The Heartbreak Trail to Texas
Every generation sees an army of young boys who dream about saddling up a horse and riding off in search of the legendary “Old West.”
Few have the courage to mount up and ride off on a quest for that elusive mirage.
Marshal Ralph Hooker, one of the Founding Members of The Long Riders’ Guild, made such a journey in the early 1920s. Thirty years later another brave lad stepped up to the saddle, then cantered off in search of adventure.
And like Marshal Hooker, young Tom Cashner found it too.
It was 1951 and Cashner was barely eighteen when he set off on an equestrian Odyssey across a still largely rural America.
But while Paladin, Yancy Derringer and a host of other television westerns were peddling the cowboy fantasy, young Tom Cashner was out living the equestrian reality.
And what he found was nearly two thousand miles worth of adventures and hardships.
It was a journey both remarkable, and in many ways ordinary, one day full of tragedy, a few miles later full of unexpected romance.
By the time Cashner stepped down from the saddle, he was in state he never expected to visit, on the other side of an invisible barrier that would forever set him slightly apart from those he left behind.
Because the boy who left was not the man who arrived.
Along the way “Tom” had lost his heart and his horse. But “Tex” had discovered a new name and an appreciation for life that comes to those who are brave enough to seek out the extraordinary.
Here is his never before published story.
The following are edited extracts from Tex Cashner’s diary, in which he recorded his 1951 Long Ride from Canton, Ohio to Ardmore, Oklahoma. His original companions were his beloved horse Streak, whom he had owned for ten years prior to the journey, and Cougar, a stray dog.
Dear fellow Long Riders,
Good morning or good evening. Whichever suits the situation.
Here is a diary of a trip that I took back in 1951 when I rode a horse from Canton, Ohio to Ardmore, Oklahoma and then on to Dallas, Texas.
I was 18 years old at the time and always had a fascination for the west, cowboys, etc. My mother always said I was born 100 years too late, and she was probably right. My mother had a good friend, Lois Middle, who happened to have an uncle who lived in Ardmore, OK. She used to tell me stories about him and his ranch. I got the idea in my head to go out there and possibly work for this gentleman. As I had always had horses, I thought – Well, if I’m gonna be a cowboy, I might as well ride my horse out there. After some discussion, I called the man in Ardmore – at that time I thought his name was Middle also, which will come up later in the story – and he said, “Yeah, come on out and I’ll give you a job on my ranch.”
I said, “OK, I’m gonna come, but I’m gonna ride my horse out there.”
He said, “No, you’ll never make it, don’t do that. Come out, but you’ll never make it horseback.”
I had a friend in high school, Eugene Wohbold. Eugene had been in the army and had come back to finish high school. He was the original hippie, and, as many of the Vietnam vets are today, a renegade. We both liked guns and horses and we both fantasized about the Old West. In fact we got arrested one time for carrying our six-guns while riding our horses in North Canton, Ohio. Eugene was going to go with me on this trip, but at the last minute he backed out.
I lacked that courage and started out alone. I chose the date of April 2, 1951, to leave, instead of April Fool’s Day.
The desire, and a woman, are the reason for the following pages. The desire: to someday own a ranch. The woman is Pat Sammiter. Without her, the picture would not be complete. I know that I would go to the ends of the earth to obtain her love.
This morning at 11 o’clock I started on an 1800 mile journey to fulfill my dreams. Before I left, some people from the Repository came to take some pictures and got the story of the trip. I wasn’t too sure about this but I finally consented. It was very cold, and got colder as I road along. About 5 o’clock I made camp in a pasture right inside the Stark County line. It was very windy and I had a hard time getting the fire started. At 7 o’clock I made ready for bed. Cougar was asleep and Streak was munching grass. All night I had to keep getting up to keep my feet warm. I had one blanket. At 6 o’clock I found out that the temperature was about 30 degrees Fahrenheit. When I stop to think of the trip ahead, it scares me a little. I hope my efforts will not be in vain.
I started this day off on the wrong foot by taking the wrong road out of Millersburg. There was a slight rain all day and it was quite windy. It puts a damper on one’s spirits. The things a man will go through to help his dreams along. Evening found me in Brinkhaven, Ohio, about 65 miles from Columbus. The sky is clearing up and it promises to be a nice day tomorrow. Streak seems to be developing a slight limp in his right front let. I hope it’s nothing serious.
I woke this morning to a beautiful day. It frosted some through the night, but it soon left. I crossed the Michigan River and the Sososing River today. That makes the second time Streak has waded into the Michigan. Streak’s leg is alright now. It must have been my imagination. The people along the way were very nice and I have made a lot of friends. This makes me very happy. Today I rode as far as Utica, Ohio. It is about 37 miles from Columbus. Columbus seems to be my greatest article. Once on the other side, I will really be away from home. I called home today and my mother told me that the Grimes had sworn out a warrant for my arrest because Cougar, their dog, came with me. Funny that people can’t realize that just because you buy a dog, it doesn’t mean that you buy his love. A dog’s love, like a person’s, has to come from the heart, or it isn’t true love.
