Sixty-year-old retired Indian horseman Mike Harry seemed much the dreamer last year when he told us for our cover story on the Omak Stampede's World Famous Suicide Race that he plans to return to the saddle for the bone-breaking downhill event this year. Then again, a cover story on one of his fellow Colville tribal riders published in SW's sister paper Miami NewTimes this week, must give old Mike some encouragement.
An earstwhile star lightweight wrestler for Omak High, Ives tells NewTimes' Francisco Alvarado the Suicide Race sparked his love as a teenager for racing horses. He went on to ride quarter-horses and rodeo bulls as a young man.
It was a dangerous profession. Ives shattered a collar bone, broke his nose, and fractured knuckles several times. He rode through viciously twisted ankles and torn shoulder muscles. "The worst one was when I dislocated my shoulder so bad I needed surgery to repair nerve damage," Ives says. "That was in 1982."
He traveled the rodeo and small-track race circuit until 1991, spending long days away from home (he has been divorced twice), then retired.
Mike Harry take note: Seventeen years later, in 2008, he got the itch again. He also needed money. He unretired at age 47.
As Alvarado recounts, Ives made it to the big time within a few years - earning $125,000 in 2010 and last year finding himself in a place he'd long dreamed about, Hialeah Park in Miami, a 50-year-old leading jockey competing for the track's big purses.
But perhaps old Mike should make note of this, too. By the start of this season:
Ives's remarkable three-year comeback had begun to take its toll on his body. Before suiting up for the Sunshine State Stakes, doubts were creeping in. His knees creaked as he mounted his horse. Most of the jockeys lining up beside him were half his age. And his family was three time zones away. "I've been growing more and more physically tired," Ives admits. "It's been coming on for months."
Dramatically, he won his final big race - literally by a nose.
Then Ives this month re-retired.
"I figured I'm better off retiring now before I really start going down hill," Ives says. "I just pray I go out with a little dignity."