Day 46 – Sunday, April 27, 2014
We woke up this morning to a different forecast than when we went to bed. They were now predicting wind and some rain so we packed up quickly to get on the road to try and beat the worst of it. We left Clarence’s pens in Campo and headed north on 385/287 towards Springfield.
When we got about 3 miles out the wind kicked up and Winston was already cold. He changed into what I call his Ernest Shackleton hat which is actually mine that I used when I worked on a movie in the Austrian Alps. It looks like he is going to Antarctica when he wears it, but it is warm. Today he needed it! We went another mile and then we could see a wall of brown up ahead and Winston pointed and said, “Is that dust??”
I hoped it wasn’t but sadly it was and visibility went down considerably. I could barely see Winston behind me it was so thick at times. Once he came riding up and DB saw the RV and started trotting and Winston’s hat blew off his head and tumbleweed were blowing across the road and it looked like something out of a movie. When we got to 5 miles it started raining and that helped with the dust but it was blowing sideways. It was stinging Winston on the left side of his face and he was soaking wet from his hat to his boots on his left side but completely dry on his right. The tumbleweeds were hitting them from the side too and they were like missiles blowing across the road and they feel like stickers when they hit your skin. I was pulled over and the wind was shaking the RV and when the trucks would pass it would shake pretty badly. Dirt was coming into the RV through the window on the side by the screen and I was trying to cover it up with paper towels to keep it out. Dirt was all over the dash because it was coming through the vents.
I looked at the radar and the weather alert on my phone said there were sustained winds of 37 mph and gusts of 60mph. Winston had been walking Durango for the last few miles and DB tucked his head between Winston’s right arm and Winston’s body to shield him from the wind and rain. Every once in a while he would peek around Winston and then put his head back in the crook of Winston’s elbow right up against him. It was like he was checking to see if it was any better. It wasn’t. I had just radioed to Winston and told him that I thought it was getting too dangerous and we should try and find shelter. Looking around us though, there was nothing in view. He was going to ride and catch up with me and we would decide what to do. My phone has not had great service since we got into Oklahoma and Colorado but all of sudden it rang to say I had a voice mail. I was able to listen to the message and it was Cheryl Webb from the Blue Rose Horse Rescue Ranch where we were going to be staying tonight. Our friends Tawny and Trevor had given us a contact in Springfield named Amber and we were going to call and see if she had a place but before I even called her Cheryl had called and said they wanted to host us. I didn’t know it but Amber had called them to see if they would host us since she was going to be out of town. Amber had been a neighbor of Trevor’s growing up. Amber said that Cheryl and John had been excited to be able to help us. So, when Cheryl called she said that she and her husband John were checking on us to make sure that we weren’t riding in this wind and if we were they were going to come rescue us! I was able to call Cheryl back and she told us that there was a church about 4 miles up that we could get behind to get a wind break and they would get their trailer and meet us at the church. I told her when I heard her voice mail I wanted to cry I was so happy that they were coming to help us. I radioed to Winston to tell him that we had to make it 4 more miles and we would be safe. DB tucked his head behind Winston and trudged ahead to the church. It got a little worse before we got there but it was also closer than we had originally calculated. The church was the Sandy Soil Church of Christ. When Winston caught up with me he was covered in mud and he laughed out loud at the name of the church! Winston got out of all the wet clothes, socks, hat and boots and felt better with dry clothes on. I created a wind block with the RV for them to stand between that and the church and then I fixed Winston some hot coffee and lunch and the sun actually came out for a little while to warm it up a little. When church let out, a man named Bob Grogan came out to check on us and invited us to have lunch in the church with them. We had just eaten and we told him that John and Cheryl were coming to pick us up. He was so nice and we enjoyed visiting with him. When John and Cheryl showed up, we had done 8 miles that day and Winston said it seemed like 88 miles! He told them that he had never worked so hard to get to a church in his life!
