Monday, February 2, 2015

The Passing of a Singing Cowboy

January 26, 2015 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

Terry Ireland, 1941 - 2014
Terry Ireland riding in the high country north of the Reavis Ranch c. mid-1980’s.
Sometimes I use the term cowboy quite loosely. We all know the definition of a cowboy. He is a man or woman (cowgirl) who tends to the needs of cattle on a range. Actually this is a simple definition. Some cowboys live from paycheck to paycheck and are usually looking for a job. Other cowboys are in such demand they spend their entire life with one brand. Cattlemen who own ranches are also cowboys and care for their stock in the same manner. They all deal with the same problems, such as the elements, care of their cattle and their ranges.

 We also have another couple of categories, such as the singing cowboys and the silver screen cowboys who were legends on the motion picture screen. These men were often the heroes of youngsters living in large metropolitan areas. Often these young people dreamed about being a cowboy in the West someday, working on a real cattle ranch. These silver screen cowboys often guided these individuals westward.

Only a few of them made it to the West to fulfill their dreams. Over the years I have known a few of these individuals and most of them were very talented men or women. This is the story of such an individual.

Terry Ireland was born in Rochester, New York on November 3, 1941. He moved west with his family, his wife, Mary, and daughter, Bridgett, in 1969. Terry first settled his family near Stanfield, Arizona, and almost immediately acquired horses to help fulfill his dream to be a cowboy.

Terry was very talented in many ways. He was a highly experienced tool and die machinist. He found employment at Garrett Manufacturing at the airport in Phoenix. Terry began his horsemanship in the Table Top Mountain country south of Stanfield. Eventually he moved to Apache Junction and settled on the forest boundary with five acres and wide-open spaces to the north. He had found his western dream “the West and the Cowboy.” Terry also had another exceptional talent and that was singing cowboy songs and playing his vintage old Gibson guitar.

I first met Bridget, Terry’s daughter, about 1978. She was attending Apache Junction Junior High School as a student. She was in one of my classes. I had some parents who where trying to find a home for a pet skunk and Bridget fell in love with the skunk named Lupe Du Pew.

The skunk was on loan to me and in the next day or so Bridget brought her parents to school to meet Lupe Du Pew. How could they disappoint their beautiful daughter? They let her have him and his cage. This began my friendship with Terry Ireland.

Terry loved his horses, his dogs, and his family. He was certainly a good provider.  Terry was also community minded and joined the Apache Junction Search and Rescue horse posse in its very early days. He was involved in several searches for missing people over the years. Terry was in the saddle as much as he could be. He had excellent horse property in Apache Junction along the Tonto National Forest fence. He had all of the Goldfield Mountains as his backyard and could ride out his door and ride almost indefinitely before seeing another house. He had found the West he was looking for.

Soon Terry was playing his guitar at our college cookouts at First Water and other places. Sometimes we had thirty-five to forty guests from the college classes. Early in 1978, I started doing multi-media slide shows for my college classes and this eventually led to other shows.

In 1980, we did a “Legends of the Superstitions” at the Superstition Mountain Elementary School for an audience of more than four hundred. Terry Ireland, Jay Mitchell, Rick Nelson and Jim Swanson played in the band. They did a great job and helped draw a large crowd.

Terry Ireland played a lot of music for years with Jay Mitchell, Rick Nelson and Jim Swanson. Terry and Jim Swanson continued playing for years together because both of them loved the guitar and cowboy music so much. Terry was a well-known resident, guitar player, and a veteran of many horseback trips into the Superstition Mountains. I enjoyed a memorable trip with Terry, Mary and Bridget to the old Reavis Ranch in the mid 1980s.

Terry Ireland passed away at the age of 73 on December 23, 2014, in Apache Junction from natural causes. Terry had found the West, the horses and the cowboys he had dreamed about as a youth. He was finally a part of the American West.

We all know Terry is riding his horse in those green pastures above and beyond that “great divide.” The “Master” in the sky has his hand on his lead rope.