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A 51 day journey by horseback, two cowboys arrive from Missouri at Mount Rushmore

The two laugh after being reunited.
The two laugh after being reunited.(Jeffrey Lindblom)
Published: Jul. 21, 2021 at 6:34 PM MDT
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) - People visit Mount Rushmore from all over the nation by car or plane, but two men didn’t like either option.

Donna Rodriguez, who’s married to Cris Rodriguez who’s arriving at Mount Rushmore on horseback after a 51 day journey says, “they decided that this is the summer to take a trip from Nevada, Missouri to Mount Rushmore, South Dakota.”

Cris Rodriguez, recently retired, and Forrest Drury, an eighth grade history teacher, have been travelling across the country for 51 days. Why?

A Rodriguez family friend, Jed Umphenour, who came to see them when they arrived at the Monument, has the answer.

He says, “Because Cris is one of those guys that if you say, ‘Hey, let’s go do something.’ He would drop what he’s doing and grab a clean pair of shorts and take off.”

Another family friend, Julie Mader, says, “he’s an adventure soul.”

Her husband, Dave Mader agrees, “and Forrest is just a fantastic young man.”

Jed and his family put Cris and Forrest up he fourth day of their journey. The pair happily obliged as they thought they’d be camping the rest of the way.

Instead, “people would stop and see them. They would bring them grain, they would bring them water. They would tell them where they could stay. These are strangers, says Julie Mader. “These are people that would show up and say, ‘What do you need?’

Dave Mader went 100 miles with the duo before his horse ran into some trouble and couldn’t finish.

But, he’s here now where and when their journey comes to an end, “I can’t wait to see them. I just can’t wait. I keep looking down over the hill thinking, ‘My God, I hope they show up pretty soon.’”

Eventually they did and they hopped off the saddle.

After they got settled, Cris Rodriguez and Forrest Drury set at the same time, “Ground feels good. It feels good to get off of the saddle.”

It was all about what comes next.

“Each day, you just got to figure out how you’re going to make it to the next destination,” says Drury.

It all started on the first day they were planning to camp. Where right off of the bat, they ran into problems.

“That was the one night we kind of thought, ‘Uh-oh,’” says Drury.

Where they’d thought to camp, they couldn’t. Distressed, a family came up wanting to pet their horses. After telling them their story, they offered them a place to stay. From then on, the people they stayed with would set them up with others along the way, always having a place to stay under a roof or the stars.

“They opened up their homes to us, and sometimes just left us there with their home! And they were gone! Everyday was like that,” says Cris Rodriguez, “and then they knew somebody in the next town and they knew somebody in the next town. The whole trip was that way.

“There’s a lot of good people out there. Everywhere we went people took care of us,” Drury added.

As for two how were able to stand so close after such a long journey side by side? Was the journey always full of smiles?

“We had our moments,” Cris Rodriguez says sharing a laugh with Drury. “We have no black eyes or anything like that. We never duked it out, but we thought about it!”

They left on June 1, Cris’s birthday, who had been dreaming about this trip for 40 years. He says it’s been in his blood.

Also, Cris taught Forrest how to ride.

“It sounded like an adventure that I definitely wanted to go on,” says Forrest. “His wife Donna said he couldn’t go alone. So, I figured I’d come and keep an eye on him.”

“I’m thrilled to see my wife that I haven’t seen for a while. So,” says Cris Rodriguez, “that feels really good.”

“It’ll be nice to have a pillow again,” Drury added.

“We left on June 1, went out the Driveway and didn’t turn around,” says Cris Rodriguez.

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