Let me tell you about my friend, Allen Russell.
He lives in Montana, where he raises and trains horses. He’s a nature photographer, a quiet man who doesn’t say much. But when Allen talks, you better listen.
That’s what some thugs discovered when they tried to kill him and his horse, Kono. The Montana based Long Rider was making his long, lonely way from Canada to Mexico, when a carload of drunks roared by. The beer bottle they threw nearly took Kono’s eye out. Then the car spun around, and took deliberate aim at the bleeding horse and his Long Rider.
With no escape route, Russell stepped down from the saddle, pulled his pistol and calmly unloaded it into the on-coming automobile. It ground to a steaming halt at the same as time the father of the drunken teenagers inside came flying up from the opposite direction. Father and Long Rider sorted out what should be done, then Russell completed his border to border ride, journeying along the same basic route Richard Fipps had been telling the world he had just completed.
The Long Riders’ Guild asked Allen to inspect the on-line diary of Richard Fipps.
What the real equestrian explorer discovered was a patchwork of deceit and distortions.
The ride was supposed to take the charity raising cowboy on a 2,140 mile journey, with the route beginning in Mexico and finishing in Canada. Fipps website reported that he would be “heading up through the California / Arizona border along the Colorado River, the trail heads up through the eastern portion of Nevada, and on through Idaho and Montana before finishing in Calgary.”
But saying you’re going to ride this long, dry route, and actually doing it, are vastly different things.
“It’s tough country,” Russell recalled in a telephone conversation with The Guild, “with fences and gates all along the way. Yet I noticed right off that Fipps refers to riding the open range. Believe me, the open range disappeared fifty years ago.”
Another thing that struck the genuine Long Rider as being odd were the lack of media reports regarding Fipps progress across this news-hungry portion of the United States.
“When I made my ride, I was doing it for private reasons. So I tried to avoid any publicity. But I couldn’t surface for more than twenty minutes in a small town before some local reporter would be looking for a story. Even though I never asked to be interviewed, there were at least twenty articles written about me during the course of my trip.”
With a wealth of such small, but crucial facts, it didn’t take long for Allen Russell to conclude that the on-line diary was an equestrian fraud.
“The whole diary is comical. It’s full of mistakes and lies,” he said, "and what I found unusual was how little he talked abut his horses. All Long Riders develop a deep relationship with their horses and are greatly concerned with everything about them, both because they are their means of transportation and their friends."
Lacking any reality, Russell believes Fipps created an internet-driven Old West fantasy designed to hoodwink his urban donors and readers. Tales of soaring bald eagles, glorious sunsets in the Rocky Mountains, galloping herds of mustangs, and cowboys roasting marshmallows around the campfire make for pleasant reading, but have little to do with the harsh realities of equestrian reality, Russell said.
“My favorite story was how Fipps cooked up jack rabbit dumplings in his Dutch oven after a long day in the saddle. Jack rabbit? Give me a break ! Listen, when I made my ride I was so tired that I lived on oatmeal and rice 90% of the trip. The bottom line is that Fipps doesn’t speak the language of a real Long Rider,” Russell said emphatically.
|Curiously, though Fipps claims
to have ridden from Mexico to Montana, his website is innocent of
photographs taken along the way. This image was taken at Shirley
Shown's Bighorn Ranch near Fipps' home in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Click on picture to enlarge - courtesy of The Las Vegas Sun.
Armed with his conclusions, Long Rider Allen Russell telephoned Richard Fipps at his home in Las Vegas. When the equestrian explorer informed Fipps of the fact that he had actually made the ride from Canada to Mexico, and that he was calling on behalf of The Long Riders’ Guild, Fipps refused to discuss the journey, put Allen on hold for ten minutes, and thereafter refused to answer his phone.
If The Guild had any doubts left, they were dispelled the next day by Shirley Shown at the Big Horn Ranch, outside of Las Vegas. Earlier this year, the elderly rancher had hired Fipps to train two young horses.
“I remember, he showed up with a great big truck and a sassy horse trailer that said ‘2002 Cowboy of the Year’,” she told The Guild. “Right away, all my boarders warned me that this guy was a phony. But I’m an older lady, so I gave him the benefit of the doubt.”
Yet Shown didn’t have any qualms about saying Fipps lied to the public about his latest ride. Soon after meeting him, Shown agreed to let Fipps board his horses on her ranch. Having heard about his planned ride to Canada, the trusting rancher asked her new boarder how his plans were progressing.
“He told me the ride had fell apart,” she recalled.
Shown was stunned, therefore, to see Glen Meek’s report, on Channel 13, wherein Fipps claimed to have traversed a large portion of North America.
“According to his diary, Richard claimed he was on the road on April 28th. But I can tell you, his horses were right here at my ranch.”
In fact, Shown confirmed that Fipps’ horses had only left her property on rare occasions, never for more than three days in a row and that they were trailered when Fipps took them away.
She recalled, “You never heard such a sweet talker. He ended up taking me for more than $900. I just can’t imagine that a person could do this sort of thing time and time again.”
It was the old, old story of man’s faithlessness to his fellow-creatures and betrayal of his trust. Only now a former ally and The Long Riders’ Guild were closing in on Fipps.
City Editor Matt Hufman doesn’t like to be fooled.
So he wasn’t pleased when I called him to say that his reporter, Helen Afrasiabi, had been sold a bill of phony goods by a pretend cowboy called Richard Fipps.
Afrasiabi was no longer working for the paper, he told me.
I didn’t ask why.
The straight-talking editor immediately assigned the story to a new reporter named Jennifer Lawson.
I don’t know what Hufman told her.
But I bet it included the
words “no prisoners.”
