Riding Behind the Padre wins two more prestigious Southwest awards

November, 2015:  Riding Behind the Padre won the 2015 New Mexico-Arizona Book Award for Best Political Book.  We were a finalist for the best book about diversity.  The New Mexico Book Co-op, sponsor of the award, is a partnership of over 1,500 publishers and authors who are interested in showcasing and selling books about New Mexico, Arizona, and the Southwest. 

November, 2015:  Riding Behind the Padre received Honorable Mention in Arizona Authors Association 2014 Book Awards.  AZ Authors, one of the oldest non-profit writers' organizations in the Southwest, serves as an information and referral center for the community, helping and supporting local authors statewide

Thanks to all of you for making this personal memoir, history book and explanation of U.S. - Mexico border issues a self-published bestseller.  


Pima County Public Library names "Riding Behind the Padre" one of the top Southwest Books of 2014

I'm honored that "Riding Behind the Padre" has received yet another award.  Thanks to the members of the Southwest Book Committee and to everyone who has embraced this book.  I think the good Padre is looking out for me. 

Click here to read the article.  You'll also learn about the seven other fine books that also won the award. 

Review from Rich Huff's "Best of the West"

 Riding Behind The Padre By Richard Collins 

Richard Collins’ book provides timely and important input into the discussion of border issues and the emerging West. Leave it to a Sonoita cowboy to get to the heart of things!

The subject is framed around “cabalgatas,” his retracing with Mexican friends the hundreds of miles of muleback travels of the intrepid 17th Century missionary/explorer Fr. Eusebio Francisco Kino. Through his fascinating narrative Collins provides an accurate perspective and a strong reality check for those who have only flapped right wings or left wings ignoring the bodies in the middle. Kino was most concerned with doing truly useful work for the people he met despite the follies of Catholicism and Crown, a lesson we still could learn and apply if we can manage to turn off the strident media talk voices who are doing us absolutely no favors.

An Opinion Piece by Richard Collins for the Sonoita Bulletin

A Vast and Troubling Experiment

October-November in Sonoita is the in-between season, between the summer’s monsoon and winter’s gentle rains.  The grasses are tall and seeded out, the air is dry and balmy during the day and cool at night, and a gentle breeze often sweeps through the oak, juniper, and cliff rose.  Autumn is also bountiful time when the garden ripens, the chile turns red, the pumpkins orange, and the calves and colts are weaned.  Winter resident birds like phainopeplas and northern harriers start showing up.  

Just as interesting though often ignored are the throngs of colorful grasshoppers that explode like shrapnel when I walk through the grass.  Some are coal black with scarlet wings that cackle when they fly away.  Mexican coronels are a shiny brown color with black epaulet stripes down their hind legs.  Flightless horse lubbers the size of small mice creep along the ground.  

On the days when our grandson Liam comes for a visit, we always take a hopper census on the way to feed the horses. Because he is not yet two and is built close to the ground, Liam sees more different kinds than I do; the small cone heads and katydids that take short hops and are easy to catch.

Psychologists claim that humans form our thoughts as words.  Before children have words, they respond to their surrounds by instinct; warmth, cold, hunger, pain, thirst, loud noises, Mother’s comforting hugs, and holding onto Dad’s finger for security when taking those tentative first steps. Because Liam lives on a ranch, his first words after Mom and Dad are the animals he sees every day and the noises they make; dog, horse, donkey, chicken, pig, birds, bees, and grasshoppers. Before he can say the words, he has leaned the sounds of their names and the noises they make.  

Right now, if I say cow, he says mooo; if I say horse, he whinnies; if he hears a blue jay squawk, he waves his hand to represent their flight.  Butterflies he identifies by sight, and mimics their wing movement with the flapping of his hand.  Once, we saw a big, black wolf spider creeping across our path with its articulated octave tread, unperturbed by our towering presence above it.  Liam watched, and then looked up at me with a quizzical expression as if to ask, “What does this creature say?”  

