Sunday July 8 – The big day.
I am tired, nervous and very emotional. Everything I have been working on for the past year has come down to this – my departure from the Calgary Stampede.
As I tack up my horses I can’t help but think of Aime Tschiffely, who inspired this dream, and what was going through his head in 1925. Was he as nervous as I was before he left?
Since the first time my father told me the tale of “Tschiffely’s ride” I had imagined the Swiss School Teacher saddling his horses Mancha and Gato in Buenos Aires. I could see him throwing the saddles on. The horses getting nervous. The media snapping shots.
Now, here I am. Standing in the boots of the Legendary Long Rider who gave birth to JourneyAmerica. Saddling my own horses.
Just after 11am my horses are tacked and I stand in line with four members of the RCMP Musical Ride. What a feeling to have such an important cavalry unit see me out of the Stampede Park. As I wait for the media to take photos I talk to the men and women around me about another Legendary Long Rider, Roger Pocock. An Englishman, Pocock came to Canada to become a Mountie. After his time in the service he rode the entire length of the Outlaw trail, unarmed, from Fort Macleod to Mexico City. Along his 3,600 mile journey he met numerous outlaws including Buch Cassidy. Pocock’s fearless act is an inspiration for JourneyAmeria and I will have the pleasure of visiting Fort Macleod where he began his trek south.
After the pictures are taken and I speak to the media it’s time to leave. I say goodbye to my girlfriend & friends and ride my horses out of Calgary. I have no idea where I will stay or with who, all I know is I need to follow highway 2 south.
As I get far away from town I begin to think about this past year and all of the planning! I am so thankful to have had the amazing support of the Long Riders Guild. They put me in contact with some of the most important Long Riders of our day. Without them I would be nothing! CuChullaine and Basha O’Reilly, Bernice Ende, Pedro Luis de Aguiar, Stan Walchuk, Bonnie Folkins, Allen Russell, Katie Russell, Orion Kraus, Gunter Wamser, Andi Mills are just some of the Long Riders who helped me. These are men and women who have climbed into the saddle to carve a path into the unknown. I was lucky to have been able to learn an abundance from them and their journeys 🙂 I also have the pleasure of carrying the Long Riders Guild flag with me during my trip!
At 6pm I am just outside of Okotoks and decide it would be a good idea to call it a night. We stop at a farm on Highway 2 to ask if the three of us can stay over. The Buscholl’s agree to host us for the night. Special thanks to them.
The next few days were extremely hot. That has been the hardest part thus far. The heat gets to be unbearable from 11am – 2pm. There is no breeze and not a tree to be found on the road. I have been walking a lot to give Bruiser a break!
People have been super nice to me along the way. I met a cowboy in High River who rode with me, an elderly woman stopped to give me a cold coke on the side of the road and a man from Denver even made a donation. These are just a few examples of the generosity I have experienced so far.
My third day on the road I got the opportunity to meet a very special cowgirl by the name of Jennifer White. Along with her daughter Heather, she owns and operates the Oxley Ranch. Established in 1882 it is one of the oldest cattle Ranches in Western Canada. With over 2500 acres Jennifer raises anywhere between 125-150 head of cows.
It’s a lifestyle and you have to want it more than anything… You have to want it more than a trip to the bahamas,” said Jennifer as she sat in her veranda.
Life on a cattle ranch can be hard, but Jennifer finds power in those who came before her. She is a 4th generation lady running this exact ranch.
“I pray that they’re proud of me, I hope I do them justice,” she says as she mentions her strong connection with the matriarcs who came before her.
“When I ride around this Ranch I can feel their energy,”
Aside from running the cattle Ranch, Jennifer also offers tours around her historic property. Her hope is to share a little bit of her reality with others who may not be as lucky as her.
“I enjoy sharing the ranch with people. I made a promise to the universe that if I could live here I would share it.
I wish to bring the awereness to the fragile ecosystem along the eastern slopes because it is rapidly being gobbled up by development and other things… I feel as if it is my dudy as a good stewardess of the land” Jennifer said as a spark was lit in her eyes.
I am so thankful for meeting this wonderful cowgirl. A powerful woman who still holds the essence of life. A harmony with the universe and all that is natural. An understanding of life and death. What is real. Truly a breath of fresh air.
My second day at the Ranch I had the tremendous opportunity to join Jennifer and her father at his branding. This was one of the items on my bucket list for a long time so it was a very special day. Her father is 83-years-old and still cowboys up!