We got DB in the trailer and headed to the Blue Rose Ranch and to safety. John and Cheryl own an amazing horse rescue and adoption facility and they were so kind to come and get us and bring us to a safe place. We could tell that they had genuinely been worried about us out on the road and we really appreciated their concern. This facility founded by them in 2007 rescues horses from situations of neglect or crisis and they try to adopt them out. Cheryl used to be a professional ballerina and she was on a horse drill team and she is a retired teacher. John is an amazing musician and has been a successful business man and private pilot for years in the Denver area. They moved out to Springfield, CO to commit themselves full time to this endeavor. It is a first rate operation. Durango really liked his new place and was so thankful to be out of the wind. We were already afraid it would be hard to tear him away from the barn tomorrow. The wind was still whipping like crazy. These people out here must be a lot tougher than me because there is no way I could endure this wind on a daily basis. We went up to their lovely house and Cheryl let me wash clothes and we had hot tea and coffee to warm up and we talked about the journey and their horse rescue operation and we got to learn more about them. We met their dog Pepper and she was so excited to have Hart as a playmate! We had to kick them outside for a while because they were so excited! Winston found out that they had a piano and he was dying to play for a little while. Cheryl told us that they had invited some friends over to have dinner with us tonight and we were happy that we were going to meet some other people from Springfield as well. I had to run to Dollar General for some supplies so Winston stayed and played piano while Cheryl cooked.
When I got back, it was almost time for the guests to arrive so we fed DB and got supplies put away and then went in to meet their friends. We met Ginger and her husband Van and their daughter Lizzie. They are both school teachers at Springfield high school and Lizzie is finishing her junior year. Then Joe and Norma came over and they were so sweet! We talked about the journey and got to know about them also. We loved meeting these lovely, sincere friends. I learned that it had been Lizzie’s birthday on Friday the day before mine. So, John got out his banjo and played and they all sang Happy birthday to us! Then as John said the blessing, I was overwhelmed with thanks to God for blessing us with these new friends. Cheryl had set this beautiful table for us and made an amazing meal and Norma also brought ribs that she had cooked. Everything was delicious! We had the best time sharing stories from the journey and they told us stories about the area and we had such an enjoyable meal together. Then after dinner Cheryl asked if Winston would play the piano for everyone and he was so happy to do it. We all gathered around the piano and made requests and he played and we sang and they sang Happy Birthday to Lizzie and I again!! John even got out his trumpet and he and Winston played a duet of the song "Misty." We had so much fun with these down to earth, fun people and then we called it a night around 10pm. We had to get on the road early and we were going to try and make it about 21 miles tomorrow but we knew that we were going to be on the side of the road at a truck pullout because there was not a whole lot on that road and we couldn’t make it all the way to Lamar. Cheryl had a room set up for us with a bed and a claw foot bathtub and a shower!! We usually like to sleep in the RV since it is easier with all our stuff in one place and we like to keep an eye on DB at night but we decided to stay in the house and sleep in a real bed!! It was awesome! It was the first real bed we had slept in since March 9th!!
Day 47 – Monday, April 28, 2014
We woke up and started preparing to leave Blue Rose Ranch. Cheryl and John were so nice they said that if we got down the road and it didn’t seem safe at the truck pull off then to just call them and they would come pick us up and put a stake in the ground where we were and just trailer us back in the morning! So nice! We took some photos and then Winston and I headed to the barn to get DB ready to go. We tried hard to get a photo of Hart and Pepper together but they were constantly moving!
When we were feeding Durango, one of their rescue horses was right next to Durango. It was a horse named Shoshony and they rescued him from a neglect situation and I had tears in my eyes looking at this horse. They have put 75 pounds on him since they rescued him and I cannot honestly imagine someone letting a horse or any animal for that matter get to this point. It broke my heart. When I walked up to the fence, he came right to me and put his nose up by the fence for me to pet him. He just wanted love and it is a shame that this sweet horse wasn’t being given love or even food for that matter. He is in good hands now and I hope that he makes a full recovery.
Cheryl and John headed to town but told us to call if we needed anything at all. We were sad to say goodbye to them so we just said we will see you down the road! It was a beautiful day as we started heading out.
