Arizona artist Katie Cooper rode through Altus this weekend while making a trip of a lifetime from Mississippi, back to her home in Tucson, Ariz., with her traveling companion Walter, her mule.
“I’ve wanted to do this all my life,” said Cooper on Tuesday, Sept., 3, who stopped to get Walter some water just off of Highway 62 West toward Duke. “I wanted to ride through the world without all the technology and every industry that screens us from it.” Cooper explained that she had a dream to see the beauty of the county without the restraint of ridding around in “little boxes.”
After not riding a horse for 35 years, and then starting again at age 50, Cooper, now 57, set off from Port Gibson Miss., on April 2, and hopes to arrive in Tucson, weather permitting, by early or mid-November.
“I’m meeting all the small-town people that you just can’t read about in the paper,” Cooper said. “People are just as good as they ever were, and that has not changed. We’ve been treated with such hospitality and people being wondrously kind to my mule and myself.” Cooper explained that there isn’t much public property for lodging her and Walter, so they have often relied on the generosity of others.
“Generally, I ride up somebody’s driveway that looks like it might be somewhere that I could put a mule for the night and introduce myself and say, ‘Excuse me, but were just passing through, and would it be alright if we camped here for the night?” Cooper said that she has almost never been refused.
Ironically, her biggest challenge is to overcome her fear of walking up to someone’s driveway to ask if they might stay, because she was raised not to impose on people or to invite herself in.
“I was so afraid that everybody would say ‘no,’ but that almost never happened. It took all my courage to walk up peoples’ driveway and knock on the door.”
Cooper sold all of her possessions, including her Ford-F250 and trailer to fund the trip. She didn’t want those extras to weigh her down, she said, adding that she also challenged herself by having no other option but Walter to get her home.
“If a 50-something-year-old lady who hasn’t ridden in 35 years could manage to do this, and on a mule, anyone can do anything. And if it inspires anyone, and whatever the dream is, everybody’s is different, but particularly a dream that they would love to do but they think, “ahh, there’s no way,” and it’s beyond them… If you can inspire somebody to go, ‘you know what, there’s a way,’ then hey, we did our job.”
Cooper keeps a blog of her trip, and has documented the whole process since planning began in 2011. Her artwork is also accessible through her blog. Learn more about Katie Cooper and Walter on their trip of a lifetime at her website at www.muletriptalk.blogspot.com.