Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Cowboy sets out to show a different America

- When rancher Bill Inman decided to show there's more to America than what's seen on the nightly news, he hopped on his horse Blackie and started riding.

And riding, and riding.

Weary of the daily drumbeat over war, crime, poverty and assorted social ills, he and his wife are burning through their life savings to tell the stories of hardworking, honest everyday people in rural America. Inman soaks it all in atop Blackie, a 16-year thoroughbred-quarter horse mix who's averaging 20-25 miles a day along backroads from Oregon to North Carolina.

"Unfortunately, the image they are portraying is there's corruption in every politician and there's criminals running everywhere," he said. "I guess guys that rope like me, we wouldn't need to rope steers. You could just sit out there and rope a criminal because they're coming by every 10 minutes."

Inman, 48, started June 2 from his hometown of Lebanon, Ore. Halfway through his cross-country trek dubbed Uncovering America by Horseback, he's rolled up 1,700 miles. His wife, Brenda, also 48, drives ahead in a pickup with a horse trailer filled with water and provisions for Blackie, three dogs and themselves.

"The scenery in America is changing and I'm really proud we're taking a snapshot at slow motion of this time period because 20 years from now it will be different," he said.

The couple estimates the journey will cost them $45,000. They want to make a documentary film and write a book, and a filmmaker and Web site operator are tagging along.

"If we waited until we could afford to do it, we could never do it. It was do it now or never do it," Brenda said. "We gave everything up in our lives to do this. We used all our savings and everything else."

Said Bill: "It's probably the most stupid thing I've done financially, but I truly believe in it."

Hundreds of interesting people have greeted Inman along the way. There's the Dodge City man who collects bridle bits, spurs and barbed wire. A Wyoming deputy sheriff who drove 25 miles through a rain storm to bring dinner to the Inmans where they were camped. A Wyoming woman who gave Bill a pair of stirrups she bought as a Christmas present for her grandson before he was killed in car wreck.

He arrived in Fredonia with jeans tucked into boots with spurs, a sweat-stained Stetson and a weathered face, leaving no doubt that ranching has been part of him all his life. As with most stops, they rely on a combination of media coverage and word-of-mouth to let people know about the ride.

Raised on a Texas ranch, 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 been a farrier for nearly 30 years.

Among those meeting Inman on the outskirts of town 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, an area rancher.


Source: The Wichita Eagle/AP

No comments: