, silently thinking, “Oh my I do hope these two young men know what they are doing.” Both spoke English. We shared stories, ideas and comments about our countries. Time passed quickly as darkness descended and car lights glared in our eyes. More and more traffic, Paris! There is Paris! The Eiffel Tower, Seine River. Lost again, “No this way,” “No, that way.” Round and round the “round about” until they decided which exit to take. We arrived, well into the night stiff and tired at Jon Baptiste’s house, west of Paris. I lived in a household much like this when I was his age. A house full of youth and laughter and ideas and late nights. A house full, did I count 10? Three floors of young people each had their own rooms all coming and going, working or studying. A big pan of spaghetti boiled on the stove oozing out delicious French aromas as some dance, some did yoga, some sang, all talking at once. OH MY! I am only hopeful when I mix with the energy of healthy, mindful youth.
I went to bed, mentally preparing myself for the upcoming travel. Three short hours later Siimone, John Bapitiste and I were were walking down the street with all my belongings headed for the bus which – we ran for. Simone rode the bus with me, managing a huge pack on his back the other in his hand. We loaded on the bus and Simone said, “Ok that was the easy part.” I could never have managed without his help. Oh MY!! Bags checked in, Simone gives me my last French double cheek kiss. I find the gate, follow through the security and take a deep breath. Goodbye France, thank you. Fourteen hours and three documentaries later. (Dorothea Lange, Rachael Carson and Jane Goodall. Three women. Three brave heroines in my mind. They changed the world, gave their lives in purpose.)
I arrived in Denver, relieved.
Now, remember I had not had more than 5 hours of sleep in two days when I arrived at the Denver International Airport. I simply slowed to tortoise speed. I waited until the last person left the airplane. Walking ever so slowly I followed the baggage claim signs. My mind had ceased thinking. I walked as in a dream. I’d made it. The France ride with Lynx now a fairy-tale memory riding around in my heart.
As I came around the corner, my mind focusing on how I would proceed. The plan I had in mind ? Well, I’d purchased a Greyhound bus ticket, the bus leaving at 8:35 the next morning from downtown Denver, miles away. My clock said 6pm, I had 12 hours,. I’ll hang around the airport and rest before calling a taxi in the morning and make my way to the bus depot. I had it all worked out. I had not figured angel kindness into the plans.
I came around the corner and saw my bags on the ground near the carousal. “Umh, that’s unusual what is going on?” I could not make out the woman standing there, but when I did I nearly fainted. I felt like I’d just met an angel. I said softly, “Jeannie? “Jeannie, you are an angel.”
I had not wanted Jeannie driving the 4 hour freeway trip to the airport from Lewellen, NE. Her and Rosie had taken me to the airport when I flew out 5 weeks ago. And Jeannie and Butch Grace had so taken care of my horses while I rode in France. I could NOT possibly ask her to come get me. I’d thought it all out, I was prepared. AND THEN, and then…..there is Jeannie Grace. Somehow she had found – with the help of a friend and another friend what flight I was arriving on. I chuckled to myself as we loaded the heavy bags into the shuttle bus, “An angel of mercy from Grace land.
Home Again, Home Again Jiggity Jog
The horses and I laughed and hugged one another. I slept inside/ showered!
My tent is now set up in the horse shed – I have half, the horses have the other half. Meadowlarks welcome me in the morning as does a flat treeless horizon shedding light at the brink of dawn. I know many of you must think me crazy, nuts, unstable to love my tent and life with my horses as I do. But that is how it is for me.
The land in central pan-handle of Nebraska is open, windy, treeless with big cattle ranches, wheat fields and irrigated corn and soybeans off the North Platte river. I rode through here in 2008 on a 3000 mile ride. Stayed in Lewellen!. Rode north, not far when a storm came in (a tornado like storm). Pat and Diane Thelander rescued me. They’d brought a trailer out and declared in raging wind, “You have to come in!” (An hour earlier I’d set up camp in an abandoned shed not far from their home.) They’d seen earlier riding down the road.
I now prepare for the ride back to Montpelier, Idaho, 600miles or so. Two months. Where my old 69 Ford still waits for me with a horse trailer attached to it. Then 600miles north to Trego, Montana with truck and trailer, a 5 day drive. Amazing what wheels will do.