Cougar belonged to Pat’s neighbor, but was my constant companion. They treated him badly and he came to me for affection. I cannot remember going for a ride when he was not at my horse’s heels. I did not tell them that he was with me on the trip. When my picture and story were printed in the newspaper, they realized what had happened to their dog.
Today was a really bad one. The rain came down in sheets. I only made about 10 miles today. Towards evening it cleared up and I camped in L. A. Dorm’s pasture at Black Lick, Ohio. The rest of the evening was spent talking about politics and the world situation with Mr. Dorm.
Around 3 o’clock this afternoon, I came to Gahanna, Ohio, about three miles from Columbus. I stopped at the Dorsey farm and put Streak with three cows in the pasture to rest up before going to Columbus. The Dorseys are really wonderful people. They invited me to eat with them and I accepted. I had intended to go through Columbus about 1 o’clock Sunday morning. While waiting for the time to pass, some kids who had seen me riding through called and asked me if I wanted to go to a barn dance with them. I went and had a swell time. I didn’t get back until 2 o’clock. It was raining cats and dogs, so I slept in a car until morning. At 6 o’clock I started through Columbus. It was raining and the traffic was light. I stayed right on Rt. 62 all the way through the middle of town. The Lincoln Tower was the tallest building in Columbus at that time and my horse actually stopped and stared up at it as we rode by it. I was mortified. He looked like the original country hick. The ride through Columbus was not as bad as I had expected. All in all it took an hour and a half.
When I got all the way through I stopped to call home to tell them where I was and the folks and Pat were coming to see me and were bringing a chicken dinner. My family actually caught up with me about 3 o’clock and we stopped in a nice place under some trees to eat. I had prayed for the sun and my prayers were answered. The sun was shining and we had a fine time. Dad brought me a camera and a hammock. He took the hammock home – I have no use for one. Before they left for home, the folks went to the next town to have a tire change.
Pat stayed at camp with me and I had a chance to say some things that had been on my mind. When my folks left, I used my bedroll to good advantage and made love to Pat under the trees in broad daylight. They finally went home about 5 o’clock and I decided to camp for the night. When I went to bed the sky was clear and the stars were out. Along about 1.30 it started raining. I thought it might pass over so I stayed there. At 2 o’clock I was lying in puddles and soaked to the skin. There was a house across the road so I headed for it. The man let me sleep in his basement as there was only one bed in the house. He told me later that his wife had not slept a wink all night and that she had made him pile furniture in front of their bedroom door.
When I left Mt. Sterling it was threatening to rain. Along about 1 o’clock it started and at 1:30 I met my first rat of the human clan. His name is H. W. Clark. It was raining had and I stopped at his farm and asked if I could go into the barn until it stopped raining. All he said is, “We have no room for you.”
I said nothing and kept on going. I really felt sorry for the guy.
About a mile and a half up the road I stopped at the Nizely Grocery to get dry. Around 6.30 I rode into the Washington Courthouse. I put Streak up at Dr. Junk’s barn and went into town where I got a room at the Fayette Hotel. When the manager took me to the room, he checked to see if the night-lock worked. It didn’t. he said nothing and left. Before I went to bed, I put a chair against the door as a lock. When I woke this morning the chair was moved about 3” down from the knob. Someone had tried to gain entrance but didn’t quite make it.
The bed, by the way, had more bumps than a toad.
Today I came as far as Ripley, Ohio. Tomorrow I will cross the Ohio River and be in Kentucky. The first state is behind me, the second is before me. I have many happy memories of days riding through Ohio and a few sad ones. I feel a little blue today, I keep thinking of Pat. I don’t think I could go on if it wasn’t for her. I hope that someday she will realize how much I love her. If she does not, then I don’t know what will happen. A great man once said, “it all comes to the man who waits.” Well, I am waiting.
ferry man was not keen on a horse trying to go across the Ohio River on it.
After much talk, it was decided that if Streak got on board the first try,
he would take us across. Streak walked on the boat like he did it every day
and stood there looking around. We made it across OK and the trip ended up
Click on photograph of Streak to enlarge it.
Monday, April 16 1951
The end of the day finds me in Kentucky. Today our small band is cut down to two. One of the Grimes boys came and got Cougar. If he hadn’t brought a cop with him, I think I would have punched his face in. This is where Cougar left us. The owner’s son showed up and had a sheriff with him. There was a shouting match and some pushing and shoving. After hearing my story, the sheriff was on my side but had no choice but to let Grimes have the dog. If I had made it across the Ohio River into Kentucky, Cougar would have stayed with me as the warrant was only valid in Ohio. Grimes pushed to have me arrested but the sheriff told him, “You have your dog back, I suggest you get out of my county now.” The last sight I had of Cougar was him looking out of the back of Grimes’ car as they drove away. I will never forget his big brown eyes staring at me as if I had betrayed him. I was told a short time later that Cougar was dead. Pat always felt that the Grimes had killed him. I never did know for sure.
