Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Real Life Cowboy John Whitney

Leitrim, Ireland (Back in the day). Where John was born...

John in his element...doing what he loves to do. Living the life 'on the ranch...'

John Whitney from Lovely Leitrim, Ireland is the quintessential real life cowboy. His sense of adventure and determination has led him to leave his home at a very young age and travel extensively and make other places his home. His latest stop is New Mexico, USA. I was fascinated to learn why he preferred California to New York and why he left it all recently to make the move to New Mexico, the very opposite of the sunny state...a place where outhouses, bartering and 'the great outdoors' is the norm...

Hey John! How’s it going? Thanks for chatting with me today.
You’re very welcome.
I wanted to ask you about your life experiences. You have had a rather exciting life and I wanted to learn more. First off, I’ve noticed Irish people like yourself do tend to travel a lot. What are some destinations you’ve ventured?
In the past few years I’ve checked out several states in America; Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Nevada, California, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Florida, Ohio…as far as countries, USA obviously, um, Australia, France, Germany, Luxembourg…
Italy, Croatia, Greece.
You’re so lucky! I’ve only been to England and Ireland. I’m so unworldly! I guess one of the reasons Irish people get to do so much traveling in Ireland is the close proximity to other European countries.
Exactly! And with an EU Irish passport you can go to any EU country in Europe with ease. It’s probably tougher for Americans…
I don’t know if that’s it. I just think in general Americans seem to travel less because of the distance but that’s only my observation. So, you had a brief stint in college?
I finished High School in June 99, worked in Massachusetts for a year, returned to Ireland for college but I flunked out after one year… where I studied Construction Studies.
Oh no!
I failed a repeat exam and that meant I failed the entire course…so I moved to Dublin and worked Construction/Engineering for the next four years.
Where were you on 9/11? Were you in Ireland or the states?
I was up on a Roof in Leitrim with Declan O’Brien fixing tile when the homeowner came up the ladder with a small portable radio telling us that he had just heard about a plane crashing into the twin towers. Declan and I immediately figured that it was a freak accident - a sad day.
Yes it was. Okay, so you were in Dublin working as a construction worker for four years which to a traveler like you…must have seemed like an eternity….
Yes, then, I went to California, The pull - I grew up watching Baywatch. I have family there also.
My friend Sharon lives in California! I want to go there! What was it like?
Brilliant place. It’s just like the songs say…so, for the first three months, I worked on a Water Tunnel project in Berkeley. Then, for the next 1.5 years I worked for a Land Surveyor out of San Francisco.
That’s a lot. You sure do get around Johnny!
….then I worked for a Pipeline company for the next two years, one year for a small Engineering firm out of Oakland and THEN I moved to New Mexico in September 2009.
That’s incredible. You’re so well-rounded. I guess there’s nothing you can’t do.
I'll give most things a go.
I suck at construction and I don’t even know what a land surveyor is….but anyway, what I really want to know is why you left California.
There were several reasons.
The economy - California is near broke.
The Cost of Living.
City Life.
I Wanted a new challenge.
I Wanted to move back towards Country life...
I thought the economy was really bad everywhere?
Yeah, I think California could be worse off than most states because of the real high standard of life.
I just picture California as the land of hot people. I would never leave.
I wanted to move, live and learn about the South West, the history and the geography. I had seen and learned bits about New Mexico from previous road trips.
I see...
There is a lot of History to NM, going right back to the Dinosaurs. The landscape is really cool and diverse, it’s not just desert and sand as many may think…
It’s a lot more than that, you know?
Did you go there with anyone?
No, there was only one ticket available. I had previously road tripped with friends alright.
That’s very brave of you. I’ve been living in New York for way too long now that even if I went to live somewhere safe like a retirement section of Florida I’d still be scared. I give you a lot of credit to just pack up and move by yourself to an unfamiliar land. I’m not saying New Mexico isn’t safe but it’s like I wouldn’t know…
Well, I had a job to go to when I moved out as well.
Yeah, work on a ranch as a ranch hand so that was enticing. I wanted to kind of get back to the ranch life.
The ranch? Are you using that term metaphorically?
Yeah… I wanted to learn a little…a little bit about self sustainability, using the natural elements to get by. I wanted get back to that sort of outdoorsy, ‘the greater outdoors’ if you like…
And being born and bred in the old country, I’m sure “the ranch” helps you feel like you’re closer to your roots?
Yeah it definitely brings me closer to the roots.
