Al Huffman as Buffalo Bill Cody.

Moving to Evergreen with a horse in tow on a cloudless summer day in 1985, Means Meadow, now named Elk Meadow, beckoned me to ride every trail and fly without wings through magical meadows.

Much has changed over the years when owners of gorgeous acreage welcomed horse lovers to “ride through,” with one stipulation: “If you open a gate while on our property, make sure you close it behind you.” Knowing those days have long passed, I treasure the precious memories horse-loving people have shared with me, including Louise Hendryx and Al Huffman.

Louise Stransky Hendryx, with her parents, Josef and Carrie, brother Oren, and sister Lucille (Counselman), established the still standing Stransky Ranch in the early 1900s. Stocking their ranch with horses was a tale I frequently asked Louise to retell. “Dad found three horses for sale in Brighton, Colorado. The owner agreed to sell all three to my dad for $15. The only way we could bring the horses to our Evergreen ranch was for Oren, Lucille and me to ride them. I don’t recall if Oren and Lucille were as eager as I was to ride those horses home, but there were no other options since we didn’t own a horse trailer. It was rare for anyone to own a horse trailer in those days. It was a two-day ride with an overnight stay at the Denver Stockyards. We slept under the stars. Comfortable it was not, but hearing the movement of the livestock lulled me to sleep.”

Inflicted with horse fever, Louise rose with the sun to tend to endless ranch chores, then rode her horse to the Little White Schoolhouse on Highway 73, only to ride home to tackle the evening ranch chores. Her father, Josef, along with Joel Williford and others, founded the first Evergreen Rodeo, with the Evergreen Rodeo Parade established a few years later. Louise and Lucille, both passionate about the parade, served on the parade’s board for decades. They also manned the entry table to ensure the parade lineup was as close as it could be to their definition of perfection.

Louise told me, “I loved riding horses my entire life, and I was heartbroken when my doctor insisted I quit riding when I turned 92. Fortunately, my granddaughter raises gorgeous Quarter Horses in Fort Collins, and she allows me to ride. It’s all I can do to ride up and down her driveway, but it’s just as thrilling as it was riding horses from Brighton to Evergreen.” I have to believe horses gifted Louise with the will to live.

“I rode horses before I learned how to walk.”

Living downtown in a quaint cabin, with photos of family and horses hanging throughout her home availed Louise the opportunity to sit front and center along the parade route in her later years. As her life was ebbing away, she sat perched in her wheelchair and watched her last parade in June 2015. She died a few days following at the age of 103.

Al Huffman is another Evergreen superstar having received national and international notoriety for his 40-plus years portraying Buffalo Bill Cody. Al replicated Cody’s attire to the most minute details. He received presidential recognition for his passionate preservation of Cody and the western way of life from Presidents Reagan, Ford and Clinton. In 1997, Bill Clinton invited Al to attend the G-8 Summit at a special dinner at The Fort restaurant in Morrison. Al also forged lasting friendships with actor Ernest Borgnine and cowboy crooner (and horse fanatic) Michael Martin Murphy. He also forged a close friendship with Monty Roberts, who worked with risky horses and at-risk kids. Monty claims, “For centuries, humans have said to horses, ‘You do what I tell you or I’ll hurt you.’ Humans also say that to each other, using threats, force and intimidation. None of us has the right to say, ‘you must’ or ‘I’ll hurt you,’ to any animal or to another human.” Of Al’s famous friends, it was Monty Roberts I longed to meet. I have been a longtime admirer of him and because of Al, I was able to meet him, whom many proclaim to be the original horse whisperer.

Born on a Nebraska working ranch, Al shared, “I rode horses before I learned how to walk. Horses were a way of life, and I realized at the tender age of 8 that horses were more than ranching equipment because of how Roy Rogers treated Trigger. Never did I miss an episode of ‘The Roy Rogers Show’ radio program, so you can imagine my jaw hit the floor when I saw a horse trailer pull onto a property with ‘Roy Rogers and Trigger’ embossed on the side. I ran outside, grabbed a pitchfork, and feverishly cleaned out the poop and hauled fresh water and hay into Trigger’s corral. The next morning, I rode my faithful pony, Kenny, to the stockyards to watch Roy and Trigger’s performance. Years later, I was privileged to be at a ribbon cutting ceremony with Roy and his wife, Dale Evans, when they opened their museum in Victorville, CA.”

Moving to Colorado when he was 26, Al was destined to join the Buffalo Bill Saddle Club, founded in 1945, when he moved to Evergreen. The club’s mission aligned with his: “to promote and preserve Western heritage.” A year after joining, the Buffalo Bill Saddle Club was going to ride in the Evergreen Rodeo Parade. It was then Al decided to dress himself like Buffalo Bill Cody. Soon thereafter, he became Colorado’s official Buffalo Bill impersonator. Al rode in countless parades throughout the U.S. and beyond including the California Rose Bowl Parade, Denver’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade, and the National Western Stock Show Parade. He also performed at the National Western Stock Show and countless other rodeos as Buffalo Bill, and when a Mexican restaurant invented the national/international sensation, Buffalo Bill Tortilla Chips, Al was handpicked to travel to London, Paris, Ireland and Germany to promote the chips and legendary Buffalo Bill.

Privileged to have met horse lovers who go back generations, or horse loving people relatively new to our mountain communities, I’m constantly reminded that horse memories are not about the past. Being in the company of horses remains one of the best ways to make yourself happy in the present, and horse loving people who share differing opinions, seemingly unite in knowing that being in the company of horses is magical.