- Associated Press - Sunday, November 8, 2015

BATESVILLE, Ark. (AP) - Tye Sturgeon is a singer-songwriter and one of a breed that he wishes weren’t so scarce: He is a true cowboy. And he is on a mission to raise money for two different charities, primarily for children, by riding his horse through the 48 contiguous states.

Sturgeon, who is from Batesville, was raised around horses. His grandfather had horses, as did his parents. He doesn’t even remember how old he was when he started riding alone but he does remember riding in the saddle with his dad before he could. His dream was to ride rodeo, which he was able to do for a time, but injuries sidelined him. “They told me, ‘No more,’” he said. He had to find a new dream.

Now, Sturgeon said, he is one of 60 or so “long riders,” horsemen who ride cross-country for various reasons, some to spread the word of God, some for charities such as Wounded Warriors, but few have ridden more than 1,000 miles. To date, he has ridden more than 2,180 miles on his horse, Edward, a 13-year-old he bought for $20 a few months before he began his quest to raise money for the two charities.

“Until he gets about 16 or 17, I ain’t got nothing to worry about. I’ll be done by then,” he said. “It’s going to be three or four more years. But that’s all right. It’s for a good cause.’ He has spent his last two birthdays on the road.

The Magnolia Banner-News (http://bit.ly/1M7zief ) reports Sturgeon began his journey on Mar. 15, 2014, in Batesville. He has since ridden through Missouri, Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, and Louisiana. Along the way, he has stopped to give speeches at churches, colleges, and schools and to have pictures taken with anyone who wishes to. He stays wherever someone is willing to put him up for the night, but sometimes he sleeps wherever he can on an Army bedroll that he modified for his purposes. “I used to camp all the time. I usually stay with somebody or camp out in a barn. I haven’t had to sleep under the stars in a while but I do still do it some,’ he said. On his daily rides he tries to cover about 10-15 miles.

“I’ve had a lot of really good support,” he said. “Arkansas has been really good to me.” No matter where he has been, there are many challenges to a life on the road with a horse. Sturgeon said the expense of feeding a horse every day is not small. Finding a place to do laundry is another.

Sturgeon’s quest is called American Wish Ride (his website is americanwishride.com) and one of the charities is Western Wishes, an organization created in 1994 which raises money to grant wishes to terminally ill children.

“I’m actually riding for another charity called New Horizon Ranch,” he said, which is in Rantoul, Kansas. New Horizon Ranch is a therapeutic horseback riding center for individuals of all ages with physical, cognitive, social, emotional, and learning disabilities.

“They can donate online. I accept donations and then I just mail them or whatever I need to do,” he said. “Most of the time people just see me on the side of the road, and they’re following me on Facebook, and make a donation right there.”

Sturgeon rode into Magnolia accompanied by Brooke McMurrough, a barrel racer from Stamps. He said he is often accompanied for a day by horse riders who want to show him support and help his causes. “If anybody wants to ride with me, all they’ve got to do is look me up on Facebook, find out where I’m at, and they’re more than welcome,” he said. He will continue on Highway 82 to Village, then on to El Dorado and Strong, as he makes his way to Mississippi. He is looking for a place to stay in El Dorado, as someone in Village has already offered a place for him.

“It’s all about the kids,” Sturgeon said. “This just seemed like it would be something amazing to do. If I can help others, and especially kids, I want to do it.” People often stop on the side of the road to take pictures of him with them and/or their children, “Which is great,” he said, “because, for me to help the charities, I’ve got to get a little bit popular. So that’s really good. I’m not going to quit, and the more followers I can get on Facebook, and the more people I can get to support this ride and support these charities, the more impact it’s going to have on the next generation.”

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Information from: The Banner-News, http://www.bannernews.net

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