I crossed the Ohio River today on a ferry. This is my first experience of this kind so far as I can remember. In Ripley today I received four letters. Pat didn’t write. I suppose she didn’t have time. The ferry was a small affair that could carry four or five cars and was privately owned. The ferry man was not keen on a horse trying to go across the Ohio River on it. After much talk, it was decided that if Streak got on board the first try, he would take us across. Streak walked on the boat like he did it every day and stood there looking around. We made it across OK and the trip ended up being free.
Tuesday, April 17 1951
Today I rode 40 miles and I feel as though I have ridden 40 miles. I am now about 32 miles from Lexington, KY. I called Dad tonight and they said they might drive up this weekend. I hope so. Anything to be able to see Pat again.
I saw my first rattlesnake today. It was sunning itself on a rock when I went to water Streak. Streak is out in a pasture resting up. He needs it. He was kind of tired this evening. All in all I rode 9 hours today.
Friday, April 20 1951
I rode today as far as Versailles, KY. The sun shone brightly all day and tomorrow promises to be nice also. I am staying all night at the hotel so I can see if I get any mail. I sure hope I do. A letter from Pat would boost my morale by leaps and bounds. I wish I didn’t miss her so much. It makes everything so much harder. Oh well, I am still waiting. We shall see what we shall see. I am now about 52 miles from Bardstown, KY. That is where I hit Rt. 31. Bardstown is right in the middle of Kentucky.
Saturday, April 21 1951
I went to the post office this morning but there were no letters. I hope they haven’t forgotten me so soon. Just in case, I told them to send any letters on to Bardstown. When I went out to get Streak this morning, there were some kids all ready to go with me on their bikes. It took some talking but I finally persuaded them to wait until they were a little older. I made camp tonight in a pasture about 32 miles from Bardstown. The folks aren’t coming down so I may as well ride tomorrow. Streak is munching grass and seems to be contented. He is certainly in good shape. He hasn’t had a sweat on him for a week. I have no doubt but that he will finish the trip without any trouble. His shoes are wearing very, very well. They should last at least another 200 miles.
Sunday, April 22 1951
No one can explain what it is like to sleep in a pasture twenty miles to the nearest town either way, several hundred miles from home and the rain soaking you to the skin. No matter which way you move it is more uncomfortable than the last. As a man whose name I can’t think of once said, “These are the times that try men’s souls.” How true this is, and anyone who has slept in wet clothes will know what I mean. There is a feeling of utter contempt for anything and everything. All you can do is lie there and wonder what could possibly be worth all this misery. Of course, you can usually find the reason. I have a reason, and it’s a good one; at least, I hope so.
After what seemed like eternity, dawn finally came. The sun shone for at least three minutes and then it started all over again, only this time it was accompanied by wind. Night finds me 13 miles from Bardstown and in a tourist home. I took a bath and now I feel I can start again with no trouble. According to the sky it will be nice tomorrow. I do wish Pat could be along to see what I go through for her. She will never know. Perhaps I should say, “for us.” I think this trip will help us both some day.
Monday, April 23 1951
When I woke this morning, little did I know what would happen in the next hour. I ate breakfast and then went to the farm to get Streak. About a mile out of town I suddenly had the feeling that something was missing. I looked in my saddle bags and, sure enough, my gun was gone. I went back to the barn as quickly as possible but the gun was not there either. Then I went to the police. He questioned several people and then he took me to where I had camped the night before. The gun wasn’t to be seen. When we got back the gun was in my saddle bags again. I don’t know who took it, and I don’t care. I have my gun and that is all that matters.
Later: I had stayed in the barn of the local police chief. I found out later that his son had stolen my 44 Colt Peacemaker while going through my saddle bags. Needless to say I did not make a complaint and was happy to have my pistol back. I’m not sure how this occurred, but somehow the gun got back in my saddle bags when the Chief of Police brought me back to the barn. I think his son had second thoughts when he found out we were searching for the weapon. His son was about 12 years old.
Wednesday, April 25 1951
I went to leave Elizabethtown, KY about 10 o’clock this morning. Along the way I stopped to get a drink of cider and saw some jackets. It was one of my weak moments, and so I used $8 of my dwindling supply of money and bought one for Pat. I may be hungry but at least Pat might be happy.
Thursday, April 26 1951
I rode as far as Upton, KY today. I stopped at a farmhouse to let Streak rest up for a day. I went back in the hills and found a big cave that went way back under the ground. I crawled back into a small room about 25’ long and about 10’ high. The ceiling was covered with spiders and there were a few bats. I got out faster than I came in. I slept in the hayloft because it rained very hard last night. The ground around here is red clay and after a rain it is a sloppy mess. I tried to call home today but there was so much static I couldn’t hear a thing.
Friday, April 27 1951
I left Upton, KY today looking like a mud pie. I had ridden about 6 miles when some guy stopped and told me he wanted to come along. He owns a restaurant in Bonneville, KY and so I’m going to wait until he comes back from the farm.
