Northwestern Lake Riding Stables was the life long dream and the last venture for Boyd Fitzgerald, 1/31/29 to 3/5/07.
Boyd opened his first ranch, Valley View Riding Stables in 1970 in Draper, Utah. By the 1990’s homes and business were being built at dizzying speed, as Draper grew into a suburb of Salt Lake City. With progress moving in, the once untamed horse riding land was fast giving way to housing developments and fast food restaurants. It was time to move on. Boyd found the perfect place just outside of White Salmon, Washington. The new location was about 5 miles south of Husum, Washington, and just across the Columbia River from Hood River, Oregon, an area renowned for its lush beauty, and fertile soil.
Boyd and his sidekick, a little black dingo/blue heeler mix dog named “Bits”, arrived in a 1976 Dodge Power Ram truck on June 6, 1995. It was a clear, windy, summer day in the Columbia River Gorge when the truck filled with steel fence posts, barbed wire, a tent, sleeping bags and his dream pulled into the property.
There were formidable and exciting tasks ahead of him. The new ranch was, at that time, a pasture of waist high grass with three slash piles of trees that had been cleared from the bottom 10 acres. Billy Ledbetter, his long-time friend, joined him three days later. They began the slow process of hand tamping the steel posts and stringing the barbed wire on the 30 acres where the house, shop barn and horse pastures would be.
By the end of August, the fencing was complete, the well drilled (ample supply of pure water), power installed, septic tank and drain field put in and finally a manufactured home was purchased and delivered. Boyd was happy to leave the tent and tree-hung sun-shower behind to move into the comfort of his new home. He brought in horses, bridles, blankets and other horse paraphernalia. The final horse count would be twenty-nine.
The following year, 1996, he dug an irrigation system to water the pastures. It was a hot and humid summer with temperatures reaching 107 degrees. Pilot Knob Construction Company burned the slash piles and began leveling the land. The vision of Boyd’s dream was finally coming to fruition.
Ken Ingebo’s crew of men erected his barn and shop in 10 short days. The shop was partitioned into an office, tack room, bathrooms, a large work area, a private room for supplies and a loft for “I don’t know where else to put it” treasures.
Winter was very different from Utah, a quiet time with abundant snow followed by rain that made snow disappear leaving mud in its place. Trails were dangerous, riding gave way to repairing tack and the horses grew wooly coats.
By summer of 1997 the bulk of the big projects were finished and the never-ending mini projects were begun. Mangers were built, watering troughs placed and concrete poured so the horses wouldn’t be standing in mud. The office, where riders were greeted with the smell of new leather saddles, was filled with pictures of friends, riders and the ranch in Utah. The house got new wood decks which became a gathering place for evenings spent watching the horses, deer, hummingbirds, finches and an occasional coyote. Boyd’s favorite mule, Josie, would beg for cookies and the hummingbirds would do battle, chasing and fighting for space at the feeders.
Boyd’s dream of sharing his horses and the riding experience in the beautiful Cascade Mountains with customers was becoming a reality. Trails were blazed and kept cleared. People came from far and wide to gobble up this amazing experience, a connection with horses and nature and a new group of friends.
Summers also brought family and friends for extended periods of time, a brother to see what his youngest brother had accomplished, grandchildren and great-grandchildren to ride and play in the fields, friends from Utah and elsewhere. Many pitched in to help with the never-ending chores and each felt a part of the great accomplishment of an amazing man. Boyd’s cousin, Barney, and a great friend Bill became the three B’s. Customers could request which “B” they wanted as their guide at the time they made their reservations.
Boyd was a strong man with a soft heart who found his way into the hearts of all he met. He left his family and friends with a legacy of love, wisdom, a strong work ethic, and a good deal of horse sense. Boyd’s grandson Mike, his beautiful wife Cindy, and their two hard working kids Alyssa and Teghan, have the challenging honor of filling the greatest pair of boots that walked or rode the land at Northwestern Lake Riding Stables and to continue Boyd’s dream.