Thursday, February 12, 2009

Homeless Cowgirl--a sign of the times

Article by LINDSAY PETERSON The Tampa Tribune Published: February 10, 2009 Updated: 02/10/2009 06:36 pmhttp://www2. 2009/feb/ 10/101836/ jobless-cowgirl- heads-west- work/

Donna Byrne, a cowgirl, has lost it all in this economy. She only has her 2 horses left. She is headed to Texas from Arcadia, FL via horse back in hopes of finding work. She is truly a homeless cowgirl with only a tent and her horses.

Donna lost her job in Arcadia a couple of months ago, so she decided to take off for Texas - on horseback. 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'd be on foot.

Hoping to reach Ocala in two weeks, Byrne made her way through Hillsborough County today, riding Tonto and leading Jay, who was loaded down with about 100 pounds of everything she owns, her clothes, a tent and some blankets. 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, is headed to a horse auction in Ocala, where she hopes to get a few days' work. Then she'll move on to Texas, maybe Amarillo. She's never been there, but she knows they have ranches. And that's the kind of work she's looking for.

She's not sure she'll make it, but she's getting help. Tonto threw a shoe Monday, and when Tonya Halvorsrod read about it in a story about Byrne on, 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 near a truck stop north of I-4 and pulled over with his mobile horseshoeing 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. 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 wasn't for her. "They said I wasn't making them right." So when she lost that job and lost her home because she couldn't pay the rent, she decided to take off, to find a real ranch. One day, she said, she'd 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 doesn't have any family to speak of, just a brother she doesn't speak to. But she has friends, she said, who tried to talk her out of taking such a long trip alone, exposed to the weather and the dangers of the road.

She's taking it easy, covering 10-15 miles a day, she said. "I'm OK. It's been OK so far." Monday night she slept "under the stars" across from a service station on U.S. 301, where she watered her horses and gave them the feed she's carrying. But tonight she and her horses plan to spend the night in Thonotosassa, on the property of a woman who has horses and sought out Byrne after seeing her story on "Horse people help horse people," said Clint Halvorsrod. Byrne hopes to make it to Dade City on Wednesday.


hopeforcleanwater said...

Travelling cowgirl Donna Byrne was hospitalized in Louisiana yesterday (April 9) with a serious leg infection.

Traveling cowgirl in Louisiana hospital

News Channel 8 file photo by PAUL LAMISON

Donna Byrne, 44, loaded up her two horses and headed for Texas after she lost her job.

By LINDSAY PETERSON | The Tampa Tribune

Published: April 8, 2009

Updated: 04/08/2009 04:26 pm

Related Links

Previous coverage
Photos: Going West
Web site set up for Byrne

Travelling cowgirl Donna Byrne was hospitalized in Louisiana yesterday with a serious leg infection.

Doctors are giving her intravenous antibiotics and pain medicine, said Donnis Birkicht, who visited her this morning at Huey P. Long Medical Center, in Pineville, La.

Byrne asked Birkicht for two things, Chinese food and the latest issue of Western Horseman magazine. "She was very insistent that it be the latest issue," Birkicht said.

Byrne made it to Natchez, Miss., on Monday and was staying with a family who noticed her walking with a limp.

She wouldn't let anyone look at it at first, said one of the family members, Delana Tradewell, in a post on a website following Byrne's trek, Finally Tradewell's husband persuaded Byrne to take off her boot and was alarmed at how bad it looked.

Byrne didn't want to go to the doctor, but the Tradewells took her anyway. "One look, and he sent her to the hospital," Delana wrote.

Later in the day, Byrne was taken by ambulance to the Pineville hospital, about 90 miles from Natchez.

Byrne, 44, started out in Arcadia about 10 weeks ago. She'd lost her job working on a small ranch.

Then she lost her home when she couldn't pay rent. So she loaded up her two horses and headed for Texas, where she hoped to find a job on a large ranch, she said.

Traveling north on U.S. 301, she attracted a following of horse owners who have used the Internet to find her and her horses places to stay on their journey.

She was physically worn down by the time she arrived in Natchez, Delana wrote. She'd been taking care of her horses better than herself, and didn't want to go to the hospital because she was worried about who would take care of them.

She finally agreed to go, Delana wrote, when her husband, Bert, promised to take good care of the horses, Jay and Tonto.

Bert works with Donnis Birkicht's husband and asked the Birkicht's to check on her at the hospital in Pineville.

The horse that she has been riding, Jay, stopped eating after Byrne was taken to the hospital, Delana wrote yesterday. Jay paced in circles in her stall. "She know's that something is wrong with Donna and she is so upset."

But Birkicht said Jay was calmer today and had started to eat.

Reporter Lindsay Peterson can be reached at (813) 259-7834

Joy Ezell
Perry, FL

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