by Larry Lemmons
Donna Byrne is exhausted and saddened by the death of her horse, Jay, last week. When she rode out from Florida with two horses early in February she had little idea of the toll the journey would take on her way to Amarillo.
Byrne rode Jay, the mare from Arcadia, Florida. In Childress Jay apparently ate a poison plant, got sick, and needed to be put down.
Byrne is currently in Clarendon, about three or four days ride from Amarillo, she says. She acquired another horse to finish the journey.
Byrne says, "She's got a little bit of an attitude problem, but, I don't know. Find somewhere I can trade her off or get rid of her and get something else. Something that will fit me, and do this deal here. She's not really up to this."
Her pack horse, Tonto has also been with her.
Byrne lost her job and house in Florida and could not afford to transport the horses to Amarillo where she hopes to find a job as a ranch hand. "Didn't have a place to go." she said, "So I said to heck with it. Take the journey."
She says many people have helped her and donated money and feed.
Byrne says, because of Jay's death, some people in Florida say she's abusing the horses and riding them to death.
Byrne took the horses to Clarendon veterinarian, Dr. Guy Ellis. He says, "People have traveled on horseback for many a mile in our history. I think the horses look fine and I just have a lot of respect for her for what she's doing and how tough she is."
Byrne has newspaper clippings of her journey. She has photos of the many people who've helped her along the way. She's endured cold, heat and even a tornado.
"When it calmed down and got out, the whole roof on the barn was gone. I was like, man!"
She's doing what was common not too very long ago and almost nonexistent today. Her strength is reminiscent of the mythic tales of Panhandle cowboys. But Byrne is no boy.