Monday, January 2, 2012

Cowboy Wayne

December 26, 2011 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

Wayne Niel Richardson was a man with a dream. He believed he could help preserve the cowboy’s way of life. He organized a non-profit group called “Preservation of the Cowboy Way Society” and was the president and a member of the board of directors.

Wayne promoted the “Cowboy Way Society” in every way he could. He dressed in colorful shirts, bandanas, and always presented the cowboy persona. You always found him with a pair of spurs on. He sang and wrote songs about cowboys and the cowboy life. He talked about the Cowboy Way with friends and customers alike. An example of his personification of the cowboy was a video filmed and produced by Phillip Rauso. This video was of Richardson making a last ride through Apacheland on his horse three days before the destructive fire on Valentine’s Day in 2004. This segment became a piece of movie history. Apache Land movie studio history will be preserved forever by Richardson’s “last ride” in his colorful western attire and on his beautiful Palomino Hollywood.

When “Cowboy Wayne” first arrived in Apache Junction one of the first people he met was Phillip Rauso. Phillip was very interested in reviving the Apacheland studio. He had worked with the Superstition Mountain Historical Society for a while but that hadn’t panned out.

Phil shared his dreams with Wayne hoping some day to see another Apacheland rise from its ashes. When Wayne married Don Donnelly’s widow, Shelly, around 2001, he became a partner in the DSpur Ranch. Some time later there was a D-Spur Ranch and then the Longhorn Ranch side by side along the Peralta Road.

Wayne did start building another Apacheland with various investors. He also mortgaged the ranch to help build his dream. However the site never got off the ground. Many of Wayne’s investors lost confidence in him or the bad economic times brought the project to a standstill and, finally, to an end. Wayne may have promised to many people more than he could produce. Ironically, many men come to Apache Junction with dreams and then find themselves in very difficult financial circumstances.

Phillip and Wayne both knew the original Apacheland in Gold Canyon would be sold for its real estate value eventually, so both worked hard to fulfill the dream to build Apacheland on the Longhorn Ranch. I was taken on a tour of their dream and showed the many things that had been completed up to that time. The building industry began to decline in 2007 and before the deep recession hit in 2008 Phillip’s and Wayne’s dream had begun to wane.

I interviewed and auditioned Wayne to do a program for the Apache Junction Public Events Series in 2006. The PES Committee was pleased with his audition. He put on a program entitled “Legend of Marty Robbins.” He did an excellent job singing many of Robbins’ songs for the event. Approximately 500 patrons attended his show at the Apache Junction Performing Arts Center. His stage appearance was excellent and
he carried himself well in presenting his material.

One of the things I remember most about Wayne was when I ask him not to wear spurs on our stage at the auditorium. Our stage floor was a highly polished dance floor also. Wayne told me he never took his spurs off for anyone. When he returned for the show that night I figured there would be a confrontation. Wayne showed up with his spurs on, but the rowels were all duck-taped to protect the stage floor surface.

“Cowboy Wayne” continued to personify the cowboy around Apache Junction with his colorful dress. He was a part of this community in his iconic western dress and reminded many of their old time “silver screen” heroes.

I must admit Wayne always treated my wife and I respectfully at all times. My wife and I visited with Wayne at the Elk’s Club just six days prior to his fatal accident.

Wayne Richardson was riding a horse south on Cortez Road in Apache Junction on Monday, March 14, 2011, when he and his horse were struck by a truck. Both Richardson and the horse were killed on impact. How ironic it was that Wayne Richardson died with his boots on and on horseback. Sadly, again the Old West and the modern West clashed dramatically.

Wayne Niel Richardson was born in Harve, Montana on July 13, 1948. He was raised in the surrounding area and attended school at Harve and Chinook, Montana.

Shortly after graduated from high school he joined the United States Navy and served on the U.S.S. Blue during the Vietnam War. The U.S.S. Blue provided close strategic ground support for the United States Marines in a combat zone. Richardson received the National Defense Medal, Vietnam Service Metal, Vietnam Campaign Metal and the Bronze Star.

Wayne was a combat veteran who enlisted on July 12, 1965 and exited on July 9, 1968. He received an Honorable Discharge from the navy.

Wayne also suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and was on one hundred per cent medical disability from the Veterans Administration. This certainly explained some of Richardson’s erratic behavior at times. It should be remembered Wayne Niel Richardson served his country with honor, dignity and with distinction during a time of war.

His family talked of him as a wonderful and loving brother, father, and son. We cannot judge him. He had a dream and tried to follow it to completion. Right or wrong, he chased that dream.

Wayne Richardson stepped up to the pulpit and preached the Lord’s word on Sundays to his Cowboy Church congregation. After all, he was an ordained minister for the Assembly of God Church. I visited with a few of the people who attended his services. They liked what he said and certainly enjoyed his gospel singing. Here was man who visited honky-tonks during the week and preached on Sunday. Did this make him a hypocrite? Only the Lord can answer that question.

I have always followed the ways of America’s greatest columnist Will Rogers. “If you have to say something bad about a man don’t say anything all.”