- Collan Fitzpatrick
On his one-eyed horse, Misty, a lone rider moseyed into town last week with a tattered hat on his head, spurs on his boots and illicit substances on his mind.
Howard Wooldridge, 54, is riding across the United States to spread his message: The war on drugs is a costly failure.
"We in law enforcement are a mosquito on the butt of an elephant," he said.
Retired after nearly two decades of police work in Michigan, Wooldridge has spent the last eight years trying to convince politicians and his former colleagues in blue that the war succeeds only in filling prisons and distorting the justice system.
A few years ago, he helped found an organization called Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP). Police officers, parole officers, judges and prosecutors are among LEAP's 85 former drug war participants who argue for drug legalization.
Wearing a shirt that reads, "Cops say legalize drugs. Ask me why," Wooldridge set out on his horseback journey from Los Angeles this March. He hopes to make it to New York City by October.
Not every place he stops to hang his hat, however, welcomes him with open arms.
"Colorado Springs has been a tougher crowd than most [in] the United States," he said. "The issue of morality comes up a lot." Referring to people who consider taking drugs a sin, he adds, "These are the same people who would make alcohol illegal again."
Although he supports legalizing drugs, Wooldridge steers clear of illegal substances himself. Instead he sticks with beer, whiskey and the pleasures of riding through open country. "Thank you, Colorado Springs," he said. "I love your trails."
Photo by Collan Fitzpatrick