In the fall of 1954, a woman decided to leave her home in Maine and, with her little dog, go to California. Annie Wilkins was 63, had been ill, had to sell her farm animals, and just couldn’t face another northern winter. So not an odd decision, really.
But she did not just jump in her car and head southwest on the new highways crisscrossing the United States. She climbed up on a horse and headed out. Ok, she must have been riding her whole life. Or not.
Annie had very little money and knew no-one on the road ahead. She had no idea what the road ahead even looked like. But she believed she could rely on the kindness of strangers.
The story of the ride
Elizabeth Letts tells Annie Wilkins’ story in The Ride of Her Life. It was published in 2021. Letts travelled the same route, only she did it by car – with GPS, a cell phone and all modern conveniences. In contrast, Annie wasn’t even using the conveniences of the 1950s in her trip.
It’s a truly incredible journey beautifully told. Letts finished her travelling right before the COVID-19 pandemic hit North America. She wrote the book during the following months of lockdown. I can’t think of a better way of spending these remaining months of winter and the pandemic than reading her book. Just close the doors, curl up on the couch and go along on the ride.
Last of the Saddle Tramps
Annie Wilkins died on February 19, 1980 in Maine at the age of 88. Her own account of her journey, entitled Last of the Saddle Tramps, was published in 1967.
Letts’ book wraps up quickly, and I had questions left unanswered. That’s the time to google this story. Not before! You want to take this journey like Annie and the animals did – not knowing what’s coming next.