by Andy Bourelle |

by Andy Bourelle

Staff Writer

It’s like a story out of the old West.

Imagine five cowboys, ranging in age from 53 to 79, riding horses and mules from Mexico to Canada, making a long, arduous journey for a good cause. It may sound like a story from the past; however, it is an event taking place right now, and for about five more days, those cowboys will be in Douglas County.

They are making this excursion to raise money for cancer research.

“We come from all different walks of life, totally different backgrounds, but we all have two things in common – we’re interested in horses and we’re interested in fighting cancer,” said Jim Brookover, who goes by the trail name of Chilicote.

Phil Thrasher, 75; Darrell Howard, 79; Ron Knudson, 60; Daryl Hatten, 72; and Brookover, 53, are Horsebackers Against Cancer, and their stop in Carson Valley is about one month into their three-month trip. Having come from various western cities, they left Mexico on March 27 and are scheduled to hit Canada about June 20.

“We left right after spring began, and we’ll finish one day before spring ends,” Brookover said. “You might say, ‘Spring 1998 – Mexico to Canada.'”

Having arrived Tuesday night, they plan to stay in Carson Valley, resting their animals, until May 1. Then, the five men will take their team of four horses, two mules and two trucks on to Carson City. While they are bringing trucks, three men are riding at all times.

Thrasher formed the group, and the ride to raise money for cancer research is an activity he wanted to do years ago. In 1985, three of his brothers died within three months from cancer. In 1990, his wife was diagnosed with cancer, and Thrasher canceled plans to make the trip. After five years, she was able to fight off the cancer, and, before Thrasher could organize the trip, his “dream” had to once again be canceled because he was diagnosed with prostate cancer.

Doctors were able to eliminate the cancer two years ago, and Thrasher planned the ride once again. In November 1997, however, Thrasher’s leg was broken when he was trampled by a spooked mare. He’s making the ride from Mexico to Canada with a pin in his leg.

The other members have similar stories of family members they have lost to cancer.

“We’ve all been affected by cancer one way or another,” Brookover said. “I don’t think there’s a family in America that has not lost a loved one to cancer.”

However, Brookover said he expects the cure for cancer to be found in his lifetime.

“I liken it to building a coliseum. You have to get a building permit. You have to get architects, and engineers, contractors and sub-contractors,” Brookover said. “You have to get laborers and money. Then you build the foundation, then the walls. To be honest with you, I think that cancer research has the walls up and is putting the roof on.

“That’s a layman’s way of putting it, but I really, truly believe that. We’re going to see cancer become a thing of the past, but it’s going to take some bucks.”

The Horsebackers encourage anyone who wants to donate to the cause, to send money to two comprehensive research centers. The Horsebackers themselves are not receiving any money for the trip.

“This is not a get-rich thing by any means,” Brookover said. “No one’s doing this for their resume.”

The Horsebackers do not know what kind of money they have raised so far. Being on the road, they don’t know the dollar amounts which have been donated. However, they do know residents have been friendly and helpful so far along their journey.

“The people have been great. People have gone completely out of their way for us,” Brookover said. “We’ve not run into one sour apple.”

Farmers, ranchers and other people have helped them on their journey, allowing them to camp on fields and graze their horses. On one occasion, they stayed in a hunting lodge “you would not believe.”

The hospitality did not stop when they came to Carson Valley, where ranchers James Settelmeyer and Gary Dykes have allowed them to stay on their land.

“Ranchers all over have been more than gracious to us,” Brookover said. “When you’ve got cowboys talking to cowboys, everyone speaks the same lingo.”

Although their journey has been tiring, the five cowboys have loved the western scenery.

“Just about everywhere we’ve been has been a scenic highway, so to speak,” Knudson said. “It’s just been absolutely gorgeous. Just awesome. Every picture is a postcard. We’ve ridden by the desert in full bloom. It’s all purple and bright gold. The mountains behind are barren and sandy, and then behind that is the Sierra Nevada. It really is beautiful.”

While their horses are resting and they are spending a few extra days in Carson Valley, the five men would be happy to speak to any group or organization about cancer and cancer research. They can be reached by cellular phone, 509-993-9417, if any resident wants to contact them while they are here.

Contributions can be made to:

Horsebackers Against Cancer

5712 Big Rock Road

Spokane, Wash. 99223

Fred Hutchinson Comprehensive Cancer Research Center

Care of Horsebackers Against Cancer

1124 Columbia Street St.

Seatte, Wash. 98104-2092

City of Hope

Care of Horsebackers

Against Cancer

208 West Eighth St.

Los Angeles, Calif. 90014

Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Research Center

Care of Horsebackers Against Cancer

Box 951781

Los Angeles, Calif. 90095-1781

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