Time to say Au revoir (good-bye) and Merci beaucoup (thank you very much)but first let me tell you…
What I liked about Southern France.
the equestrian trails
the food and tiny cups of strong coffee
the cheek kisses
the small farms with beautiful brown cattle resting on green grass
the slower pace
it’s ancient history
no trash on the roads or streets
the gentle rolling green landscape
all the castles
church bells 3 times a day
farmer’s markets all year!
I had originally planned on staying a few more weeks in France but plans changed. Jeannie Grace is taking care of my horses in Nebraska, she FB a couple of days ago…”Your horses miss you.” that was enough. Two months was a bit ambitious. Five weeks, Perfect.
Lynx and I rode very well together. I knew we would. As I told her she may not be the most experienced horsewoman I have ever met but she knew what she was doing and took safety seriously. Her tall spotted horse Karma also did very well. I don’t remember ever having laughed as much as I did with Lynx on our ride.
Return? I very much hope so. (I must also learn more French) How much easier a return trip will be. I have learned a great deal about traveling in France . Herbert Backhaus is German and has peeked my interest in learning more about my German ancestry which came from Hanover, Germany. That would be a must when I return next year. Another ride through France? I do hope so.
First let me thank Lynx Vilden for instigating this journey. For reaching out, snapping a lead rope onto my halter and leading me across the ocean. She is a brave one that one is. We have known each other for nearly 25 years and have enormous respect for each others life work and passions. You can follow her as the navigates the world teaching her Living Wild Workshops at www.lynxvilden.com
Secondly I must, from the bottom of my heart thank Herbert Backhaus and his lovely wife Isabelle at Ferme de Fonlucfonluc.com/contact for their generous slice of hospitality. Herbert does not normally lease horses but with my connection with Lynx and my reputation as a long rider he trusted me and allowed me to take one of his finest horses on a ride. I can’t imagine having taken a better steadfast horse. Ferme de Fonluc also provided me with accommodations in a small “Thoreau cabin” deep in the woods, which quickly felt like home. From my cabin veranda I could see prehistoric rock cliffs and caves across the Les Eyzies river. Rock cliffs and caves where once, 30,000 years ago, people lived and thrived. Herbert and Isabelle also have a lovely guest cottage they rent here at Ferme de Fonluc.
I must also thank Tuckers Saddle Company and Outfitters Supply for getting me and my gear over to France.
My gratitude goes out to the private assistance that came from Burton Robson, “Ann,onymous” and Melisia Deaver Riverea. Thank you Jimmy Prior owner of Sunbody Hat who kindly sent Herbert a hat. To Cashel Company for the fly-protection which we so badly needed. And to Source Micro- nutrients, for added nutrition on this trip, I never ride without it.
Les Eyzies, France
With the invention of graphic communication came for the first time for a message to be transmitted and preserved beyond a single moment in place and time, “Walla” as the French say. Over 350 ice age rock art sites have been found across the European continent. I just happen to land in one the most productive and celebrated areas.
It will take months digesting and sifting through my thoughts after making this trip to Southern France. From Lynx’s stone age workshops to Ferme de Fonluc’s spotted chevals to the et la Grotto prehistoric and la Femme figures, my heart has journeyed places it could never have imagined before.
The timelessness of this area transcends countries, politics, borders and culture. One is left with one thought.. that life is immense, simply immense.
Lynx Vilden’s Living Wild Workshop (one week) isnow underway. I attended the evening circle last night and the night before. How quickly they have bonded into a small tribe. I had wanted of course to take more photos but it all seemed to private to invasive to be there with a camera snapping photos. Lynx’s entirely in skins, bone knife, bone belt buckle leading the class in spoon and bowl making. Using stone age methods with out carving a single thing but by using fire, charcoal and flint. They will learn among other things to gather wild foods, make fire with flint, skin and use hide of sheep and of course share with the use of a talking stick, their stories. They sleep in caves, eat and prepare simple meals together and already in the 3 days they have been here I feel the circle closed to outsiders. Lynx told me this would happen. I won’t attend any more circles but will see them on their last day here at Ferme de Fon Luc. Those attending are from France, Belgium, America, Germany, Holland and South Africa. Ages vary from a 11 to perhaps a 50 year old. I was by far the oldest in the circle last night. I have thought about them out there living so raw and wild and perhaps that is it. The time travel thing again. The world they have stepped into is so ancient, so quiet, so close in relation to one another. There are no distractions only what is right smack in front of them, the sound, smell and touch. I know why they are there, I know why this life of immediacy so attracts them for I am also attracted to it. I have for years submerge myself in it as they are now. I find the enthusiasm these young people exhibit encouraging. They too look for a simpler life creating a world that uses less rather than more and more.
