Day 85 to 87
My first TV interview of the walk with lovely Ana Orsini from KCDB (no idea what it stands for) News.
Not my finest hour. I had stopped to pee behind a tree in the Lubbock suburbs (the high viz jacket didn’t help subtlety!) and fell flat on my face stumbling on a marmot (groundhog) hole. Marmots – basically giant, plump Guinea Pigs – are all over town.
After dusting myself off, a KCDB employee saw me, and I was interviewed outside the nearby HQ, which is in a downbeat suburb.
Ana was very patient as I babbled about my walk, the charities, ‘more trust, less fear’ and all that. When she asked me to define my walk so far, in one word, I said: ‘kindness’. This is true, especially of the last few days.
After staying with the jolly, dog loving Patino family in Lubbock, and walking 18 miles to Idalou, I was put up by the Bejarano family – Pa, Becca, Gil, Esther and baby, Ellia – who fed me a slap up Mexican meal and let me sleep on their sofa. Bliss.
Pa, a preacher of 84, father of 7 daughters, had just lost his beloved wife after 62 years of marriage. His sparky, indomitable spirit still shone through as you can see from the photo. A super family.
After another 18 miles to Ralls today, past endless cotton fields and tooting cars, I’m now bedded down in Spanish-speaking New Vision Baptist Church, where Reggie (his daughter, River), Robert and Armando all kindly met me, said prayers and provided a camp bed (photo). Little River even gave a violin recital.
I’m now deep in the Bible belt. All I can say, as someone who is not religious, (just spiritual, bro!) is that I have been treated with the utmost generosity: nothing asked for in return.
The families who have helped me have been Christians in the best sense of the word: big hearted, non-judgemental, compassionate, their faith spurring them to help others.
The Bible belt is often portrayed as an ignorant, redneck area – this hasn’t been my experience. Sure, there are rough elements but most folks so far have been salt of the earth: open, trusting, hard working and, above all, kind. Cheers y’all.
Day 89 to 92.
Meet Clay, rodeo rider, horse whisperer, barn builder and Texan good egg, who can wear a wide-rimmed hat like a boss, unlike me, who owes more to the cowboy in the Village People or a low budget Brokeback Mountain.
Hats have never worked for me. As an usher at a friend’s wedding I once had to wear a top hat. You have to be tall for this: I just looked like the Artful Dodger.
The one hat that fits is my woolly, Nepali beenie, given to me by my daughter, Eliza, which has been my lucky mascot, keeping me warm as toast and acting as a great camping pillow.
Clay told me he is rarely out of his hat which is understandable as he is a bona fide cowboy. He and his lovely wife, Jaclyn, an ER nurse, bought their remote, 150 acre ranch two years ago and, from scratch, have built a barn to live in – where I was generously fed and put up for the night after a long 25 mile walk.
Clay and Jaclyn’s nearest neighbour is nine miles away and they are sandwiched between two 150,000 + acre ranches. ‘We are the smallest ranch for miles’, said Clay. ‘We’ve just nine horses, most others have hundreds. But this is our dream.’
Clay and Jaclyn both ride their horses daily and love the big skied splendour of their surroundings. But it is no picnic – rattlesnakes, scorpions, coyotes (which have eaten their cats in the past) and mountain lions prowl the area, the tap water is too briney to drink and the winds can sometimes knock you over. But, for all its starkness, it is a stunning landscape where people really look out for one another.
Clay was once a talented rodeo rider, entering contests all over America. ‘You have to stay on a bucking horse for 8 seconds’, he said. ‘Doesn’t sound much but can feel like a lifetime. Rodeo is great, a crazy thing to do but not as crazy as bull riding – or you.’
Clay loved the camaraderie and the buzz of the rodeo, but threw in his spurs in his mid 30s, to train and breed horses, like his dad.
‘All the stars lined up,’ said Clay. ‘Met my dream girl, we built our dream home and I’m soon to be a dad. I feel blessed.’
A top fellow and a true cowboy.
Special thanks to the following good people for all their kindness on the walk to date: Richard Kiy, Monica Kiy, Danny and, of course, Einstein, Sofia Doga, Karen Yarza, all at Camp Stevens, Ruben Escobar, all the Alvarez family, Blanca Vega García and family, Gris Kuri, Mauricio Chavez, Humberto Venatt Gonzalez, Luisa Adriana, Manuel Gonzalez, Amy Christine, William Powers, all at the Cahuilla Garden Market, Olympia Mihailidis-Rossi, Pastor Max and all at Godwin Christian Fellowship, Dale and Aja Durham, Maia Crespin and Tracy in Payson and all at The Beeline Cafe too Ramon Gutierrez and Ang Ganadonegro at Dos Joyas Cafe in Magdalena, Carlos and the girls at Piccolino’s in Hagerman, the Maljamar Community Church, Everett and Kimberly McArthur and Dan Jackson in Meadow, Ron Craft and Ashley, Maria Teresa Gonzalez and Reynaldo (and their eight dogs) in Lubbock, Rebecca Bejarano and all the family in Idalou, all at New Vision Baptist Church in Ralls, Clay McKesson and Jaclyn Johnson McKesson, Gricelda Gallegos, Bivi, Martha, Anita and Joanna at the Burrito Shop in Munday. Tim Waters and Ellie Putt Events-Team at the Alzheimer’s Society and Sean Franklin for work on the website and Moe Moss, Emily and Rodney Cook and Gill Perry for their generous donations to the charities.