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The Ride of Her Life: The True Story of a Woman, Her Horse, and Their Last-Chance



The Ride of Her Life: The True Story of a Woman, Her Horse, and Their Last-Chance PDF

Author: Elizabeth Letts

Publisher: Ballantine Book

Genres:

Publish Date: June 1, 2021

ISBN-10: 0525619321

Pages: 336

File Type: PDF

Language: English

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Book Preface

HER NICKNAME WAS JACKASS ANNIE. No matter what else they said about her, everyone agreed on this. She got her nickname when she worked as a stitcher in a shoe factory and was so poor she had to ride a donkey to work. In a 1958 history of her hometown of Minot, Maine, she was described as “one of the so-called characters that provide the humor that makes towns of this type interesting.” Some said she had run off as a teenager and joined the circus, become a bareback rider, only returning home when she heard that her mother was sick. Others swore she’d lived in and around Minot all her life, a life that hadn’t amounted to much. She’d been married once, at least, and people said she’d sent the man packing when he’d tried to get the title to her farm. Her given name was Annie. Around Minot, Maine, it was Jackass Annie that stuck.
In November 1954, Annie took her dog and got on a horse and started riding. Destination: California. From a modern perspective, her journey seems almost bewildering—imagine trying to navigate without the benefit of GPS, to travel with no cellphone, no credit or debit card, not even a bank account to draw from. In fact, when she first set off, Annie didn’t even have the kinds of tools that were available in 1954: road maps, a flashlight and batteries, a waterproof raincoat. Annie headed south, a Quixote in the company of her Rocinante, a run-down ex-racehorse, and her Sancho Panza, a little mutt. Society has called these people by different names: vagabonds and drifters, pilgrims, hoboes, and hippies. She called herself a tramp.
Had she been a man, perhaps her independence, her eccentricities, her free spirit would have won her admirers, but the citizens of Minot, like much of small-town America in that era, valued outward conformity. In the postwar years, women’s roles were tightly circumscribed and largely defined by their relation to others—wife, mother, widow. The cult of domesticity was in full swing. A single older woman didn’t have much leeway if she wanted to be seen as respectable. The ideal unmarried older woman was devout, docile, and a bit dull. Annie was none of these.
Her real personality—funny, quirky, and bold—had been buffed and sanded in memory to make her appear more conventional, more palatable to those who would judge a woman for any deviation from the straitlaced norm. Forgotten was her fondness for a good party, her two divorces, her stint as a vaudeville performer, the fact that she never set foot in a church. In its place was the respectable Widow Wilkins—folksy, kindhearted, and maybe a bit simpleminded. When I traveled to Minot and met people who had known her, that was how her former neighbors described her. They were proud of their famous citizen. They hesitated to tell me how poor she was, how mean her circumstances, how she’d never been considered part of polite society. They didn’t want to say a word against her. What struck me, though, was that in spite of their pride in her grand adventure, folks still remembered her as Jackass Annie. The pejorative had stuck like a burr on a shaggy dog’s coat. Annie deserved better.
So this is her true story, and in this story I call her by the name she was born with—just plain Annie.

Contents
Cover
Title Page
Copyright
Epigraph
Prologue
Chapter 1: Living Color
Chapter 2: Live Restfully
Chapter 3: Tax Money
Chapter 4: The Search
Chapter 5: Leaving Home
Chapter 6: Cars
Chapter 7: Strangers
Chapter 8: Jailbirds
Chapter 9: Veterans
Chapter 10: Face in a Box
Chapter 11: Horse People and Dog People
Chapter 12: The Checkered Game of Life
Chapter 13: Odds
Chapter 14: Party Time
Chapter 15: The Clover Leaf Inn
Chapter 16: Log Cabins
Chapter 17: A New Friend
Chapter 18: Lost
Chapter 19: Maps
Chapter 20: Last of the Saddle Tramps
Chapter 21: Poison
Chapter 22: Molehills and Mountains
Chapter 23: The Red Desert
Chapter 24: Winter Again
Chapter 25: A Long Road
Chapter 26: Tough as Nails
Chapter 27: The Golden State
Epilogue
Author’s Note
Dedication
Acknowledgments
Notes
Bibliography
By Elizabeth Letts
About the Author


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