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Montana, the lady and the horses

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Column by Jim Clark

By Jim Clark

They ambled slowly up U.S. 27 approaching Levy County from Ocala.

Donna Byrne and her two horses are making a trip to Montana, and obviously they've got a long way to go.

On Monday when we caught up with her between Fellowship and Blitchton, she was going to spend the night in Bronson. Instead, she didn't even get to the city limits of Williston, spending the night at Frog's Barbecue.

She then caused a stir Tuesday as she came down Noble Avenue through the heart of Williston.

She was unaware of the problems from last year, when a paraplegic tried to make it from Williston to California, and only got as far as High Springs before one of his horses broke loose during the night, got on the road and was struck and killed.

That's the first thing that struck me when I heard about this ... more horses in danger.

I don't have that much horse experience, although I like to think I have some horse sense, and last year you could just tell that the horses being used were struggling.

I didn't get that impression with her on Monday. The horses seemed a lot more lively and alert.

As they passed a horse farm, all the horses moved toward the fence to see the pair, and rider, as they passed by. It was almost as if they were saying, "How come they get to move on up the road, while we're stuck here behind this fence?"

Still, this kind of thing presents a problem for newspapers. How much publicity do you give someone like this?

She's obviously asking for handouts along the way to keep her trip going. She's probably going to do all right around here, but eventually she'll work her way out of horse country and the people may not be as receptive.

For this one, a photo and cutline will have to do. Unlike last year, this rider isn't from around here, and by the time you read this she probably will be out of the area and headed north.

The deeper story here is how this might be a reflection on the times, the lengths people will go to to find work.

Donna Byrne could surely get to Montana a lot faster than at the pace she is maintaining (with a "horseless carriage"), but she wouldn't attract as much attention.

For now, we just hope she and her horses make it safely. We don't need another horse tragedy this year.

Jim Clark is the editor of the Williston Pioneer Sun News. He can be reached at editor@willistonpioneer.com or at 528-3343.