Durango was hesitant to leave at first because of the other horses and kept trying to go backwards. Eventually he started moving forward and we were making pretty good time. After about 6 miles he decided that he no longer wanted to go forward. Winston really had to work with him to get him to go. I know it was getting so frustrating for Winston and I felt helpless because there was nothing I could do but watch him struggle with Durango. It was a battle of wills. At one point I had gone ahead and there was a bridge that I was checking out to see if he could go down below to cross. I had walked down to see if there was a fence and left my walkie and phone in the RV. When I got back to the RV, I had four texts from Winston saying to come back. Winston carries his phone on a pouch around his ankle and it is never on unless he can’t reach me and there is an emergency. I doubled back and he said that DB was locking up his back legs and would not go forward. He would get on him and try and spur him on and DB would turn his head and bite his boot. He would not walk or ride forward at all.
I got out of the RV thinking he might follow me but he wouldn’t do that either. We were thinking that something must be medically wrong and we were afraid to make him move. I told Winston that maybe we should get him back to the RV and see if he would drink more water thinking maybe it was that he was getting dehydrated or something even though it wasn’t hot and he hadn’t been working that hard. As soon as we turned backwards to go to the RV, he started trotting!! Then we knew he was just playing us! He wanted to go back to the barn we had left!! We thought he finally understood the concept of moving forward each day but today he decided he wanted to go back. We had spent 45 minutes trying to coax him forward and debating what our options were if he was sick or hurt. We are not vets so we do not ever want to do anything that will jeopardize his health. We are not sure how to deal with his stubborn head!! So, once we knew he wasn’t hurt then I just would pull about a mile ahead so he could still see the RV and then to punish Winston he would trot the whole way there. Winston didn’t want to stop him because he had been trying to get him to go all day so he just suffered through it. Durango has a rough trot and even when Winston posts to try and break the choppiness, it still looks like someone is dribbling a basketball when they are trotting. I knew Winston was going to be sore later. We made up some lost time and we had a few other times when he would just turn backwards and Winston would have to be really persuasive to get him to go forward. This road was tricky because to pull off on the side of the road, it was muddy and steep so I could only pull off on the concrete pull outs that they had every mile or two. Today was by far one of our toughest days so far, not because of the elements but because Winston had to fight DB for every mile today. I don’t have children of my own but I think it would have been one of those days that I would have wanted to shake them and say, “What is wrong with you today?!?” Which I would never do in real life, but you can surely think it! We knew we had about four more miles to get to the truck pull off rest area and that would be another two hours or so and then we weren’t even sure there would be any kind of pole to tie Durango up. I was pulled over on the side of the road and Winston and DB were standing outside of the RV and like a movie I saw a truck pulling a horse trailer over the rise in the pasture we were standing in front of. There wasn’t even a road there. I thought that I was parked in the driveway they were going to be coming out of so I pulled up. But, the man pulled up by the fence and said, “My name is Don Emick, I am heading to town but I have some cattle pens about a mile up if you need a place to camp you are welcome to them.” We felt like we had won the lottery! I couldn’t even imagine how this man could have seen us from where he was coming from in the back pasture but I was so grateful. I went ahead to check the pens out and they were full of tumbleweeds so I started clearing them out. Winston got there a little while later and finished clearing the pen. While we were standing there a white truck drove up and we thought, “oh great we must be at the wrong pens.” But, he got out and said, “I’m Don’s brother Kenny and Don said y’all might need some hay.” Truly unbelievable! A few minutes later their cousin Brett pulled up and he said I heard about y’all last night on facebook. My wife is friends with someone who is following your blog. We talked to them for a while and they each gave me their cell phone numbers in case we needed anything. The Emick’s land is part of a Wind Turbine Park and there are hundreds of these enormous wind turbines all around. You can’t get a sense of how big they are until you see a person in front of them. When I took a photo of Winston riding in front of them you could get a sense of the scale of these large windmills. You have to look closely to even spot him under the windmills in the photo! We got DB settled and ate actually went to sleep at 9pm. Today was mentally and physically grueling and we were exhausted.
