While the west is still there:

Uncovering America by Horseback

By —— Bio and Archives--November 25, 2007

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Bill Inman, #Not since Roy Rogers and “Trigger” have a cowboy and his loyal horse loomed so largely on the American landscape.

But Roy and the beloved Trigger are long gone, although their legend lives on at the Roy Rogers/Dale Evans Museum, which Roy Rogers Jr. who manages it says draws some 200,000 visitors each year. 

  After Trigger died at age 33, his hide was stretched over a plastic likeness and put on display. And as the official Roy Rogers/Dale Evans website points out, “Trigger is mounted and not stuffed”.


King of the Cowboys Roy Rogers would have liked rancher Bill Inman, who, when he decided to show there’s more to America than what’s being seen on the nightly news, hopped on his horse, “#” and just started riding.

  And as rancher Inman would put it, “and riding, and riding.”

  Discouraged by the daily news reports about war, crime, poverty and other sundry political news, Inman and his wife sacrificed their life’s savings to go out onto the trail and report back how some Americans are still living.  Theirs is a living documentation of honest, hardworking and everyday people working to keep body and soul together in rural America, which folk don’t get to see much of on CNN.

  #, a 16-year-old thoroughbred-quarter horse, earns his oats.  The noble beast with the cowboy on top is averaging some 20-25 miles a day along the backroads—all the way from Oregon to North Carolina.

  From a lifetime of outdoor fresh air, Inman, 48, had enough get up and go to start off June 2 from his hometown of Lebanon, Ore.  Halfway through his cross-country trek, dubbed Uncovering America by Horseback, he’s already put in more than 1,700 miles. 

A fellow blessed with a good wife, his wife Brenda, also 48, drives ahead in a pickup and horse trailer filled with water and provisions for #, three dogs and themselves.

  While the nightly news portrays an America dominated by politicians and criminals, rural America is still rising with the sun and not going to bed until long after sundown.

  But urban sprawl has come a long way since the days of Roy Rogers and the times, well they’re a-changing.

  “The scenery in America is changing and I’m really proud we’re taking a snapshot in slow motion of this time period because 20 years from now it will be different,” Inman told Fox News.

  This is not your usual trip to Hawaii.  The couple knew before ever leaving that the journey would cost them about $45,000.  Their intentions are to make a documentary and write a book, and a filmmaker and a Web site operator are along for the painstaking trip.

  With the kind of perception only a cowboy could lay claim to, Inman said if they had waited until they could afford to do it, they would never do it.

  “It was now or never to do it,” Brenda said.  “We gave everything up in our lives to do this.  We used all our savings and everything else.”

  Adds Bill: “It’s probably the most stupid thing I’ve ever done financially, but I truly believe in it.”

  From the very outset, the trek has meant meeting interesting people who come to greet him along the way.  And as any cowboy worth his stirrups can tell you, real people are always more interesting than the ones they make up on television.

  There’s the Dodge City man who never got out of Dodge because he’s been too busy collecting bridle bits, spurs and barbed wire.  An “I-believe-in-the-West” Wyoming deputy sheriff who drove 25 miles through a rain storm to bring dinner to the Inmans where they were camped, and the bittersweet story of the Wyoming woman who gave Bill a pair of stirrups she bought as a Christmas present for her grandson before he was killed in a car wreck.

  In other words, life out on the trail is the real life of real people where tragedy is sometimes the norm. 

  Ranching has been a big part of Bill’s life and he’s got the boots with spurs, a sweat-stained Stetson and the weathered face to prove it.

  At all stops along the way, Bill, Brenda and # count on media coverage and word-of-mouth to let people know they’re there.

  A typical Jack-of-all-Trades, Bill was raised on a Texas farm.  He’s worked cattle, herded wild horses and managed a ranch on an Indian reservation in Nevada before moving to Oregon last year and selling horses.  He’s also an auctioneer and has done horse shoeing for nearly 30 years.

  Among those who thought it worthwhile to catch up with the lone rider crossing rural America was Kurly Hebb, former rodeo cowboy and Kansas Cowboy Hall of Fame member.

  “He’s got my respect.  I can tell from talking to him he’s going to make it.  Just be a cowboy, that’s all you got to do,” said Hebb, now an area rancher.

  Special relationships, some destined to last a lifetime, are happening along the way.  When Bill and Brenda came to a restaurant in Fall River owned by John Cross, looking for a place to say, she found a place for them to spend the night and allowed her 4-year-old son, Kadyn Covey, to ride with Inman the next day.

  “The diversity he has unveiled is a lot of forgotten heritage in this country.  It’s a great eye opener for anybody who runs into him,” Cross said.

  Another Idaho rancher is e-mailing the progress of the journey to his son in Iraq.

  “There is nothing like riding across the nation to learn about the people of this country,” he said.

  With his trusty horse, Inman has already passed through Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado and most of Kansas at the time of this writing.  On the long road ahead are Missouri, Tennessee and North Carolina, where he hopes to put up for Christmas at his wife’s family in Hendersonville.

  The Inmans often rely on strangers since they don’t have national sponsors to underwrite them. 

Sometimes it’s a homemade meal cooked by a farmer’s wife, sometimes it’s a warm place to sleep, some cash, or donated feed for the hardworking #, who can put away about 20 pounds of high-fat feed daily.

  “Do I wish a national firm would grab hold and help out,” Inman muses from time to time. “You bet.  I don’t want it too easy, I just want it a little easier.”

  Like in everyday life, there have been some bad things about the trip.  Easing through from temperatures ranging from 108 degrees to freezing, mosquitoes, hornets, water shortages, crossing treacherous mountains and scorching desert, even riding through a lightning storm have all come to pass.  But there have been no bad experiences involving people.

  “Nope, there are no bad people in this play,” says Inman.

  Like Roy and Trigger, Bill and # have bonded since he bought the thoroughbred in 2001.

  “I know his capabilities and I know his flaws and I think the can say the same thing for me,” he said. 
“Now if you think we’re constantly kissing buddies, I don’t think so.  Do I brag about him a lot? Yeah.”

  And that’s just the way it should be between a man and his horse; a man and his horse riding through an America that may have faded from the scene in 20 years.


Judi McLeod -- Bio and Archives | Comments

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Judi McLeod is an award-winning journalist with 30 years’ experience in the print media. A former Toronto Sun columnist, she also worked for the Kingston Whig Standard. Her work has appeared on Rush Limbaugh, Newsmax.com, Drudge Report, Foxnews.com.

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