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October 5, 2005 - New York Times (NY)

Back In Saddle, Preaching Drug Legalization

By Corey Kilgannon

Return to Drug War News: Don't Miss Archive

After blowing into town yesterday on a one-eyed painted pony, a lanky Texan named Howard Wooldridge looked a bit beleaguered.

He had just arrived in Manhattan from the West Coast, but not on the red-eye, having left Los Angeles on March 4 on horseback and riding some 3,300 miles to New York. He rode, he said, about 25 miles a day, six days a week.

Mr. Wooldridge and Misty, his 11-year-old pony, took the Broadway Bridge from the Bronx and rode down the West Side on Broadway.

He wore dirty jeans, three neckerchiefs and a dusty Stetson. His arms were sunburned and his face weather-beaten.

His bedroll was tied behind his saddle, and a bag of carrots stuck out of a saddlebag. He held Misty's reins in his chamois herder's gloves. He ambled down the sidewalk nodding to passers-by and using greetings like "Howdy" and "Mornin'."

Mr. Woolridge, 54, a former police officer in Michigan and seasoned horseman, made the trip to gain publicity for his campaign to legalize drugs, the same reason he and Misty rode from Georgia to Oregon in 2003. As mothers pushing strollers came up to pet Misty, Mr. Wooldridge handed out cards with the name of a group he helped found, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.

His T-shirt bore this slogan: "Cops Say Legalize Drugs. Ask Me Why." His tales from the trail included one about a near collision with an Amish family in a horse and buggy near Amsterdam, N.Y., and another about falling asleep with Misty in the grass in front of a Wal-Mart in Oregon, only to have a team of police officers surround him.

"They said: 'Don't move. Is that horse dead?' " he recalled. "They said they had just gotten a call that a cowboy killed his horse and was sleeping next to it."

He stopped regularly for speaking engagements. After riding Misty to Denver, he was joined by a friend with a mobile home bearing a "Cops Say Legalize Drugs" sign, and pulling a trailer that housed another horse to give Misty a rest.

He often stopped at farms and stables to let the horses feed. He said that every day, each horse ate 10 pounds of grain and 15 pounds of hay, and drank 20 gallons of water. His horse would canter two miles, then he would dismount and they would walk for one.

Yesterday, in front of the Broadway Presbyterian Church at 114th Street, he met Diane Hill, 47, who works as a business manager at Columbia University. Drugs should be legalized, he said, "to keep them away from your 14-year-old child and to stop building prisons and stuffing them full of black and brown people."

Ms. Hill nodded in agreement and declared his evangelical method "old school."

On Broadway, some people barely noticed the horseman, while others pointed cellphone cameras at him.

Since traffic did not yield to the cowboy, he walked his jumpy horse in tight circles at red lights and finally led her into Central Park to let her graze in the Ramble woods. Then they galloped down to Columbus Circle and headed into Times Square, where Mr. Wooldridge came dangerously close to a showdown with the Naked Cowboy, the muscular man who strums a guitar for tourists wearing only his underwear.

He saw Mr. Wooldridge and Misty and yelled, "You got to bring her over here."

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