Later: I am in the restaurant now. About five minutes ago, a truck pulled up and Streak broke his rein. I’ve wrapped some rawhide around the rein and it will have to hold until I can get it fixed. People would sometimes drive up close to my horse when he was tied and blow their horn or rev their engines. It was as though they had never seen a horse with gear tied behind the saddle and a bullwhip across the horn.
I figured that guy wasn’t serious about coming with me, and I was right. Along the trip, I have had many people say they wanted to come along with me, but none ever did. They like to think about it, but the commitment is not there. I treated each one as a possible companion and only discouraged the very young.
Sunday, April 29 1951
The end of this day finds me about 17 miles from Bowling Green, KY. The heat was terrible today and my progress was slow.
Monday, April 30 1951
About 3 o’clock I rode into Bowling Green and picked up my mail. There as still no letter from Pat.
Friday, May 4 1951
I rode about 29 miles today. I am now about 9 miles out of Deltree, KY. It was raining like hell and I am staying in a barn alongside the road. My bed for the night is an old pig trough turned upside down. The thunder and lightning is terrific.
Saturday, May 5 1951
I started out this morning about 5.30. The sky is overcast and it is very windy. After I had gone about five miles I stopped at a farm to warm up. I had been there about 15 minutes when Jim Bream and his wife drove up. I had stayed with them a few nights before. They had breakfast for me in the car. They finally talked me into letting Streak stay there and coming back with them to their home until Monday.
When we got back to their farm, Jim and I went in the truck to get some fertilizer. On the way back he said that he would like to take me to the Grand Ole Opry in nearby Nashville, Tennessee. So when we arrived at his home once more, I washed my clothes and got ready to go into Nashville. When we got there I shook hands with Little Jimmy Dickens and heard Eddy Arnold sing the Kentucky Waltz. I saw Roy Akoff and Minnie Pearl. It was an experience I will not readily forget. At the time the Grand Old Opry was still in the original old building and a very historic place. A friend named Mr. Kirk had gone there also and met us. He knew everyone at the Grand Old Opry. He took Jim and I backstage where I met all the cast. They tried to talk me into going onstage to be introduced, but I was bashful and declined. I wish now that I had done this.
Sunday, May 6 1951
I didn’t get up until about 9 o’clock this morning as we didn’t get home until 3 o’clock last night. I spent the day at Jim’s dad’s house where we had a delicious chicken dinner. The remainder of the day was spent loafing around trying to digest all the food.
Monday, May 7 1951
I said good bye to Jim and his wife this morning and again started out on my venture. When I was ten miles out of Clarksburg, TN, a Ford convertible pulled up and by God if it wasn’t Mother and Dad. They had come after all. I could hardly believe my eyes. They had driven through about 8 o’clock Sunday and had gone almost to Memphis before they turned around and started back. They went back to Clarksburg and waited until I rode in. I put Streak up in the Fairgrounds and went into town to have supper with them. This is the last time I will see them for many a day as they will be out of driving distance of me. From now on, all I will have is memories of the people I left behind and of the one I love most, Pat. My love for Pat will be the most precious as she is dearest to my heart.
Tuesday, May 8 1951
I left Clarksburg about 12 noon, later than I planned but I overslept. I rode about 15 miles before it was time to make camp. There was no firewood around so I ate a can of cold beans and had a can of orange juice. There was not much picking for Streak, but there was no other place to stop.
Friday, May 11 1951
I rode out of Dover this morning about 8:30. I think that Tennessee is the nicest state so far as scenery is concerned. The trees are as endless as the sky. I am now camped for the night, I think, unless someone kicks me out for the night, in a nice pasture. There is plenty of clover mixed in with the grass and even if I have to leave, Streak will have enjoyed a hearty meal.
Sunday, May 13 1951
I woke this morning about 6:30. I rode to the outskirts of Milan, Tennessee today and camped in a pasture. This is the nicest place I have camped so far and I will hate to leave in the morning. Today is Mother’s Day. It makes me homesick because it is the first time I haven’t been with Mother on her day. I guess that is the price that must be paid to be a roamer with vagabond shoes.
Monday, May 14 1951
Today I entered the strawberry belt. That’s all I could see was people picking them and trucks going by loading them. I rode into Bell, TN about 5 o’clock and called home. It was good to hear family voices again. I had the shock of my life when I went to eat this evening. Waiting on the tables was a girl that looked almost exactly like Pat. I just sat and stared at her. I couldn’t help myself. They say everyone has a double. Well, this is Pat’s. I put Streak up for the night in a stock barn on the edge of town. I am going to sleep in the hayloft tonight.
Thursday, May 17 1951
I started out this morning about 6:30 a.m. About 7 o’clock I was in the outskirts of Arlington, Tennessee, about 23 miles from Memphis. I set my camp up in a field off the road. I rode for about 10 hours today which isn’t bad. I met a guy in a large stock truck today. He had read about me in the papers. He offered to take me through Memphis and across the Mississippi River. It sounded good but I did not think it was fair. I was riding a horse across country, not hauling him in a truck, so I declined his offer. Had I accepted, my story might have been different.