Day 48 – Tuesday, April 29, 2014
About 5am I woke up to alerts coming in on my phone with high wind alerts for our area. They were saying there would be wind gusts of 65 mph!! Craziness!! The RV was already rocking and we realized that we were in a high spot up on a hill. It was probably why the wind turbines were here. We looked out and DB was pacing in the pen and wasn’t sure what to make of the high winds. Winston had created a wind break for him with a piece of plywood but he wasn’t standing by it. The tumbleweed was now flying over the fence and pelting him in the head and he would start running around like he didn’t know what was going on. I went out to check on him and calm him down a little. He would run around and then he would start eating hay off the ground so I think he was just wondering what the heck was going on. His pen was also starting to fill up with tumbleweed again. Winston decided that he would feed him to get him settled down. It was now about 7am and it was clear that we couldn’t stay up here but we also knew we couldn’t leave since DB and Winston wouldn’t even be able to walk in these winds. We noticed the wind turbines were shutting down and we figured that couldn’t be a good sign. I decided to call Kenny and I was hoping he was awake and I wanted to see if he knew anyone that we could pay to come and trailer us to a safe place where Durango could be out of the wind. We were supposed to be headed to a RV park with a horse motel today or to the Fairgrounds. Kenny didn’t answer but he did call me back after I left a message. He said we can come in about an hour and get you to a safe spot. I texted John and Cheryl to tell them we were getting trailered to a safe spot because I knew they were worried about us since they knew we were out in this today. She was glad to know that we were getting help. We had heard that after 9am it was going to be worse. Kenny called Don and asked him to come get us since he had been delayed. In the meantime, we had taken DB out of the pen and we pulled the RV up to the fence at an angle and let him get in the little triangle out of the wind. He just stood with his butt by that front window until the trailer got there.
I did not feel comfortable driving the RV in this wind so I rode with Don in his truck with Durango in the back in the horse trailer and Winston drove the RV. Don told us that the wind turbines shut off for safety when they have sustained winds of 56 mph. Wow! They were almost all off right now. I thanked Don over and over again and told him I was so sorry that he had to come out in this to get us. He said, don’t worry about that, I have to drive cattle to Kansas tomorrow in this wind. Like I said, these people are a lot tougher than me. I have never been in wind like this in my life. I could not even open the door to the truck to go and close the gate. I had to prop my body in between the door to wedge it open. When we got on the road, I put my seatbelt on and was clutching the seat. Don was driving and did not seem fazed at all by the hundreds of tumbleweed flying across the windshield. Hundreds of them every few minutes kept blowing across the road. Winston said he was white knuckling the steering wheel of the RV when he was driving. Don explained to me on the way to Lamar about the tumbleweeds and why they are so prevalent right now. There is a catch 22. The tumbleweed need about one good summer rain to start growing but if there are cattle out in the pastures then they eat the tumbleweed when it is a small green plant and it doesn’t grow. But, because of the drought there is a lot less cattle and some lands they are not allowed to graze cattle on because of government mandates so it grows and then breaks away once the wind storms start. This area was ground zero for the Dust Bowl days in the Dirty Thirties and they say that it is worse now than in the 30s. We heard that the walls of dust had caused dozens of accidents yesterday when visibility had been so low. Don asked me about Jonathan and about the journey and he thought that it was an amazing thing that Winston was doing to honor Jonathan. He told me that yesterday when we had been heading towards Lamar, one of his niece’s best friends had passed away of a type of bone cancer. She was 14 years old and she had been fighting it for two years. Her name was Janea Aguilera. He said that he could not make sense out of a young person dying of cancer. He thought Jonathan was too young and now Janea. I couldn’t help but think of how short her life was. She was only in 8th grade. Life is just not fair sometimes. She had a dream of going to prom and her older brother who graduated last year arranged for her to be able to go to the senior prom on Saturday night with him as her date and chaperone since she was only in 8th grade. What a wonderful last gift he gave to her! You can see in the two photos of them from facebook that she looked beautiful and it looked like she had the time of her life at prom!