Lawson dug in and got Fipps on the phone.
He spent his time complaining that television reporter Glen Meeks had spread lies about him.
“I offered to let him set the record straight,” Lawson told The Guild.
He declined to talk and told her not to call again.
Armed with more discoveries, and Fipps’ refusal to talk, the Sun ran a follow-up story, only this time the headline was a little more realistic than the first one had been.
“Cowboy Charity ride called Hoax,” the Sun reported.
Yes, word was getting around.
“It was important for us (the Las Vegas Sun) to correct the record and to expose this guy as a fraud.” Lawson summarized.
Of course all this activity hadn’t escaped the attention of various law enforcement organizations.
Because Fipps had supposedly been linked to two previous counts of horse theft, stock detectives in several states began investigating his movements.
Sgt. Chris Jones, of the Las Vegas police department, confirmed that their fraud department had initially investigated Fipps. But because of the wide geographic area involved, the case had been referred on to the Nevada Attorney General’s office for further investigation.
Citing their need not to discuss their cases, neither the Attorney General, nor the FBI, who were also alerted, would confirm to the press that Fipps was under investigation.
And while it seemed to be good news that earthly authorities were looking into the actions of Fipps, there was a higher power still to be discussed.
There is another aspect to this case.
Fipps profaned God.
As this article demonstrates, this architect of deceit has systematically wounded and victimized a series of well meaning people. One of the ways he did this was by his heavy handed misuse of the Christian community.
He told one reporter that
his covenant with God provided constant guidance.
His website boasted that “Evidence of Fipps’ devotion is proudly displayed on his rodeo jacket, which bears the phrase, “This cowboy is sponsored by the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost,” where others’ are commonly adorned with sponsors’ logos.”
“It’s the American cowboy way,” Fipps said.
Listed as one of the “Sponsors” of the Mexico to Canada ride was the “Cowboys for Christ” organization.
Yet Ted Pressley, the Founder of the biblical outfit, told The Long Riders’ Guild that Fipps was not associated with them, nor had they authorized him to list them as sponsors on his website.
Another well-known charity that felt Fipps’ sting is the “Happy Trails Children’s Foundation.”
Legendary western entertainers Roy Rogers and Dale Evans spent a lifetime devoted to children and their support of children at risk is well documented. The Happy Trails Children's Foundation carries on the work with abused children that were so important to Roy and Dale. The foundation built the Cooper Home in Apple Valley, California to provide a safe haven for children at risk, who have been severely abused and/or neglected. Prominently listed on the Sponsors page of the fraudulent “Cowboys Helping Kids” website, was the charity started by Roy Rogers and Dale Evans.
In a telephone conversation with The Guild, Joel Dortch, the Executive Director of the charity, expressed disbelief when he discovered that Happy Trails was listed as a Sponsor.
“We don’t know him (Fipps) and we certainly never gave him a penny. He’s obviously trying to associate his actions to our good name.”
In a follow-up email directed to The Long Riders’ Guild, Dortch shared his views of the situation.
“It is very interesting to me that we are shown as a “Sponsor?” This appears to be a direct indication that he is using our good name to further his fraudulent agenda….Because of our close association with the legendary western entertainers Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, we must constantly be on guard against misuse of our name and reputation… Lesson learned!”
It was a lesson in deception that apparently stretches all the way across America.
Though Fipps was exposed in Nevada, his misuse of Christianity apparently has its roots in his home state of Florida.
According to court documents, Fipps was arrested for armed burglary in that state.
“During the course of the trial, the defendant carried a Bible with him. On cross-examination, the prosecutor asked the defendant whether he had carried the Bible with him when he committed the offense?”
The judge wrote, “The evidence of the defendant’s guilt was overwhelming.”
Fipps was sentenced to several years in Florida state prison.
When informed of Fipps’ misuse of Christianity, famous Scottish missionary, turned Long Rider, George Patterson shared his opinion of the man.
“In my now distant youth, I had a friend who warned me, ‘Watch out for the man who prays on his knees on Sunday, and preys on his neighbors the rest of the week.”
|Though he claimed to be a devout
Christian cowboy, Richard Fipps left a trail of deceit stretching from
Florida to Montana.
Click on photograph of Fipps in an attitude of prayer to enlarge it - photo courtesy of AIM.
It is The Guild’s job to reassure the public that they can trust the word of a Long Rider.
If the ride is for a charity, then the funds should be accounted for at the conclusion of the journey.
If an equestrian traveller misuses the public’s trust, you can count on The Guild to expose the crime.
If horses are in any way abused, The Guild will inform local animal control officers.
As I said at the beginning of this long study in deceit and treachery, we have a collective need to protect ourselves against a man whose actions have brought shame on the legacy of The Long Riders’ Guild.
Fipps emerges as a strangely vampiric figure who fed, with a calculated ruthlessness, off the energies and compassion of those around him. His selfish actions now threaten to poison the complex and constantly evolving relationship which exists between Long Riders and their trusting hosts. Such actions, which are akin to a hateful virus, cannot be allowed to attack the vision and mission of The Guild.
“In my world there is a God and He knows what we need,” Fipps once told a naďve reporter.
Speaking on behalf of our international organization, I can say that The Long Riders’ Guild represents the equestrian Argonauts who take to the saddle to make a genuine life-changing equestrian journey. Consequently, The Guild will not tolerate the presence of a person who incorporates a horse into a deceptive criminal act.
The Long Riders’ Guild has, therefore, chosen to place Richard Fipps in the Hall of Shame.
He will be the first living fraud listed there, guaranteeing that future generations of Long Riders will recall the lasting legacy of this equestrian knave.
Back to Page 1 Page 2 Home Top