High Country News

Black cowboys reclaim their history in the West

AS THE SUN SETS over Phoenix’s South Mountain Park on a crisp desert evening, dust swirls over the park’s outdoor riding arena. Laughter carries from the stands and into the mountains as four men and their horses take turns flying around blue barrels and over the pockmarked dirt. They call themselves “As the Crows Fly,” after their unique riding style — blazing over obstacles instead of around them. The Crows work as a team in a kind of horseback relay, training for the annual Arizona Black Rodeo.

Wearing a beige cowboy hat, jean vest, bandanna and worn leather boots, Ricky Magee, who works as

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