She passed away Monday morning and this whole town is grieving for the loss of this beautiful girl gone way too soon. Her spirit and her light though I know have touched all of their lives and I hope and pray that it will keep burning in all of them to keep her memory alive. And I know she is no longer in pain and is now watching out for them. We are praying for her family and all of her friends that God grants them peace and that they can smile through their tears thinking of all of their fond memories with her.
We checked out the Fairgrounds but the pens had a top covering but no wind break so we asked Don if he could bring us to the Lamar Sportsman RV Park and Horse Motel because we knew it had a barn for Durango. He brought us over there and it was a perfect set up for Durango and we could also hook up and dump the RV and be safe too. Winston’s mom had mentioned this place to us and our friends Jason and Sarah Swain in Dalhart had also sent us contact information for the owner Stacie Smith. We were so thankful to be safe and we couldn’t thank Don enough. We tried to pay him for gas money but he wouldn’t take it. He said he was happy to help us. Kindness is alive and well and God delivers it when you need it the most. I went in and met Stacie and told her what we were doing and gave her a pamphlet and she told us spot 12 would be good for us and to make DB comfortable in the barn. The wind had gotten so bad that it was hard to even walk in a straight line. Stacie didn’t even take a credit card or anything, she said we would settle once we knew if we were staying a second night since they were predicting winds again tomorrow. We met Stacie’s mom, Mary Lee and found out that she was a breast cancer survivor. Stacie and her dad own this RV Park and it is such a great place if you are ever on this highway. They are so nice and accommodating. When we pulled into our slot, the RV in front of us had my brother’s initials on it! Thanks K.C. for watching out for us!! We got Durango set up in the barn and then we headed to the truck stop just down the road to get some food. When we got there the name of it was Rancher’s! That was also the name of a favorite place of Winston and Jonathan’s to eat in Gatesville! You could tell the wind was bad by the number of truckers lined up at the restaurant. We heard they had closed highways north of us and that eighteen wheelers had overturned. We were so thankful to be off the road and that DB was safe in a barn. We ate a great meal and then looked up and Winston saw John and Cheryl from Blue Rose Ranch! They were headed to Denver because it was so windy that they couldn’t do any outdoor work today. We enjoyed meeting up with them and visiting again!
We ran a few errands and then headed back to the RV Park. I had been talking to a girl named Kristin Reyher who had been helping us try to find places north of Lamar. Kristin was friends with Trevor’s sister in law Jaimie. They asked her through facebook if she would help us. She was so sweet and she told us that she found us a place north of Wiley and then one of her contacts knew some people up by Eads. She also wanted to bring us a hot meal on Wednesday night since we knew now we would be staying another day. I loved that she wanted to be a part of our story! I told her we would love that. She asked if we were allergic to anything and Winston said, “Just dirt!” Ha! She gave me the name of the lady we would be staying with on Thursday night and her name was Lynette Colvin. The radio station in Dalhart had passed on our information to the station in Lamar so we called them to see if they wanted to talk to Winston since we were holding over. We spoke to Cory Forgue at KVAY and he said to come in tomorrow. I didn’t mention that in the office of the RV Park, Stacie is a cosmetologist and has a hair salon! She was cutting some of the high school baseball players hair and Winston asked if she could cut his tomorrow because it is getting too fuzzy!! She said she had openings in the morning. We went and had dinner at a local restaurant called BJ's burgers, had hot showers at the RV park and then called it a night.
Day 49 - Wednesday, April 30, 2014
Happy Birthday to my cousin Bronwyn!! I love you so much and hope you have an amazing day full of love and happiness!
