The Long Riders' Guild

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Friday February 2, 2007

'Burro Lady' rides into the sunset at age 65

The Long Riders' Guild is sad to report that Judy Ann Magers, affectionately known as the “Burro Lady”, passed away on Friday, 26th January 2007. 

"As tough, as independent and as kind-hearted as West Texas," is how Rebecca Pape remembers her friend

Magers had been a fixture in the Big Bend and beyond, often seen riding her donkey up and down the roadways and interstate highways of West Texas. Living off the land, she became a welcomed personality and part-time resident in all communities from Sanderson to El Paso.

Although Magers did not qualify to be a Member of The Long Riders' Guild because she was not on a journey, we salute her free spirit and restlessness.   In no sense was she a “saddle-tramp” because she would never accept charity and insisted on paying for everything, just as true Long Riders do.

Her past was a mystery, as she never talked about it.

It was said she once owned a Cadillac and took the back seat out so her donkey could ride in comfort and style.

She loved her donkey, Merle, as did everyone in the neighbourhood. 

Magers and Merle regularly stopped at Alpine's Triangle Market, where Merle relished sour-apple green lollipop.

Magers was not anti-social, or a recluse, but rather a tough-minded, free-spirited woman who chose, like other Big Bend residents, to maintain her independence at all costs. She would talk to people, but not about her past. Folks remember her as sensible and coherent, well-spoken and polite. But fiercely independent.

Her tough, gentle, free-spirited heart simply gave out. She was 65 years old when Border Patrol agents discovered her near death last Friday.

While one of the best-liked people in West Texas, very few people even knew her name. Bill Ivey, who was a rafting guide on the Rio Grande when Magers first came to the area in the 1980s was one of the few. Contrary to some of the wilder rumors, Magers was not independently wealthy, but lived on Social Security payments. Lacking a fixed address other than "On the land, Terlingua, Texas," it was Ivey who was authorized to receive her checks and handle her modest financial transactions.

‘Judy was a very special person, my wife and I were blessed to have known her,’ said Howdy Fowler of Tularosa, NM. ‘A real "Rounder," Judy rode her saddle donkeys thousands of miles in the last 20 years. I first met her at La Mesa, NM when she rode from Terlingua, TX to Columbus, NM. We had a really bad snow storm that winter and a number of us from Columbus went out to her camp to see if she was OK, but nobody could find her or her burros. We looked high and low for her and finally gave up... figuring we would find her body after the spring thaw. About two weeks later after the weather had cleared she came riding down main street smoking a Mexican-made Faro cigarette, not a care in the world!!  She had ridden across the Mexican border about 75 miles south, before the storm hit and some folks had bought her a motel room. She had survived warm and cozy.  Everyone in Columbus was so happy to see her alive and well... there was a few fiestas in Judy's honor... she couldn't figure out what all of the fuss was about.’

Sadly she is gone now;  we always looked forward to seeing her. She was one of a kind and a real friend, we will miss her... But as the Mexicans would say "...she lived the life".

Funeral arrangements are pending. By her own request, Magers will be buried at "Boot Hill" in Terlingua. Always scrupulous about paying her own way, Magers insisted on paying Ivey $5 every time he delivered supplies, or brought her cash. The several hundred dollars Ivey put away over the years, $5 at a time, will help defray some funeral expenses, and the Hudspeth County Commissioners Court has also made a donation.

Hudspeth County Judge Becky Dean-Walker took temporary custody of Merle. She is quite happy to keep him, but would be willing to give him a home where he'll receive the care and affection he'd come to know.

"That burro ate better than Judy did," said Ivey.

Donations for outstanding costs, a headstone and lollipops for Merle can be sent to the Judy Magers Memorial Fund, c/o St. Agnes Church, P.O. Box 295, Terlingua, TX 79852.  The Long Riders' Guild will be making a donation and hope that visitors to our website will be touched to hear Mager’s story and donate something too.

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