Methow Valley Horsemen organize impromptu outing
Friday (May 8) was a gorgeous Methow Valley day: clear skies, warm spring sun, flowers in the hills. It was, some members of the Methow Valley Horsemen decided, a perfect day for a horseback ride.
After the ride, someone suggested that given the light traffic in Winthrop lately, it might be fun to ride through town the next day.
“So a few of us planned to do the ride on Saturday,” said Tom Graves, a longtime member of the Methow Valley Horsemen and the Methow Valley community. “Then we figured that we would call the Methow Valley Rodeo royalty and see if they wanted to join us, since they were losing so many parades and rodeos [including the local Memorial Day Methow Valley Rodeo] this year due to the Stay at Home order. This would be a different kind of chance for them to ride through Winthrop.”
Saturday dawned just as bright as the day before, and at about 11 a.m., with little fanfare and a light audience watching from the boardwalks, Tom Graves, Dennis Gardner, and Ray Campbell led a small group on horseback through town, carrying, respectively, the Canadian flag, the Methow Valley Horsemen flag, and the United States flag.
Following them according to 6 feet of social distancing guidelines were other members of the Methow Valley Horsemen and the Mountain Men, as well as the Methow Valley Rodeo royalty, Queen Jadyn Mitchell, and Princess Elizabeth Clark, both sophomores at Liberty Bell High School.
Although the group ride took place on what would have been Winthrop’s annual ’49er Days celebration, Graves noted “This wasn’t a protest; we weren’t making a statement. We had no ulterior motives. It was just a spontaneous opportunity to go for a ride together, the way a group of bicyclists or skiers might recreate together.”
Graves is 90, well past the age when some might think twice about sitting in a saddle, and he does it with the grace of a lifelong rider. The ’49er Days tradition is an enduring one for him, and if last Saturday’s ride in some way honors the event that was this year postponed due to the pandemic, he considers it a success.
“Some people say I’ve never missed a ’49er Days celebration,” Graves said, “but that’s not true. I’ve missed two. I was in Korea and they wouldn’t furlough me. My family has been doing ’49er Days weekend since the beginning, and I was glad to have a chance to commemorate it in a different kind of way with this ride.”