Friday, May 18 1951
When I went to bed last night, little did I realize that morning would bring disaster. When the sun came up, I found Streak’s body by the road. A truck had hit him. Streak is dead. I say it yet I can’t believe it. I can’t think of him as not being full of fire and prancing around. I say it and yet I can’t believe it. He was my friend and companion through many a hardship and times of fun. He is dead and I don’t believe it. Even though he is gone, I must continue the trip we started on and finish it, if it takes my life also. This is not as impossible as it sounds. I must finish because I know he would have it so.
This evening I found a big raw-boned sorrel gelding that I think will take me the rest of the way. I don’t like to change that quick but there is nothing else I can do.
We had camped in what could be called the right-of-way on the highway. The road was built up 20-30 feet to avoid flooding. Looking from the road across the field was a fence and then a railroad track approximately 200 yards. It was nearly dark when I made camp and, as there were no trees, I made a pair of crude hobbles from rope instead of tying Streak to a tree. A short time later a train came by and the headlights and noise spooked Streak and he found that he could run by lifting both front feet at the same time, and run he did. I went and got him and led him closer to my bedroll and opened a can of beans for supper. After supper I checked Streak’s hobbles and rolled up in my blanket. I had ridden about ten hours the previous day and was very tired.
At some time in the early hours I was awakened by another train passing by. I remember hearing the horn and the headlight blinding me for a second. I at once fell back to sleep.
Perhaps two or three hours later, it was still pitch black, no moon, I was awakened by a large thump noise up on the highway. A short time later I heard a semi-truck start up and move away, again – from up on the road. I was now more or less awake and shone my flashlight around the area. Streak was nowhere in sight, but I figured he had moved out of the range of the light.
I lay there for a short time listening to the night sounds and fell back to sleep. Looking back on this now, I think I may have known what happened but I was afraid to admit it to myself, an eternal optimist.
When I awoke again, it was daylight. I raised my head and looked around. Streak was nowhere to be seen. I stood up and looked toward the road. I could see what looked like a mound of dirt beside the road.
I knew at once it was my horse. I was numb. I sat back down on my bedroll and stared out across the field at the mound. After a time I finally got up and started walking toward my worst fear.
My mind was telling me that it was a pile of dirt, but my gut was telling me, “That’s Streak.” I reached Streak’s body and stood there looking down at him. The hobbles still in place. The tears did not come yet.
As I stared at him I thought I saw him breathing and reached down to touch him. He was cold. It had only been an illusion. Traffic was moving by me on both sides. Cars would slow down and then move on, the drivers staring at me and my dead friend. After a while a man in a pickup truck stopped and walked across the road to my side. He offered to take me to a phone and said he would bring me back later to get my saddle and gear. I was still in shock and told him that I did not want to leave Streak lying there. But he finally convinced me there was nothing else I could do.
He drove me to a gas station towards Memphis and waited until I called home and told Dad what had happened. Dad said, “Do you want to come home?” I told him that if he would help me get another horse, I would go on, and he agreed. My next call was to Kirk in Memphis, my Hadicol salesman friend from Kentucky. I still had some luck left as he was in his office. He said he had a friend who was a horse trader and he would help me. Kirk said to meet him at the Chiska Hotel and that he would get me a room there. My friend in the pickup said that he would take me into Memphis and that he knew where the hotel was. I never did know this man’s name. We turned around and started back to where I had left Streak.
Streak was gone.
All that remained was blood on the side of the road. The County had already picked up his body.
I never saw Streak again.
I cried then. The man in the pickup put his hand on my shoulder and said, “Let’s get your gear and I’ll take you into Memphis.”
Saturday, May 15 1951
I got a room at the Chiska Hotel here in Memphis where Mr. Kirk is staying. When I walked in with old beaten clothes and old dirty boots it raised some eyebrows. Kirk had enough pull that it did not matter. Today is Army Day and there is a big parade on Main Street. The weather is very hot with no letup in sight. I have a very nice room here at the hotel and I found a good place to eat.
Kirk had told me that he had arranged for a lady to come to my room that afternoon. At age 18 this was a big deal and I was very apprehensive about it. Kirk said not to worry, and that she would be there about 2 p.m. Pat was the only girl that I had ever been with and I was still unsure about my manhood.
At 2:10 p.m. there was a knock on my door.
I opened the door to a woman about 25 to 30 years old, not beautiful or ugly, but all woman. She sensed what I was feeling and put me at ease. I did not know what to do and she said, “Let’s talk for a while.” We lay on the bed and read the Memphis Times newspaper together. I then asked her if she was hungry, and she said she was. I called room service and ordered a meal, pork chops, I think. We ate and talked some more.
About 5:30 she told me that she had spent more time there than she was allowed, and did I want to make love? I said, “Yes,” and she took over.
I will never forget her, though I cannot recall her name. When she left she thanked me for a wonderful afternoon. I am not sure that she was sincere, but for me it was.
I think I will leave Monday morning early. I am not sure that Red can do the job, but I will have to wait and see.