We slept great and did not wake up to wind whistling through the top of the RV! We went and checked with Stacie for a time to get Winston’s haircut and I asked her about trimming mine. She said we could come in after our interview with the radio station. We went and had breakfast together and then went to the feed store to get hay and then stopped by the Visitor Center because Don Emick told us that he and his father restore old windmills and there was a giant one on display there. It was beautiful. We visited with the ladies at the Visitor Center and they loved hearing about the journey. We went to the radio station and met Cory and he interviewed Winston and then we also met Deb Ellis the General Manager of the station and they were both so kind to us.
We got back to the RV park and let Durango out into the pasture next to the barn which was fenced in and had green grass! We are watching two sore spots on him from the saddle pad still. I have been diligently cleaning them every day and we are hoping two days without the saddle will help. He still doesn’t act like they hurt him when you touch them but they are definitely spots that the hair has been rubbed away. I think it is just what almost 700 miles will do. We really want to finish this ride with Durango though so we are trying to do everything in our power to keep these from getting worse or where they start hurting him. After we cleaned him off and put some medicine on him then we went to get our hair cut!
It was a total unexpected luxury and so great! So, I asked Stacie how much it was and she told me a price that I knew could not possibly be for both of us. She said it was and so I gave her the money and a good tip and I asked her what time I could come in the morning to pay for the horse stall and the RV spot. She said, “that is on me.” I told her Stacie, please we want to pay for it. We are so grateful for this great spot that we felt safe in and we are happy to pay you for it. She said, no I want to do this. I will never forget these people who have unselfishly given so much to us on this journey and I sincerely hope that God rewards Stacie for her kindness to us as well as Don and all the others who have helped us along the way. We are humbled once again by their generous acts. We cleaned the RV and got some things put away. I did some laundry and spoke to Lynette to get directions to her place. Kristin and her daughter Savana came around 6pm to bring us dinner. We enjoyed visiting with them and I thanked her again for helping us line up a place near Wiley. Savana wanted to go see Durango so we went over and took a photo. We said goodbye and thanked them again. We ate our amazing meal and thought we would have a lot left over but we didn’t! It was so good and she made us brownies too! They were great!! She also gave us the sweetest card with a donation in it from her family and they said they were inspired by this journey and they would be praying for us. Savana made us each a bracelet in yellow and white rubber bands which are the colors of the ribbons they use to signify the fight of cancer. It was so sweet of her and we loved them. We will wear them right next to our Jonathan’s Army bracelets that we both are wearing still. I feel lucky to have met Kristin and Savana and we are so glad that they are part of our story now. And when they went to leave we saw that the front of the truck had little KC covers over their lights!! Thanks K.C. again for the sign!
We finished the rest of our chores (including my all-time favorite one….you know what it is!!) and started getting ready to head out in the morning. They are predicting some winds tomorrow but since it won’t be as far to Lynette’s house, we think we will make it there. Winston talked to Ben Masters today and he may stop by and see us tomorrow on his way to New Mexico. Ben is the guy that rode a group of mustangs with some friends 3000 miles from the Mexican border to the Canadian border and they are making a documentary called Unbranded which is being edited now. Ben offered to bring Winston another horse if he needed it but we just think it would be hard to manage two horses on the road since we are bringing Durango all the way to Wind River. We want to try and make it work with him. We are hoping that tomorrow he will want to go forward since he rested but we are afraid that he might not want to leave this barn tomorrow! As Winston would say, “we will burn that bridge, after we cross it.”
As we head out tomorrow, the town of Lamar will be in our thoughts and our prayers as they have the funeral services for Janea. Janea’s family will continue to be in our thoughts and prayers as they begin their own journey of grief. I pray for peace for her friends and family and I hope that God and Janea will wrap their arms around them to comfort them in their time of sorrow. I know she will be missed so much by all those whose lives she touched.
I am going to hit the bed! Rest days wear me out! I do not know how much internet we will have in the coming days because we are headed to some deserted areas but hopefully I can at least do a quick update from my phone if I can’t post a whole blog update. Keep us in your prayers for no more wind, no snow or ice, Durango to move forward and his sores to heal and for us to reach our final destination all together!! On to glory!!!
Love, Donna (Winston, Hart and Durango too)