L. Neil Smith's
Number 315, April 17, 2005

"It won't be long now!"

Cross-Continent for a Cause
by C. D. Tavares

Special to TLE

For a little over a week we've been hosting a Long Rider on a mission.

Skinny as a rail and pure cowboy to the toes of his boots, Texan Howard Wooldridge is a retired cop on a cross-country ride from California to Manhattan. He figures he'll get there by late October, maybe early November. And this is not his first such trip.

Howard is the US coordinator of the Long Riders' Guild, an invitation-only organization of "equestrian explorers," each of whom have ridden more than 1,000 continuous miles on a single horseback journey. This is at least Howard's third time crossing the US, his most recent ride having been from Savannah GA to Newport OR in 2002.

On their arrival on March 29, both Howard and his mount, Misty, were showing the strains of the road. Howard was about ten pounds light, and quite weather-burned. Misty was limping, exhausted, and close to being rubbed bald under the saddle fenders. Her hooves were chipped and perforated (a consequence of road wear, aggravated by some inexpert horseshoeing earlier in the trip). Both horse and rider were badly in need of a "Liberty Haven Serenity Break." And Howard is adamant that the well-being of the horse always comes first.

Since the Bunkhouse was occupied, we put Howard up in our 29-foot travel trailer—all the comforts of home, plus cold drinks in the fridge. We brought Misty down to the lower corral, where she could get some rest without being subjected to our geldings' usual dominance rituals. Howard explained to us that Misty rests best lying down, but she won't lie down if she's alone in a corral, because she feels she has to stay on guard. No problem—we drafted Burrito to be her companion and bodyguard for the week (since he gets along with everybody). Although he clearly missed his pals, he and Misty got along famously.

Howard isn't crossing this continent just "because it's there"—he's making this ride on behalf of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. LEAP is an association of current and retired police officers who believe that America can best solve its national drug-crime problem by ending drug prohibition, much as it solved its very first national crime problem by ending alcohol prohibition. Howard's usual way of putting it is to say he believes that the most productive way to address drug use is through doctors and clinics, not judges and prisons.

So his ride across America is really an opportunity for him to address as many newspaper reporters, talk show hosts, Rotary clubs, chambers of commerce, and community access channels as he can, all the while making progress towards the east coast. In the week or so he's been with us, he's delivered his pitch almost a dozen times in Wickenburg, Phoenix, and Tempe—sometimes on radio or in the papers, but most often face to face with community businessmen and other pillars of local society. Howard says that every time someone comes up to him after such a talk and says, "I'm representative so-and-so, or city attorney so-and-so, or such-and-such a member of the Governor's Council—and I agree with everything you just said," he knows he is making a difference towards making America a safer and more compassionate society.

During Howard's week here, we had Misty manicured by our farrier, Wayne Gossett, who also applied shoes in the rear using existing nail holes ("This man has amazing skills, don't ever lose him," said Howard). We put Howard in touch with the president of our local horsemen's association, who recommended a particular brand of incredibly tough rubber horse boots for Misty's front hooves, which should serve her in place of horseshoes at least halfway across the continent. (Trust me, listening to a Texas cop discussing Australian horse boots with a Swiss cowboy in fluent German is a mind-expanding experience.)

Howard got to relax and have some fun playing with our retrievers while he waited for the boots to arrive Monday. Misty regrew her hair adequately. Jeanne managed to put most of those ten pounds back on Howard with a string of her wonderful home-cooked dinners. And because we believe strongly in Howard's cause, all of it was on us.

Tomorrow, at 5 AM, Howard and Misty leave us—both completely refreshed, regenerated, and ready for the next leg onto Albuquerque. Our good wishes go with them, and you can be assured we'll be following the rest of his ride very closely.

If you'd like to give Howard and Misty some additional assistance for their ride, you can make a tax-deductible donation to LEAP at http://www.leap.cc/donate.htm—mark it for the benefit of "Howard's Ride."

If anyone along Howard's route can offer Howard and Misty a meal or a place to stay, arrange it in advance with Norma Sapp at (405) 321-4619. Howard is a mensch of an outdoorsman, but nobody should have to spend too many nights sleeping in an open horse trailer.

Escape the Rat Race for Peace, Quiet, and Miles of Desert Beauty Take a Sanity Break at The Bunkhouse at Liberty Haven Ranch http://libertyhavenranch.com
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