How so?
The people here are real friendly. The way of life. Close Community spirit.
What are some prime spots?
Locally, They have a sink hole lake here that’s considered one of the Natural Wonders of the World, it’s always 61 degrees, all year…it’s called the Blue Hole in Santa Rosa, New Mexico. I have yet to go there myself yet. (laughing)
When do you plan on checking it out?
Maybe in April or in March, when the weather warms up a bit.
So, what’s the economy like over there?
It’s surprisingly doing good.
I didn’t know that! I thought…
There's a few Construction projects coming to the locality, Natural Gas Plant, County Hospital and a huge Solar Farm.
There’s a lot of tourists.
Yup. A lot of tourists stop by to swim and dive in the Sink Holes/Lakes.
So, what’s it like?
It’s about 90 % Spanish here. Although nearly everyone speaks English, a lot speak Spanish in their homes.
You said the people were a lot like the Irish…
There are many characteristics similar to the Irish back home. People wave/shake at each other when they’re driving by. They always pay visits to one another. They like a bit of gossip. It’s very agricultural here; everyone and their mother owns horses…it’s a big farming community.
I like the sound of that!
I40 routes through the town - a very busy interstate, running right across the USA. Approximately 3,000 people live within the city limits which I believe was founded in 1865. They call it a city but it’s more like a town.
Do drivers have to pay any meters?
No, nothing like that. Parking is easy.
Oh wow! What about if you’re leaving a bar late at night…would it be easy to get a cab?
Yeah a cab would be easy got or someone sober would drive you home.
Really? Like who? What if your friends have been drinking?
The bartender once off duty. There are two bars in town.
You’re living the outdoorsy life now. That’s so cool. What other work has to get done?
Well, first of all, where I live, there’s no running water...
No way! How do you survive? You should be on ‘The Survivor’ show, you’d win automatically. How can you live with no running water? Even my parents had…oh, no, never mind, they didn’t, but still, it’s 2010! Oh my god, I don’t know what I’d do! I guess I’d have to invest in some really effective deodorant.
It’s not that bad. You get used to it. I’m just basically living in one room in an Adobe home; it’s actually on Route 66: three foot thick walls…
Adobe what? How did you find it? It’s like out of a Clint Eastwood movie or something. You’re a real life cowboy.
Well, I renovated a room here so the guy who owns it just lets me stay in the room for free. I was sleeping in my Dodge Van for the first 2 months.
You bartered for a room? There’s a huge thing now with that and the recession. Everyone’s going back to the old ways of bartering. I love it. I’d do that in a heartbeat but the no running water thing…
I try to help him out with work. Pay him back in that way also.
Wow, he must be a good guy.
He is…he knows everyone. He’s just a really sound guy.
Nice…now, getting back to the water thing. I’m sorry. I just, I mean, how do you shower?
I shower down at the local public park facilities. I have a water jug and cooker for heating water to wash dishes, etc.
Wow…when do you think you’ll be trying another adventure?
Who knows!? I hope to stay putt here a while longer - much more to do and see.
That’s right, you said that.
And now especially since the summer’s coming…
True, true, it’s going be beautiful and all the tourists and by then you’ll know everyone.
That’s right. I've gotten to know a lot of people here but still a lot more to meet.
You’re right. You have to assimilate. So, what has their culture taught you?
The Culture has taught me that Community, Family and friends are real important.
Well, here people like things the way they are. They don’t like people coming in here making big splashes with their big ideas. They basically just want to protect what they have for their kids and their future.
Sounds fascinating. What about the education system?
I think a lot of the kids go to college. If they stick around it'd be tough to find work.
Do they marry young?
Some do, I'd say it’s the same as anywhere else.
Wow, John, I’m sold. I like the sound of New Mexico. I want to check it out. Maybe just for a week though. I’m too in love with my morning showers. My conversation with you has been very humbling. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, you my friend, are a true Pioneer!
Thank you very much. I’ll take that. (laughing)


Andy Gucks said...

Keeping her country! That's the way. Got to live it to love it! Leitrim was always full of cowboys - some of the best!
Looking forward to the version that hits the front page of the Leitrim Observer!

Mark Guckian said...

Feck John Wayne, you are my new hero John Boy! Sounds like a very interesting place. Hope to see you over there next year.

marialeitrim said...

Well done John and Phil, great interview, lovely pics, very impressed, John you should start off your own cowboy blog.

NYC Inquirer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
NYC Inquirer said...

Yes, this interview was most interesting. I really want to catch the next plane to New Mexico now...sounds like so much fun!