Sunday, May 20 1951
Mr. Kirk and I went to the zoo today and had a fine time. It was the first large zoo I had ever seen. Memphis is certainly much larger than I had expected. I thought Columbus was big. But for as large a city as this is, there isn’t much to do unless you like to drink beer.
Monday, May 21 1951
I left the stockyards about 7 a.m. on Red Devil and started through Memphis on the way to the Mississippi River and Arkansas. The traffic was light and Red did OK until we came to the bridge to cross the Mississippi River. Here he stopped and refused to budge.
On both sides was open space and a 200 to 300 foot drop. After talking and lots of kicking of ribs, I finally got off and I proceeded to lead Red across the bridge. About half way across I mounted him again and it was the same thing: he would not move. By this time traffic was heavy and people were honking their horns and giving us room. I dismounted and led him across the river the rest of the way and into Arkansas. How embarrassing. At this point, the loss of Streak became more of a reality. By 1 o’clock this afternoon Red was ready to drop.
It rained today for the first time in heaven only knows how long. It wasn’t much but it was enough to soak me. I will have to give Red credit as he is much better than he was yesterday. He has more guts than I thought. I am now on the outside of Forest City. I might even have some mail in the morning.
Last night the heavens let up the pent-up fury that had been captive there for months. For 15 minutes you couldn’t see a yard in front of you. The wind drove the rain in front of it like a knife and I found an empty truck and lay down on the seat.
The next thing I knew the sun was shining on my face. My clothes were still wet when I woke up. It must have rained all night because there were puddles big enough to drown a cow. I went to the post office and there was no mail from Brownsville yet.
The end of this day finds me just on the other side of Devil’s Bluff camped under some trees in a big pasture. I crossed about 30 bridges today. All it is around here is bayou country. There are turtles in there big enough to chew the leg off a horse.
I started out this morning about 8:30. After I had gone about a mile I was stopped by the police. They said I was seen about 3 o’clock this morning in Devil’s Bluff. They searched my saddlebags and of course found nothing. They said that a store had been robbed during the night and that a man had identified me as being in town. He said I was in front of his car and gave a complete description of me. It is very funny that he could do this at night in the second it would take to run across the street. He probably saw me ride through and figured he could pin it on me after he robbed the place himself.
I showed the police my news write-ups and my letter from the police in Canton. Since they didn’t find anything, they let me go. This is what makes life interesting.
I rode on to the next small town and bought a pair of spurs. Now Red moves along just right.
Night finds me about 25 miles from Little Rock. I will stay here tomorrow because I do not want to ride through there on a Saturday.
Today I just sat around reading and resting. I re-arranged my saddlebags again. Tomorrow I will go on to Little Rock.
I rode about 36 miles today and through Little Rock. Little Rock was not so bad to go through. There was quite a bit of concrete, though.
I am now camped at the Fashion Stables out in the pasture. I haven’t very far to go now – about 200 miles. Just a Sunday ride. I am to call Dad tomorrow morning.
I rode into Benton, AK this afternoon and got the money Dad had wired. It was very hot this afternoon. I rode about five miles out of Benton and camped by a river, where I took a bath and cooked my supper over a big fire.
The end of this day finds me about 7 miles from Hot Springs. I stopped along the road to talk to a Major Snodgrass this evening. He is a retired officer and has a beautiful place outside of Hot Springs. I tried to talk him into turning it into a dude ranch but he says it would be too much of a worry. He told me to see a Clyde Wilson who has a large ranch up the road from him. I did, and found Clyde to be a swell guy. He has a daughter, Hattie Lou, who is just as nice as he is.
Hattie Lou, or Horny Lou, as I called her in later memories, was a 21-year-old nympho. After putting Red Devil in Clyde’s paddock and feeding him, she told me she wanted to show me around the farm, as she called it. She took me to a small pond about half a mile from the house, very secluded with trees around it. On the way she asked me about the trip and told me that she had always wanted to do the same thing.
After talking for a while, I could see another Memphis brewing, but at no charge. After arriving at the pond, after having taken her clothes off, and having announced that she was going to take a swim, she asked if I would join her. I expected any moment to see Clyde come charging up with a 12 gage shotgun. He did not appear and after a while I joined her in the pond. That was my first time to make love under the water.
As I look back, I should have ended my trip and stayed there.
Later we walked back to the house and had an early supper, and then we all went to a softball game in the evening. Clyde drove us and it was as if nothing had happened.
Today is Memorial Day and I am not leaving until tonight. I went into town to get a haircut and to look around. I think that without a doubt Hot Springs is the most beautiful town I have been in yet. The country around gives it part of its beauty. The rolling hills that surround the town give it a guarding effect. I went up to the Tower this morning and found it really worthwhile. It was breathtaking.
While I was up on the Observation Tower, I met Frank and Lou Mango from Chicago. Frank and Lou were rich kids, cousins, from Chicago, with more money than sense. They were making a trip through most of the west. They were able to travel in style in a new convertible. From what I could see they did not miss any opportunities to have a good time. They were fascinated by the fact that I was riding a horse across country.
