Who was Annie Wilkins?
Annie Wilkins is a sixty-three-year-old Maine farmer. In 1954, she embarked on the most difficult journey of her life. She had no family at the time because she had failed two marriages, her brother and father had recently died, she had no money, and she had even lost her farm.
Despite this, her doctor confirmed her life expectancy for the next two years due to her recently recovered pneumonia condition. But she had a dream to visit the Pacific Ocean before she died. When her mother was alive, she also wanted to visit the Pacific Ocean. But her mother died before that.
Her doctor advised her to go to a state charity, but she ignored the advice. She sold her home-made pickles and mortgaged her house in order to find money for her ride across the country. Then she bought a cast-off brown gelding named Tarzan, wore men’s dungarees, and headed south in mid-November, hoping to beat the snow.
Anyhow, she embarked on that brave journey. Annie did not even have a map for the trip and had no idea what to do beyond the rural crossroads. But she had her own running horse and her faithful pot left, and she had her own unwavering belief that Americans would treat a stranger like her with kindness.
Along the way, she met ordinary people and country celebrities, from Andrew White (Tarzan’s sketch) to Art Linkletter and Groucho Marx. She received many gifts and was offered a permanent home in a riding studio in New Jersey by kind Americans. She even got a job at a gas station in rural Kentucky and a marriage proposal from a Wyoming farmer.
During this decade, America was rapidly developing, car ownership in the country tripled, the influence of television was rapidly expanding, and homeowners were accustomed to going on frequent excursions. When things were like this, Annie and her coworkers gave their neighbors hope in a world that was changing so quickly.
Andrew Wyeth, a well-known resident of both Chadds Ford and Maine at the time, came to visit Annie Wilkins, an elderly woman and her horse, and they celebrated by having a drink together. She was able to gain many such special experiences during this journey.
Annie Wilkins had written to a friend in Minot about her trip. She said she had taken an extra horse and her pet dog on the trip, and during her time in Waverley, Tennessee, she had written to her friend about sleeping in prisons and hotels and said she had experienced great kindness and generosity from the people she met on the trip. Moreover, she wrote with pride about her new life as a “tramp of fate.”
As news of Annie’s wonderful trip spread throughout the United States, she was often given police protection while traveling to various cities. Journalists found her and came to interview her in her parking lot.
According to letters written to her friend, in May 1955, she was interviewed on two radio and television channels in Missouri and went to a local school to talk about her journey. During the trip, she sold self-portraits and postcards to raise money for her expenses.
According to her articles, she arrived in Cheyenne, Wyoming, in August 1955, where she witnessed the annual Frontier Days, a long-running event that boasts of being one of the largest rodeos in the world.
During that voyage, Wilkins, Tarzan, Rex, and Depeche-Toi trembled across Idaho, traversing snowy mountains, avoiding poisonous snakes, and surviving flash floods.
By December 1956, she had reached the end of her journey. According to articles detailing her return home, she did some self-reflection, wondering what people in Minot would think of her. “I wonder if I will ever see Minot again,” she said. “I want to know if a lot of people out there think I’m really crazy.” That is.
Annie Wilkins traveled for nearly two years and arrived in Reading, California, in mid-December. There she was able to experience winter, and while staying in California she traveled through various locations around the state and witnessed the Pacific Ocean for the first time. She mentioned that it was the most memorable moment of her life.
However, before she could make her way south to Hollywood, where she planned to attend Art Linkletter’s house party, her packhorse Rex died of tetanus on March 1, 1956.
What happened to Annie Wilkins?
Annie Wilkins stayed in California for another year and finally returned to Maine in 1957. After the successful completion of her dream journey, she moved from Minot to the Lincoln County town of Whitefield, where she spent the rest of her life.
Annie Wilkins kept a diary of all her experiences on this trip, and in the mid-1960s, she teamed up with journalist Mina Titus Sawyer to write a book about her adventures. It was published in 1967 as “The Last of the Saddle Tramps“
You Can Buy Book Here : Last of the Saddle Tramps
When she contracted pneumonia in 1954, she lived 24 years longer than the two years that doctors had given her to live, and she died in 1980 at the age of 88. She is buried in Maple Grove Cemetery at Mechanic Falls, where Annie’s gravestone reads “the last of the saddle tramps.”
Books Published about Annie Wilkins Story
Last of the Saddle Tramps: One Woman’s Seven Thousand Mile Equestrian Odyssey – Mesannie Wilkins
You Can Buy Book Here : Last of the Saddle Tramps
The Ride of Her Life: The True Story of a Woman, Her Horse, and Their Last-Chance Journey Across America – Elizabeth Letts
You Can Buy Book Here : The Ride of Her Life
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