There they were, headed west just coming out of the south Glenwood Canyon. Pulling the car over, I asked if I could take a photo and talk for a bit.
“That would be fine,” he said with a slight Southern drawl.
I was introduced first to Dillon the buckskin horse, Buford the pug dog, who was perched on top of the pack; and finally to Patrick Neal Schumacher himself.
He is riding from Larkspur and headed to his brother’s wedding near Green River, Utah.
“Are people nice out here on the road?” I asked.
“All but those ones in Boulder,” he said. “They are crazy.”
I suggested a friend’s big barn and pasture in Rifle. They could overnight there out of the weather. I made the call to the barn’s owner, and it was agreed. Schumacher thanked me, and I went back upvalley.
Once home, I questioned my judgment of obligating a friend to someone who I knew for only 10 minutes. It was then that I Googled “cowboy, horse and Boulder.”
There it was, printed in newspapers from New York to California. It read in bold, “Drunken cowboy horse and dog in downtown Boulder.” The overworked, single-sided story left me only with questions. For one, why couldn’t someone have offered the cowboy a hand before all this occurred? I called my friend in Rifle, Bill Hutton, who was hosting Schumacher, and nervously said, “Please Google ‘Boulder drunken cowboy.’” Hutton called back at 9 p.m., reporting that they arrived, had dinner and were settled in. It had been a long, 45-mile day. He mentioned that Schumacher asked if they could stay a second night, as horseshoes needed replacement. Feeling a bit guilty, I offered to come down and pitch in with a dinner the next night. In truth, I wanted to know more.
During that meal I heard about the Boulder incident — how they took Dillon and Buford away, his black-powder pistol, putting him in jail, charging him with animal abuse and riding while intoxicated. You could not make this up if you tried.
Schumacher, 45, has made six cross-country horseback rides since 1997. The childhood home is rural Tallassee, Ala. Both parents have died, and he is the seventh of nine children. Home has been the open road since 1997, and as he put it, “Just looking for a place he will fit in.”
Scrolling through his phone, he listed assorted jobs, from cooking to ranching and everything in between. Fondly offering names and numbers, along with their memories. Work always was found.
His limited gear includes a cellphone, cans of Alpo Prime for Buford and a heavy backpack with jean-wrapped horseshoeing tools, leaving enough room for Buford to get inside if it rains.
I suggested a story that would reflect his voice. Nodding, he began writing down folks I could call for references.
One person was Boulder’s John Walker, who did help him. I called him the next day. In the midst of flood repairs, Walker said he saw the horse and rider. Stopping, they talked briefly and he asked Schumacher if he could help. Schumacher responded, “If you know of anyone with a horse trailer heading west, please call. I need to be far from here.”
The next morning, taking time off from his dental practice, Walker located a trailer and called Schumacher back for a roadside loading. He drove them over to the west side of Vail.
“If people would only show some compassion,” Walker said. “What is wrong today with helping people out?”
Before Boulder, the cowboy spent two and a half months in Larkspur. Gerry Been, the mayor, met Schumacher when he rode into town in July. Been found steady employment for the man.
“He showed up to work every single day,” Been said. “I took a real liking for the guy and consider him my friend.”
Schumacher’s brother Ricky, of Utah, said, “I am going to try my hardest to get a friend to go pick him up near Grand Junction. I just don’t know if he will arrive in time for my wedding.
“I worry about him and wish he could settle down in one place.”
Schumacher must be back in Boulder next month for court. To do this, he says, he will to ride a bus back. After that, he hopes to return to Dillon and Buford in Utah.
Hutton said, “I told him he’s welcomed back here anytime. It is important to help one another.”
To learn more, Google “cowboy horse Boulder.”
Maybe, if helping others were everyone’s first path of action, we would all be better off.
Joni Keefe moved to the Roaring Fork Valley after a career in landscape design. She is passionate about local food and agriculture. For more information, her website is Farmsfinest.com, or follow her on Twitter. Connect at firstname.lastname@example.org.