When they offered to take me on a tour of the town in their car, I accepted. They were wild, but since I was about their age, 6” taller and 20 pounds heavier, I did not expect a problem with them. We drove around town, never under 50 m.p.h. I expected at any time to be arrested, but this did not happen.
We came upon a swimming lake and decided to go for a swim. Frank had several swim suits in the trunk and I found a pair that fit me. Frank and Lou paid for my ticket and we headed for the water. About a hundred yards out was a diving barrel and a sunning platform mounted on 50-gallon drums. All the action seemed to be out there so we swam out. It was crowded with girls and boys our age.
Frank had to tell them my story and soon there was a crowd around me asking questions. Hours passed. At the time I did not notice my legs, white as snow, begin to turn pink. The rest of my body was tanned, as I often rode without a shirt on. Late that day they took me back to camp and we said goodbye. By 8 o’clock that evening I was in agony.
When I woke up this morning my legs were badly sunburned. They were swollen almost twice their size. I was camped in a roadside park where there was no water. The next town, Glenwood, was about thirty miles away. I got saddled up and started out. It was 97 degrees in the shade. My jeans rubbing on my legs were killing me, and I thought about taking them off to ride, but did not think anyone would take kindly to a male Godiva riding down a major highway.
I decided to ride and not get off until the next town. I didn’t think I would make it, I was really in pain. When I finally arrived in Glenwood I found a cheap hotel and rented a room. I could barely walk. There was no bath in the room and the public toilet was down the hall. I got some wet towels to lay on my legs and hit the bed.
When I awoke this morning the pain was intense. I decided to stay in the room and let my legs get better. On the way into town I passed a public swimming pool and thought that soaking my legs would help. Around 1 p.m. I hobbled to the pool and spent the rest of the day in the water. It helped a lot.
Since I had lost a day here, I left town about 7:30 at night and had intended to ride all night. It is now about 2:30 a.m. I am so sleepy I can hardly see. I wanted to ride all night but I am too tired. There is no sense in killing Red or myself riding.
I am not sure where I am, I think the closest town is about four or five miles away. It is very dark and there is no moon. There are plenty of stars, but you can’t see by their light.
After about six hours of sleep I started out again this morning. On the way I saw a ranger station and stopped. The Ranger invited me to climb the tower and told me, “If you are headed for Oklahoma, you can see it from here.” The tower was about 150’ high and from it, sure enough, I could see Oklahoma. I will never forget that sight as long as I live. It seemed as though I had just discovered it. All the long days of sweating, freezing, cursing and loneliness are about to be climaxed by triumph. As I looked over the mountains I knew that I had paid dearly for a sight of them.
Was it worth it?
I don’t know yet.
It seems as though it has to be.
I know now that nothing that is worth anything is easy to come by.
They say that the best things in life are free but they do not tell you how much you have to sweat for them. Only time will tell if it is worth it.
The Ranger turned his head when he saw the tears rolling down my cheek. He had a newspaper with a story in it about me and he said he figured I was coming his way. He asked me to autograph the clipping for his son.
|Dallas, Texas, was the end of
the trail for 18-year-old Tex Cashner, who traveled 1700 miles by horseback
from Canton, Ohio, in 1951. He can be seen here greeting his aunt,
Mrs. H. B. Rose, at her home in Dallas.
Click on photo to enlarge
I left this morning about 8 a.m. It rained last night and cooled things off. For 38 miles I rode until I saw the sign that said “Welcome to Oklahoma!” That was an understatement. I found a pasture for Red and I slept in the barn. No one will ever know what I felt when I saw that sign. I just said a silent prayer.
About 10 a.m. I reached the place where I could call home. I announced the good news. By 12 o’clock I was in Broken Bow, Oklahoma. I received some mail from home but not all of it, I know. I had arrived sooner than I had expected. I wanted to get Red shod but when I found that the nearest blacksmith was eleven miles away, I found a truck and had him hauled to the farrier. I saw my first Indian today, a Choctaw. He didn’t look so vicious. He was 15 years old, and only came up to my chest. His name was Jim.
I started out this morning about 9:45. On the way I stopped and mailed a few cards. The land is really starting to change. It is rolling and rocky. Cows are most abundant here. The people are changing too. They are not as friendly as they were back down the road. I expected that, though. I am now camped about two miles out of Fort Towson in a big pasture, or range. Red will probably be 30 miles from here come morning. I should reach Ardmore about Sunday. Then I don’t know what.
It rained again last night so I passed the night in a pig-pen. Pigs are very nice after you get to know them. I rode as far as Sulphur, Oklahoma and stopped for the night.
They were having a revival meeting in the church. I had never seen one so I went in.
I will never forget this night as long as I live. Everyone was very friendly and the first thing I knew I was standing up in front singing. We stopped singing and the preacher asked if there was anyone to be saved tonight. He seemed to be looking at me as he spoke. Before I knew it I was almost hypnotized by the noise and the preacher. They got me up front and I knelt down and asked the Lord to save my soul. Everyone was yelling and singing.
