In a story that has been lost to history, a group of horseback riders embarked on a 20,000 mile trip across the United States in 1912, searching for fame and money. A horse named Pinto would turn this “ride of the century” into a reality.
George Beck, a part-time Washington logger, and his three closest companions decided to embark on this huge trek after Beck convinced the others that there was more money to be earned in the saddle than at the jobs they possessed at the time. Taking the group name of Overland Westerners, the foursome began their adventure… but it did not go as planned.
“With five horses and a 60-pound, one-year old Gordon Setter and Newfoundland named Nip, the enthusiastic quartet began their journey on May 1, 1912 from Shelton. Their first stop was Olympia, Washington 18 miles away where Governor Marion E. Hay awaited. For the next three years averaging 22 miles a day, these travelers would stop at each of the 48 state capitals in the United States, rendezvous with the state’s governor or his surrogate, and endure numerous disappointments and hardships including hunger, theft, weather extremes, and rugged trails. Moreover, financial woes came when The Westerner folded before the trip was half completed leaving them bereft of corporate sponsorship.” – Chuck Rand.
Despite all of the hardships that the Overland Westerners went through, they pushed on and had some incredible triumphs.
In June 1912, George Beck was invited to be in a 101 Wild West Show. The horse that he rode in this show was Pinto, a six-year-old Morgan Arabian that was originally used as the group packhorse. While this horse was not considered to be crucial at the start of the journey, Pinto was never sold or traded like many of the other horses were that had embarked on the 48 state journey.
It was noted that Pinto never seemed to lose his spark during the journey, even when he had a close brush with death when he flipped over in a stream while carrying a pack. Luckily, Pinto was rescued and did not receive any injuries.
The group finished their journey after they arrived in Sacramento, California, on May 24, 1915. The Overland Westerners spent three years traveling, 1,127 days in the saddle, and had gone through 17 horses, some of which did not survive the journey.
Due to other world events occurring during this time, the fame that the Overland Westerners had gained was short lived. Each member of the disheartened group, besides George, sold their horses and tack and took a train home.
George tried unsuccessfully to sell the story of his epic journey, but soon realized that the citizens of America has focused their sights elsewhere. He decided to make the trip back to Puget Sound, with Pinto, on a tramp steamer and resume another low paying job.
George and Pinto stayed united until George’s death. After his owner passed away, Pinto went on one last packing excursion, making his way through the Olympic National Forest on yet another adventure.