From the Herald Tribune
February 11, 2009
Her horses, Jay and Tonto, are about all she has left.
“I lost my job and my house. I’m not losin’ these guys,” she said. Without them, she would be on foot.
Hoping to reach Ocala in two weeks, Byrne made her way through Hillsborough County Tuesday, riding Tonto and leading Jay, who was loaded down with about 100 pounds of everything she owns, her clothes, a tent and some blankets. She planned to reach Dade City by Wednesday.
With her dusty white cowboy hat pulled low, shading blue eyes and a weathered face, she and the horses stood on the side of U.S. 301 in Riverview Tuesday morning. Six lanes of traffic whooshed by, drivers honking, waving and yelling out.
By evening, she was north of Interstate 4. Getting her horses over I-4 on the 301 overpass was touch and go, she said. Tonto spooked and stepped off the shoulder, forcing a truck to swerve out of the way. Otherwise, the horses have kept their heads.
Byrne, 44, was headed to a horse auction in Ocala, where she hoped to get a few days’ work. Then she will move on to Texas, maybe Amarillo. She has never been there, but she knows they have ranches. And that is the kind of work she is looking for.
She is not sure she will make it, but she is getting help. Tonto threw a shoe Monday, and when Tonya Halvorsrod read about it in a story about Byrne on TBO.com, she called her husband, a farrier.
“My wife called,” said Clint Halvorsrod. “She was like, ‘Honey, you have to help her.'” So he cruised 301 until he spotted Byrne and pulled over with his mobile horseshoing rig. Byrne was shocked, but relieved to see him. He ended up putting new shoes on both horses.
“She has a long way to go,” he said. “It’s really hard right now; everyone needs help.”
Byrne started working with horses when she was a teenager, at stables around Tampa.
“I can ride and rope cattle,” she said. “I’m a cowgirl. That’s all I’ve ever wanted to do.”
Back in the ’90s she worked on a ranch in Montana for a while. She also drove a truck, until she got too many speeding tickets and got caught driving with a suspended license.
She tended cattle in Arcadia until the operation shut down a few months ago, she says. Then she went to work in a plant that made butterflies out of silk. That was not for her.
“They said I wasn’t making them right,” she said.
So when she lost that job and lost her home because she could not pay the rent, she decided to take off, to find a real ranch. One day, she said, she would like to have land of her own, in Montana with mountains in the background and a free-flowing stream, a private place where she could live her own life and not have to deal with nosy, critical people.
She does not have any family except a brother she does not speak to. But she has friends, she said, who tried to talk her out of making the trip.
Now for my rant.
If I were faced with helping this woman, I’m not sure, really what I’d do.
Part of me would want to scream at her- how dare you make bad choices, and be irresponsible. Don’t we all know what can happen if you get too many tickets? Of course you’re going to lose your driver’s license!
And another part of me would want to scream at her because you know what? We’ve all had tough times. I’ve had to sell my beloved horses to get out of tough spots. Look, I love my horses more than most, but regardless, HORSES ARE A LUXURY ITEM! THEY ARE SOMETHING MOST WOULD CONSIDER AS DISCRETIONARY. But not this woman. No. She can afford to feed two horses a month, and pay board on them, but she can’t afford to keep her house? She can’t hold down a job-unless it’s on a ranch? She lost her driver’s license because of irresponsible driving. She apparently wasn’t doing the butterflies-out-of-silk job correctly. Was that by choice, because she didn’t like it? What happened to priorities? What happened to rolling up your sleeves and doing what needs to be done to make ends meet. What has happened to personal responsibility? Could she have gotten a room-mate to share expenses? From the other news stories I’ve read the woman has no job lined up in Texas. She’s just headed West. Though I’m sure that now with all the press she’s getting someone will provide her with a job. That’s all well and good I suppose, but will she ever learn from her mistakes if she’s continually enabled to make bad decisions?
The more I think about it the more I guess I could see that this (trip) might possibly be the repercussion of her bad decisions. But that still doesn’t make me admire her. I would have admired her more had she sold her horses, or not had too many speeding tickets.
I’m not altogether sure why this story rubs me the wrong way, but it certainly does.
Look, I want everyone to be successful and do what they love. But sometimes, life throws us curve balls and we have to figure out how deal with those. And sometimes that involves doing things we don’t like; things we don’t want to do. Sometimes it involves working 3 jobs at once (like I’ve done). Sometimes it involves working for less than we believe we are worth. Sometimes it involves having a room-mate. Sometimes it involves selling your equines or cows or clothes, or what have you. Sometimes, maybe, I’m just a cold-hearted bitch?
I’d love to hear you weigh in on this- especially those of you that own horses.