Then I passed out.
They got me on my feet and started in again. Everyone was pushing me, trying to squeeze the Devil out of my body. I fell to the floor and kept praying.
Then I noticed I couldn’t move my fingers or my mouth. They said that was the Devil trying to stay in my body. For fifteen minutes I sat in a numb daze. Then I asked if I wanted to have them pray for me. While they prayed I felt the strength come back to my hands and I could stand up.
They said, “Now you are saved, you have won the battle.”
I’m still not sure what happened, but I do know I was helpless as a baby for those fifteen minutes before they prayed.
Last night was the same as usual – rain. I left the church about 11 o’clock and went down to the pasture to see Red. About 1 o’clock it started to rain. I took my blanket and went to sleep under a big tent near the church. About 3 o’clock a storm broke loose – wind, lightning, and rain. Before I knew it the water was all around me and my blanket was half soaked. One end of the tent had blown down and the rest had started. I was standing there when the preacher came out and said that he wanted me to help him take the tent down. We did all right until the last bit, and then the whole thing came down upon our heads.
He took me into church and there was a bed. I spent the rest of the night in comfort.
Today I rode as far as Bochica, about 33 miles in all. I found a little pasture and put Red up for the night. The Lion’s Club invited me to eat supper with them. All the chicken I wanted, and all of the trimmings. I even made a short speech.
Today I rode to the Corral, a beer joint about five miles out of Druant, OK. I asked the man in back, who owns about 10,000 acres, if I could put Red in a small pasture for the night. He flatly said no. I met a man from New Mexico and he took me into Madill to get my money order. Then we went to find some hay and feed. I slept in back of the Coral, lulled to sleep by the blaring juke box.
The man with the big ranch was a low point in my trip. I had not expected to find this type of person in the West. Even after I had explained what I was doing, and that I would not hurt anything, he still refused to let me through the gate. He said my horse might infect his cattle. From where I stood, I could see no cattle, only miles and miles of rolling hills.
Red ended up with some hay and oats from a local feed store.
I made it.
At 5 o’clock I rode into Ardmore.
My trip is done.
I tried to locate Mr. Biddle but he isn’t to be found. I tried everything but the Post Office and that is closed. What a blow! Ride 1700 miles and can’t find the man I came to see.
I had quite a time finding a place for Red until a man by the name of J. N. Waggoner took me under his wing. Now everything is fine. No one will ever know the thrill for me when I popped the hill and saw Ardmore.
I made it!
It turned out I was looking for the wrong name. My mother’s friend in Canton was named Biddle but her uncle’s name was Charles Goddard. Goddard was a millionaire oil man and rancher who also owned the famous Quarter Horse named Little Joe. I was unable to find a place to put Red in Ardmore until I ran across J. N. Waggoner. He had called the newspaper and, after a reporter took my story, my problems were over for the time. I had been refused a stable at the Ardmore Round Up Club barn. It caused a stink when the newspaper story came out.
Still looking. I will have to wait until Monday before I can do much more. I looked around Ardmore today, not a bad little town. Red is having a good rest with plenty to eat. He really deserves it.
Things really started popping this morning. I went to the post office and they never heard of Biddle. I went to the newspaper. The Ardmore Newspaper got involved and we came up with the right name, Charles Goddard. They got hold of Goddard by phone and he came to meet me at the newspaper office.
Goddard was not what I had expected. Instead of a tall, row-boned, tanned rancher, I was introduced to a 70-year-old business man in a suit and a tie. This was the man who had told me months ago that I could never make the trip on horseback.
But, he was the man.
I had my picture taken with him, and some on Red. I was on the 12:30 newscast. They sent the story all over.
Yes, I arrived and found the man I came to see, but I am not very happy. I can’t say Goddard was happy to see me. I think all he saw was a problem. At any rate, it was a big let-down for me. Goddard told me that there was really no facility at the ranch for a single man. He doesn’t have any place for me on his ranch. All his hands were married men and all lived on or near the ranch.
So much for the western movies with the ranch hands, trail rides., etc. I could batch it, but that runs into a lot of extra time.
I never even got to see his ranch, though he did take me to lunch.
1700 miles was a long way to go for lunch.
Many thoughts race through my head – Streak’s death, the rain, the sun, the sweat, the cold, the sore ass for the first six hundred miles – my dreams, gone.
My only consolation was that I had set a goal and made it, at any cost.
I was proud of that and I know my family was proud of me, and that was worth a lot.
I think it best to go find a job for a while and then return home.
If only Streak could be here to share all this with me.
Still no luck for the ranch deal. I called Dad and he said I might as well go on to Dallas. He said, “Don’t worry, Dallas is only a few hundred miles away. Go see your Uncle Horace. I hear Dallas is a growing place with lots of opportunity.”
Now I feel real good again, I have somewhere to go and something to think about.
Red and I left Ardmore the next day.
“Tom” Cashner took his father’s advice and headed towards Texas. “Tex” arrived in Dallas on June 24th, 1951, after having ridden 1,700 miles from his home in Canton, Ohio.