The one thing you can count on with Long Riders is that their saddlebags are filled with stories that bend the mind and shake the tree of belief. These men, women, and their horses often set off in deliberate search of adventure. Then there are the quiet ones, like Roger Dunnam and his horse Gandy, who bring back tales that leave you wide-eyed with disbelief. Read on!
On August 31st, 1988, my six-year-old quarter horse, Gandy, and I set out on a one thousand mile ride from our home in Black River Falls, Wisconsin down to my Dad's farm in Edmonton, Kentucky.
There was no mission other than to fulfill a lifelong dream to travel cross country with just my horse and me.
|Roger Dunnam, and his quarter-horse Gandy, had no idea of the danger and hardships that were waiting for them up ahead on the road to adventure.|
Gandy and I ate when we could and camped wherever we found a place.
On September 23rd, 600 miles from home and 24 days later, we were hit from behind by a 4-wheel drive pick-up truck pulling a trailer.
It was Friday, about 3.10 p.m. and we were three miles from Montrose, Illinois.
As I was loaded in the ambulance, I heard a state trooper ask the paramedic how I was doing. The lady replied that I would make it to the hospital but wouldn't live through the night.
I had emergency surgery and the doctors did well, and I was in intensive care for several weeks.
After about a week in intensive care, a lady came through the door.
"Mr. Dunnam?" she asked.
I replied, "Yes, Ma'am."
"I was one of the paramedics at your accident scene."
"Well, thank you for your help," I said.
She said, "Well, something happened at the accident scene that I can't get it out of my head, so I had to come and tell you."
"When you were hit the impact knocked your horse Gandy into a ditch but you were thrown up on the hood of the truck. You slammed into the windshield so hard that you broke it out. But the truck was going so fast that it carried you 150 feet down the road before throwing you out onto the blacktop.
After being hit, Gandy had gotten out of the ditch. When that horse saw you lying on the road unconscious, he walked 150 feet down to where you were. Then he stood right over you! As soon as we got the call we jumped into the ambulance and rolled up with siren blasting and lights flashing. When we came driving up we thought the lights and noise would spook the horse, but we knew it was a bad accident so we made the decision to roll right up to you. Gandy never moved. In fact, he stayed by your side the entire time we worked on saving your life.
But what I'll never forget, and can't get out of my head, is what happened next. We lifted you off the ground and started carrying you to the back of the ambulance. Gandy followed us. No one was holding him, so when we started to slide you into the ambulance, first Gandy put his head in the door, then he placed his foot on the bumper and started to climb in. He was going to get in the ambulance with you! I couldn't believe it. We had to stop him because he wasn't going to leave you.
Every night since your accident, when I close my eyes I see your horse trying to get in beside you," the lady told me.
Luckily for both me and Gandy, a man named Mr. Callahan lived near the accident. He saw everything that happened. After they drove me away to the hospital, Mr. Callahan took Gandy home and had his vet come out and care for my horse. Gandy had some stitches and cuts, but no broken bones.
Two years after the accident, in 1990, I took Gandy by trailer to where we had the accident. We saddled up again and this time, we finished the last four hundred miles to my Dad's place.
Thirteen years later, I still have Gandy. He's 19 now and still in good shape.
I had a fire in my shop two years ago which burned up my travel journal, my maps, and all the newspaper stories I had kept from the ride. So all I have of the ride are my memories and Gandy!
|Thirteen years later, Gandy, the big-hearted and affectionate horse is still going strong!|
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