My Dear Friend A. Kelly Pruitt
My first meeting of Kelly was only a year before his passing. A good friend of ours, Terry Bishop, was taking a group to tour his land to show us how it had been invaded by salt cedar. He wanted us to meet a man that had been squatting on his land off and on for years. This man was a cowboy, artist; writer/poet and we would really enjoy meeting him. We met Kelly and were all spell bound.
My husband David and I talked of Kelly often and were very fond of him and all that he stood for. We visited Kelly numerous times over the next year and he told us of his dream to start a center and wanted someone to help him fulfill it. He and Pawnee had discussed this dream but circumstances prevented it. In December, we took a friend with a video camera to film Kelly telling of his dreams about a center at La Junta.
We met a young man, Fred Phillips, a landscape architect, from Flagstaff, AZ through the work that we were doing with the Trans Pecos Water Trust whose goal is to keep the Rio Grande flowing. When we took Fred to see the area we were interested in restoring, we took him to meet Kelly. Fred was awed with Kelly as well. At his request, Fred Phillips, would volunteer to come with three of his staff to do a workshop for the Trans Pecos Water Trust if we could camp with A. Kelly Pruitt. That was the plan.
We arrived 10 days before the workshop to prepare. Kelly was so excited about it. We arrived finding Kelly very ill. He told us he had been shoeing the horses and had a heart attack and had to lie in the manure for a few hours but he said “what a great way for the Great Spirit to take an old cowboy”. He didn’t think he would make it through the day. He was so happy; he had his animals, Wolfe, Gracie, Wizard, Samson, Blue, Little Bit, 32 sheep, Terry, Tammy, David and myself all around him. He said it was like attending his own funeral. He told us how he wanted to be buried, that he had already started his grave, and that he wanted his remaining belongings to be displayed and help start the center. He wanted us to “promote the legend, not the man”. Kelly got better that day but David and I were asked the camp near Kelly and take care of him until the workshop was over. The Great Sprit is amazing. We did not know Kelly well, but we were chosen to care for him his remaining days. What an honor it was for us. We spent the next 10 days caring for Kelly. He told us about the Warriors Way, the center, about his life and about his death. Kelly called us “angels that the Great Spirit sent to take care of him. It was a wonderful time for all of us. We were so appreciative of Kelly for allowing us to care for him and share his life with us and he was so appreciative of us for caring for him.
We were busy taking care of Kelly and the animals. Kelly laughed at me one day because I threw hay to the sheep and it blew back in my face. I loved hearing his wonderful laugh at the sight of my stupidity. He asked me one day to take the sheep out. It was crazy getting started, but it ended well. It was a wonderful experience. We were out about two hours and when I went back in the bus to check on Kelly, he told me how proud he was of me. I felt a real kindred spirit with Kelly because I too have a learning disability and had a horrible time in school.
The night before Kelly’s passing he decided to go to a hotel and clean up since he had lain in manure. Kelly wanted to dress up, saddle his horse and ride into the workshop. The next day Kelly was too weak to saddle his horse and ride into the workshop, but he had a nice fire in the bus and dressed up for dinner. I went over to take Kelly his dinner and he was so appreciative of the food and claimed it was great. He talked more as he had been doing over the last 10 days about the Center and how he wanted it done. He asked to hug me goodbye and stood up to do so. He had never asked to hug me. I guess I should have known the time was near but I didn’t realize it would be so soon. That next morning we were called by a friend of Kelly’s to walk over to check on Kelly. He had just called her moaning. We went over and Kelly was near the end of his life here on earth. David, Terry and I told Kelly we would stay with him. This comforted Kelly greatly. It was hard on Kelly and us because he was in pain and there was nothing we could do for him. We had called an ambulance but it was hours away and didn’t make it in time.
Kelly died at 5:30am on February 15, 2009 and we buried him at 12:30pm that same day. Just the way he wanted. We felt Kelly’s presence with us. Kelly would have loved it. He was dressed in his finest cowboy clothes, wrapped in his bedroll. The guys from the workshop (David, Terry, Cody, Fred, Mark, and David) lowered Kelly into the grave with a rope and the guys and me, Tammy, Karen, & Brenda used shovels to cover him with dirt. We covered the grave with rocks the guys had collected. It was an incredible experience. One I will always treasure.
What had I learned from Kelly? Many things but the biggest was that I had limited the power of God. God is so much bigger than I had made him out to be. Kelly will always be a part of my life; I will take him wherever I go. I will do my best to “promote the legend but not the man”. I will also have to promote the man, however, because he was so amazing.