Cowgirl stops in Natchez on job hunt westward

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 21, 2009

NATCHEZ — A homeless, jobless cowgirl rode out of town Monday, but not before having an impact on at least one Natchez family.

Donna Byrne, 44, and her horses were a wakeup call for county resident Delana Tradewell, Tradewell said.

Byrne, a Florida native, started traveling with two horses — she rides one and leads the other — and all her possessions in February. She lost her cattle-tending job in Arcadia, Fla., a few months prior when the ranch she worked and lived on shut down, reportedly due to the economy.

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Byrne is headed, via U.S. 84, to Amarillo, Texas, where the ranches are plentiful and hopefully the jobs are too, she said.

But it’s the journey from point A to point B that touched Tradewell.

Tradewell and her husband happened upon Byrne in Monticello two weeks ago. They helped transport the woman and her horses to Natchez, and offered her food and housing for a few days.

Tradewell and her daughter Brandi said they just didn’t have any doubts or worries about taking in a stranger.

“Sometimes God has a way of just slapping you in the face,” Delana said.

The message Byrne brought to the Tradewell house was a bit of a reality check, Delana said.

“God was saying, ‘Wise up chick,’” she said. “There’s a lot going on in the United States now, and it can happen to any of us.”

While Byrne was staying in the Tradewell’s extra bedroom, they noticed she was limping around the house. Further inspection led to a trip to a hospital, where she stayed for a week receiving treatment for a serious leg infection.

Byrne has been recovering at the Tradewell’s house for several days.

But Monday, she was ready to hit the road again. She stocked up on a few items at Cathy’s Cowboy Corral, courtesy of the friends she met in the area.

And the Natchez Police escorted Byrne and her horses, Jay and Tonto, across the Mississippi River Bridge.

She travels about 20 miles a day and was hunting horse feed, a farrier and housing in Ferriday and Jonesville for the next few days.

“I just take it one day at a time and let God do the decision making,” Byrne said before she headed to the bridge.

God has provided, in the form of donations and kind hearts, from Florida to Louisiana. So far, Byrne has received a new saddle, new horseshoes, plenty of food and five bags of horse food, among other things.

Friends are tracking Byrne’s travels at