Writer Richard Louv has coined the term, “Nature Deficit Disorder,” to link the absence of nature in today’s internet-wired, video-gamed generation of children to disturbing trends of childhood obesity, attention deficient disorders, diminished curiosity, and depression.  Most of Liam’s generation are part of a vast and troubling experiment—the first generation to be raised without real contact with the natural world.  How will they know what the horse says? Even worse, how will they know a horse?

Richard Collins is a retired rancher who lives in Sonoita.  Contact him at www.richardccollins.com.

Ernesto Portillo Jr. reviews "Riding Behind the Padre" in the Arizona Daily Star

"From his saddle, Collins, a Sonoita rancher and Arizona native, sees the border region much differently from most Americans, even those living north of the line. Collins sees a rich region and a people who share common geography, history and concerns." Click here to read the full review. 


Celebrating National Day of the Cowboy at Borderlands Brewing in Tucson

Yikes, it was hot outside!  But the beer was cool and plentiful and everyone seemed to enjoy spending part of a monsoon Saturday afternoon with Alan Day and me while we spoke about our ranching experiences and sold a few books. 

Julie Waters and Betty Beavers  

Julie Waters and Betty Beavers


Steve Plevel, Marty Plevel and Diane Collins

Steve Plevel, Marty Plevel and Diane Collins

Richard Collins and H. Alan Day (back to camera)

Richard Collins and H. Alan Day (back to camera)

Please Don't Militarize the Border

Mr. Wrightson in Arizona

Mr. Wrightson in Arizona

The stacked and shelving clouds parted over Mount Wrightson as I walked to the barn.  Below me to the west, the Sonoita Creek drainage was filled with mists left over from last night’s rain, a scene dim and vague and shifting. The dawn air was crisp with the promise of fall.  The monsoon started promptly on cue—San Juan’s Day, June 24th—and it was still raining now at September’s end.  In the foreground plain, the tawny grasses were bent with heavy dew. Around the barn, the oaks dripped with moisture.  A family of Mexican jays squawked, protesting my intrusion into their leafy space.  I wished I had known their language.  They may not be what we humans call intelligent, but they knew all that they needed to know.  Oscar said jays organized their flocks from close family members, a morsel of natural history I find uplifting.

Mount Wrightson glistened as the rising sun chased the night shadows back into the canyons.  In our westerly, wide open view, not a single man-made structure marred the setting: not house or road, concrete or asphalt, pole line or fence.  As always, this landscape renewed my sense of enlargement; the feeling that life on the borderlands does not have to be cramped and fearful.

Border Patrol along the fence

Border Patrol along the fence

It may come as a surprise to politicians and the Department of homeland Security that there are places and people on the borderlands who do not want or need another nineteen thousand Border Patrol, seven hundred more miles of fence, and around-the-clock snooping in our private lives (numbers from the Immigration Reform Bill).  Let the Department of Homeland Security retrain and reassign the available personnel and assets to make them more effective, but please don’t militarize our homeland any further.

Excerpt from Riding Behind the Padre, page 201.



Enjoy Richard's interview on Big Blend Radio

Richard C. Collins is interviewed by Nancy Reid & Lisa Smith.  Topics covered include Riding Behind the Padre:  Horseback Views from Both Sides of the Border (Wheatmark, 2014), the DeAnza Trail, mescal, good horses, long drives and border issues.  Richard's section begins about 15 minutes in and lasts for 45 minutes. 

Sonoita launch for "Riding Behind The Padre"

Riding Behind the Padre:  Horseback Views from Both Sides of the Border (Wheatmark, 2014) was introduced to Sonoita friends and family on Sunday, June 22, 2014 at The History Center, Sonoita Fairgrounds.  I took the opportunity to share photos and stories from my four rides that are detailed in the book. 

From right:  José Luis Salgado, Julia Félix de Salgado, Cecilia Sánchez de Ramonet, and Ricardo Ramonet Rascón.  All are members of Por Los Caminos de Kino riders from Hermosillo, Sonora.  José Luis is the leader/organizer of the group.

From right:  José Luis Salgado, Julia Félix de Salgado, Cecilia Sánchez de Ramonet, and Ricardo Ramonet Rascón.  All are members of Por Los Caminos de Kino riders from Hermosillo, Sonora.  José Luis is the leader/organizer of the group.