Yesterday Herbert Backhaus, his brother Raymond and his niece Anna and I traveled to Lascaux, France to visit the most celebrated cave in the world. To have left without seeing this amazing display of 30,000 year old artistic accomplishment would be like going to Rome and not visiting the Sistine Chapel. One is left breathless, I have no words to describe the display. On the way home Herbert took us also to see the Prezwalski horses near by at a park that features the ancient breeds drawn on the caves. LOOK at my girls Essie Pearl and Spirit they are the closest living breed to the Prezwalski horse. I AM TIME TRAVELING.
Photos, 1 and 2 …paintings from the caves, #3 The Preswalski horse, #4 my girls and #5 is the horse we saw yesterday.
Lynx and I rode past Josephine Baker’s Chateau.
I have known about this woman for years, having studied about her in dance history. But to have come across this, I could hardly believe my eyes.
Who Was Josephine Baker?
Josephine Baker was a dancer and singer who became wildly popular in France during the 1920s. She also devoted much of her life to fighting racism.
Born Freda Josephine McDonald on June 3, 1906, in St. Louis, Missouri, Josephine Baker spent her youth in poverty before learning to dance and finding success on Broadway. In the 1920s she moved to France and soon became one of Europe’s most popular and highest-paid performers. She worked for the French Resistance during World War II, and during the 1950s and ’60s devoted herself to fighting segregation and racism in the United States.
Josephine Baker did more than just shake a tail feather, she also fought for racial equality by demanding that her contract contain a nondiscrimination clause and that her audiences become integrated.
In 1925 at the peak of France’s obsession with American jazz and all things exotic, Baker traveled to Paris to perform in La Revue Nègre at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées. She made an immediate impression on French audiences when, with dance partner Joe Alex, she performed the Danse Sauvage, in which she wore only a feather skirt.
The money she earned from her performances soon allowed her to purchase an estate in Castellated-Fayrac, in the southwest of France. She named the estate Les Milandes, and soon paid to move her family there from St. Louis.
During World War II Baker worked for the Red Cross during the occupation of France. As a member of the Free French forces she also entertained troops in both Africa and the Middle East. Perhaps most importantly, however, Baker did work for the French Resistance, at times smuggling messages hidden in her sheet music and even in her underwear. For these efforts, at the war’s end, Baker was awarded both the Croix de Guerre and the Legion of Honour with the rosette of the Resistance, two of France’s highest military honors.
Josephine Baker’s Children
Following the war, Baker spent most of her time at Les Milandes with her family. In 1947, she married French orchestra leader Jo Bouillon, and beginning in 1950 began to adopt babies from around the world. She adopted 12 children in all, creating what she referred to as her “rainbow tribe” and her “experiment in brotherhood.” She often invited people to the estate to see these children, to demonstrate that people of different races could in fact live together harmoniously.
Return to the U.S., Civil Rights Advocate
During the 1950s, Baker frequently returned to the United States to lend her support to the Civil Rights Movement, participating in demonstrations and boycotting segregated clubs and concert venues. In 1963, Baker participated, alongside Martin Luther King Jr., in the March on Washington, and was among the many notable speakers that day. In honor of her efforts, the NAACP eventually named May 20th “Josephine Baker Day.” After decades of rejection by her countrymen and a lifetime spent dealing with racism, in 1973 Baker performed at Carnegie Hall in New York and was greeted with a standing ovation. She was so moved by her reception that she wept openly before her audience. The show was a huge success and marked Baker’s comeback to the stage..
In April 1975, Josephine Baker performed at the Bobino Theater in Paris, in the first of a series of performances celebrating the 50th anniversary of her Paris debut. Numerous celebrities were in attendance, including Sophia Loren and Princess Grace of Monaco, who had been a dear friend to Baker for years. Just days later, on April 12, 1975, Baker died in her sleep of a cerebral hemorrhage. She was 68. On the day of her funeral, more than 20,000 people lined the streets of Paris to witness the procession, and the French government honored her with a 21-gun salute, making Baker the first American woman in history to be buried in France with military honors.