I was driving back to the office one afternoon after going to Bashas’ for a sandwich when I saw two men riding on horseback down Saguaro Boulevard. They were headed toward the park.
This was an unusual sight even in those early days of the community. The P-Bar Ranch had shut down when it was sold to McCulloch Properties for the new community of Fountain Hills.
I made a U-turn and followed the pair to the park.
They kept waving me on to pass them, but I was curious to see what they were doing. In those days, it was difficult to find feature story material other than new resident interviews about why they moved to Fountain Hills.
This story began 121 years earlier when Horace Greeley’s “Go west, young man.” One of his descendants decided to take his advice.
Arthur Greeley and Sanford “Sandy” Bergh, both 19 and currently live in St. Paul, Minn. followed a Triple A-routed trip to Fountain Hills. They had seen an ad in the Milwaukee newspaper about flying to Arizona and seeing a new community being built near Phoenix.
They decided to contact the local sales office for McCulloch and inquired about sponsoring their ride on horseback to Arizona conducting interviews with newspapers and broadcast stations along the way which would be following the advice of Arthur’s great-great-great uncle.
They practiced with Blaze and Sailor, their horses, for the ride, for about six weeks.
Blaze, a Sorrel quarter horse, and Sailor, a six-year-old American Albino, had been boarded at a farm near the Twin Cities. The young men exercised them daily and had them inspected by a veterinarian in order to acquire health certificates for the seven-state, 2,000-mile odyssey. The riders’ journey took them through Minnesota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Colorado, Arizona, Utah and New Mexico.
Art was unsure as to his exact relationship to Horace Greeley. “Two of my dad’s cousins were school teachers and they traced our family tree back to Horace," he said. "I suppose he’s something like a great-great-great uncle.”
Actually, Art and Sandy had more in common with the adventuresome Huck Finn than Horace Greeley, but, as Art explains, “We thought of rafting the Mississippi, then I remembered meeting a man years ago who was riding a bull to Texas and getting a lot of publicity. So Sandy and I decided to ride horses to Fountain Hills in order to help his dad’s new electrical contracting business get a start.”
Roscoe Greeley, 55, formerly of St. Paul, is vice president of the Fountain Hills Electric Company. He and his family met Carl Swanson in 1964 when the former Onamia, Minn. rancher was riding his bull named Randy from Canada to Texas in protest of low domestic meat prices.
The young men’s journey started from the parking lot of Dunwoody Institute where they completed courses in auto body repairing that prior spring.
Greeley said he would help his father in his business once he became settled in his new hometown of Fountain Hills. Bergh said he would stay for about two or three months before returning.
They rode about 30 miles a day, about 15 miles in the morning, then rested during the heat of the day
They rode another 15 late in the day. He said they carried camping gear and pitched a tent along the road.
“Veterinarians say the best food for horses is grass, but they picked up some oats along the way for them as a treat,” Greeley said. “We carried just enough money to buy provisions for us and the horses.”
Greeley added they were looking forward to their ride back. They planned to stop in Greeley, Colo.
“I’m going to ride up to the courthouse to see if there’s a statue of Horace,” Art said.
The town was founded by Horace Greeley as a cooperative community in 1870. He died two years later--less than one month after he lost his bid for the presidency to Ulysses S. Grant.
When asked why he and Sandy decided to ride horses to Fountain Hills, Art replied, “The way the world is today, people just don’t do this sort of thing very much. They all seem to be riding motorcycles or snowmobiles.
I gave them each a business card of mine and told them to get back in touch with me after their return ride to Minnesota.
I never heard from either one of them. Also, I never heard of a business called Fountain Hills Electric Company ever starting up here. I just don’t know what happened.