Richard with Lea Martínez Ward and daughter Anne Ward Bullock.  The book is dedicated to Lea and her husband, the late Oscar Ward. 

Richard with Lea Martínez Ward and daughter Anne Ward Bullock.  The book is dedicated to Lea and her husband, the late Oscar Ward. 

Richard signing the book for H. Alan Day, author of The Horse Lover.

Richard signing the book for H. Alan Day, author of The Horse Lover.

Only Internal Reform in Mexico Can Stop the Exodus to America

An Essay by Richard Collins printed as a Guest Editorial in the Arizona Daily Star

Angelica, a dark-haired young woman smiled and looked straight ahead.  She was wearing a new dress and shoes and sat behind a table in the schoolhouse of a remote village in the high mountains of Chiapas, the southern-most state of Mexico.  “Mi esposo se fue al norte,” she replied to the health worker’s question of why her husband had been absent during the last several treatment rounds for a disease called river blindness.  In Chiapas, the government health service is giving out the drug Mectizan free of charge to everyone in this coffee growing region.  To prevent others from getting the disease, everyone must be treated, and the authorities were concerned about the many absentees, most of them young men.

River blindness is a disease transmitted by blood feeding black flies that develop as larvae in the small streams that trickle down the steep, volcanic mountains.  These flies exist only in Mexico and Guatemala, so the disease is not a threat to the United States.  Norte,” or north, is their word for the United States.  Her husband had left their tight-knit ejido community four years ago to make the dangerous journey, seeking a better life for Angelica and their four children.  They knew he had arrived safely because she had been receiving money orders regularly.  Still, she was concerned about raising their children alone and had moved in with her in-laws.  Here, family bonds are the bedrock of community structure --- family is the only institution they can trust.

Angelica’s situation is not unusual.  Many men from the Chiapas highlands, and from rural communities throughout Mexico, have gone.  Sometimes the whole family goes with them.  A few have vanished, never to be heard from again.  Walking through the village, the health workers pointed out houses belonging to families whose men had successfully made the journey.  Those homes had solid doors and windows, electricity and a TV dish on the roof.  At the village center, I paused to watch a soccer game taking place on a cracked slab of cement.

One of the smaller boys with thick black hair combed into a forward cowlick dominated the game.  He raced over the rough court, bouncing off the other players to take passes and score goals, after which he trotted down the field to receive “high fives” from his teammates.  This future Pele wore a sparkling new pair of Nikes with red swooshes, while the other boys chased him barefooted.

Many U.S. Citizens are rightly concerned about illegal immigration, why it happens and how it can be prevented.  A few say we who live along the border in southern Arizona are to blame for the dangers as they attempt to cross.  The truth is illegal immigration happens because people want a better life and their county has failed to give them opportunities.

Mexico’ social, political and economic system have concentrated its vast wealth and resources in the hands of a relatively few, while millions live in poverty without hope.  Given the basic human drives for self-betterment and to provide for family, no iron wall or border army will stop the exodus that has been occurring in biblical proportions.  Only internal reform in Mexico can change this, yet Mexico’s leaders include some, perhaps many, of those who enrich themselves by maintaining the status quo.

For America, the leaky border that has allowed many millions to cross has provided hidden benefits which our politicians and others have failed to fully consider.  Among these is an eager labor force highly motivated for the right reasons to do work Americans won’t do.  More importantly, it has been a safety valve of hope, without which Mexico might well have exploded in violent revolution as it did in the early 1900’s, and as occurred throughout Central America less then thirty years ago.  To be desperately poor without hope of betterment is a tragic and dangerous situation for all.


Richard Collins has worked on the ecology and control of infectious diseases in Latin America at the National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the University of Arizona.  He lived in El Salvador and Guatemala from 1974-1982.  He writes from the Collins family ranch in Sonoita, Arizona, near the border with Sonora.  This report comes from a recent visit to Chiapas.  Part of this essay was printed as a Guest Opinion in the Arizona Daily Star.