Lifelong Cowboy Finds New Range

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Standing more than 6 feet tall, with light brown hair and mustache, dirt-stained jeans and weighing about 175 pounds, Charlie Motley epitomizes the American cowboy.

Motley is a throwback to a by-gone era of the American West, an anachronism, living out the last gasps of a lifestyle as a breed of man vanishing from the American landscape.

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Charlie Motley epitomizes the American cowboy, but instead of moving cattle from one grazing ground to another, his purpose now is helping special needs children by using his vast knowledge of horses as a therapy tool.

Motley is as much the storybook cowboy as anyone could ever expect to find, but with a different purpose than moving cattle from one grazing ground to another.

Motley's purpose now is helping special needs children by using his vast knowledge of horses as a therapy tool.

He stood proud and tall in the arena at Whispering Hope Ranch near Christopher Creek as he worked a horse through its paces. He said he never gets tired of seeing and hearing the results of his newfound passion.

"We had this one boy out here who had never spoken a word in his life, after he rode that horse for just a little bit, he said the first words he had ever uttered. I'm tellin' ya. It 'bout to brought a tear to my eye," he said.

Whispering Hope Ranch is a refuge where special needs children can get away from the confrontations of the world.

Despite his current work under the shelter of the Whispering Hope area, Motley's face is still as weather-worn and browned by the Arizona sun as it was years ago when he rode the open deserts of the Southwest.

Motley no longer sports the handlebar mustache, by which so many cowboys came to recognize him. He sports a smaller mustache now, but a boyish gleam still dances in his eyes.

Motley said he got his start as a cowboy in Texas, where he would ride the plains for different ranches, looking for cattle in need of being treated for screwworms.

He would catch the cattle and treat them on the spot or they would die.

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Charlie Motley got his start as a cowboy in Texas, where he would ride the plains for different ranches, looking for cattle in need of being treated for screwworms.

"You ever seen what screwworms can do to a cow or an animal?" he said. "It ain't too pretty. We'd have to get them cows and treat their navels for them worms or they would just die out there.

"I guess you could say screwworms made me a cowboy. We had to chase cows over and through just about everything you can think of.

"You learn to ride real fast when you gotta do it for a living."

After coming to Arizona from Texas and operating MTM Ranch with his wife, Patty, in the mountains around Cave Creek north of Phoenix, Motley went to Kohl's Ranch in 1999.

He ran the stables there until a riding accident left him with a broken back.

"About four years ago, a horse rolled over on me and crushed three of the discs in my back," he said. "It took more than a year of rehabilitation before I was even able to mount up on a horse again.

"I had to learn to walk all over again. It was kinda rough, but it's a lot better now. I guess maybe that is part of why I can relate to these kids so much."

Motley said he is not sorry or bitter for any of the hardships he has had to face in his life.

"Aw, I'm just an old cowpoke," he said. "The way I look at it is I am just payin' it forward for the things I done that I shouldn't have."

Motley says he is from Texas, but in truth, he is from the past. Motley is the kind of fabled cowboy you read about.

Sadly, the American cowboy, men like Motley, are becoming fewer and farther between, as time goes on.

Thankfully, there are still some left like him in places like Payson and the Rim Country, where we can still catch a glimpse of that spirit and independence that defined the American West.

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