How the West Was One
Hundreds of teenagers. A herd of mustangs. One man with a vision. In the foothills of the Rocky Mountains rides a cavalry that just might change the world.
The kids aren't the only ones who have to play by Keller's rules. Parents abide by their own set of guidelines while at Fort Westernaire: No smoking, no drinking, no swearing. And that's just the beginning. Parents must also cede some of their authority to the Westernaire organization: No talking to a child in the ring, no running into that ring when their kid falls off a horse, and no arguing with the chain of command. When chaperones travel with the team, they too wear uniforms: the ladies in red Wranglers and white practice blouses, the men in tan Wranglers and red shirts-almost everyone wears a white hat. In an era when soccer moms hover and everyone wins a trophy, Keller's world is no place for a mama's boy-or his mama.
"What's my agenda?" Keller pauses. "It's creating self-reliant kids. Teenagers who will become good citizens and take their place in our society." Keller has seen firsthand what comes of children raised wrong-from run-of-the-mill spoiled brats to lonely, desperate kids who turn to gangs for a sense of family. He's not about to hand over our society to a careless youth. He has opinions on child-rearing: Overprotective parents get on his nerves. Keller doesn't baby his Westernaires. For riders, they know taking care of their horse's needs comes first, their own, second. When a girl's horse gets colic at the rodeo and nervous parents want to check on their investment, Keller dismisses them. "Let Jenny worry about the horse, it's her responsibility," he says. "That's the way we do things." The parents roll their eyes to each other and look too irritated to respond. Fact is, Keller never asked for their opinion anyway.
"I think our society is in trouble," he says. "In my view anyway." The modern world has its drawbacks, and Keller dares to pinpoint them with a politically charged word: values. "There's nothing wrong with old-fashioned values; they're based on hard work, on respect for ourselves, and respect for others." The Westernaires, however, is not about political values, Keller says. "I've even known some Democrats to raise some fine families," he jokes. Although Keller spent years involved with Jefferson County's Republican party, even getting elected to the school board, today he no longer plays party politics, claiming his Republican party left him years ago. "I suppose I was too liberal for them," Keller says, quickly adding, "But still, I'm no damn Democrat." He's not one to waste his breath arguing family values. He's too busy living them.