The Hopkins Hoax
Horseman’s talents were well-recognized
I wish to thank Mr. Dritschilo for his well-balanced and entertaining front-page article “A tall horse tale?” (Sunday, March 16).
As a Vermonter and author of the Disney motion picture in question, I have great respect for the Rutland Historical Society and for James and Helen Davidson. I also respect the right of The Long Riders Guild to reject Frank Hopkins from their hall of fame. (I don’t think Hopkins would be heartbroken. He was a cowboy and a horseman, not an “equestrian.”)
However, Mr. Dritschilo failed to mention that I am the author of nine major motion pictures and a two-time recipient of the National Cowboy Museum’s Western Heritage Award, and so I do not take research lightly.
Frank T. Hopkins has been recognized as a highly accomplished endurance rider by historians ranging from Gilbert Jones to Dr. Donald E. Worcester, distinguished emeritus at Texas Christian University and author of “The Spanish Mustang.”
This is not the first time that Frank Hopkins was questioned about the veracity of his remarkable riding career. In the 1920s, a group of cavalrymen organized a modest 120-mile relay contest from Willimantic to Manchester, Conn. Hopkins’ record as an endurance rider was mentioned by some old-timers who had known him out west.
Some of the younger troopers were highly skeptical of the Hopkins story and let it be known. Hopkins, long retired in the East, got wind of this and was offended. Even though he was in his 60s, he entered the Willimantic-Manchester race against the young horsemen.
He rode the 120 miles, 20 miles per horse, in seven hours, 48 minutes and nine seconds. And he won.
“I was in bed for a week afterward from being hip-locked and with a bad back,” Hopkins confessed to famed biographer Charles B. Roth. “But it was worth it. I showed ’em.”
If Old Frank were still alive today, I bet he’d be saddling up in Texas and well on his way to Rutland, bad back and all.
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