This is a blog by Mariah Keuler & Carol Harris, to remember Carol's late husband, Keith Harris 1938 - 2013, who was a loving mentor to Mariah. Carol has made a generous donation to our ride in his name, and this is their story.
In honor of Keith Harris 1938-2013….
I have been blessed with many amazing people in my life, people who have shown me what life should truly be about – compassion, hard work, free thinking, beauty, peace and love. There are two people that entered my life as a kid and taught me what those words should truly embody: Keith and Carol Harris.
Carol was my 4-H leader as a kid, Keith her husband. Keith and Carol had been friends and coworkers of my parents years prior to my introduction to them, but they are the people who introduced me to the world of 4-H and eventually truly opened my world to the world of horses. Without their support, I would not be where I am, a budding horse and mule trainer and a follower of dreams.
As a kid, I always knew Keith as the father who showed up and supported his daughter, Jennifer, without hesitation. This man used to ride his bike to horse shows and on our trail rides in case any of us needed help, a man who followed our club in many parades with a pitchfork and wheelbarrow (hooray for the pooper scooper!). Though not a horse man himself, he showed the horses love and patience, something that he showed anyone or anything that came into his life.
My earliest memory of Keith's kindness was when I was 10 and in my first year of 4-H. During the holidays, we would go around door to door and collect canned foods for local families in need. Then, right before Christmas, we would take the canned foods personally to these families and sing Christmas songs. This was one of the most rewarding and humbling things for a 10 year old girl to be a part of, and it quickly became one of my favorite yearly events. This good deed was made possible by Keith. The food drive began with Keith and some of the families that we visited were families that Keith knew and had worked with; folks he knew that needed some help. He knew there were times when everyone needs a boost.
As an adult I had the pleasure of keeping my horse at Keith and Carol's farm in Salem, Oregon. Not only was I given the opportunity to own my very first horse, I was given the opportunity to get to know Keith and Carol with mature appreciation. I was shown a lot of kindness by them and that in turn shaped my foundation of life – to be the best person you can be, be kind, be compassionate, work for what you want, do things that make you happy, always give back and be an active part of your community.
While Trent and I have worked on this journey and the planning of the trip, I miss Keith dearly. He would have loved what we are doing and why. His wisdom and demeanor would have lent itself to the heart of this project; to better your community and speak for others who can't speak for themselves. Even though Keith is not here, his spirit of kindness and beauty will continue to be a part of every path I take in life, including this beautiful journey we have embarked on to raise awareness for a greater cause.
This journey would not be possible without the donations from the people who want to be a part of something bigger, people like you. I want to give a big thank you (a million thank you's actually) to Carol Harris, who has been so generous to me, but also generous in a beautiful donation to “The Wild In Us” cause in honor of her late husband Keith Harris. I asked Carol to give me a write up of Keith in honor of her contribution, and I want to share it with you, to keep the spirit of Keith alive in our journey.
Keith Harris was born in London and immigrated to the United States with his parents and older brother when he was 12 years old. The Pacific Northwest was the perfect environment for him with all the great outdoors in his backyard.
He was happiest when cross country skiing, downhill skiing, sailing a variety of boats, running the rivers of Oregon in his seaworthy kayak, paddling his Grumman canoe, building 2 wooden “Wood Duck” kayaks and paddling on calmer waters.
Keith was an avid hiker and explorer and couldnʼt wait to visit Mt. St. Helens after the eruption. He hiked into beautiful Opal Creek to see what nature created, climbed South Sister and surrounding mountains and rode his bicycle where ever he could.
He did all of this while finishing High School, getting a Bachelorʼs Degree in Education at Western Oregon University (then WOSC), earning two Masterʼs Degrees in Counseling and Parks and Recreation at University of Oregon and obtaining an Administrative Certificate at Portland State. He then taught elementary school for four years, was a guidance counselor for twenty seven years and tutored five more years before retiring. He taught Outdoor School during the summers to kids who had never been camping, hiking, or exploring the mountains or the beach. They cooked meals outside and sang songs around the campfire.
Keith was also a PSIA downhill instructor, restored classic British cars, played guitar, and banjo, built a vacation cabin at the coast, got married and started a family, then purchased a run down cherry farm and restored it to a productive viable operation. When the young daughter, Jennifer, took an interest in horses, he bought an old pickup and an old trailer and hauled kids and horses to parades, fairs, clinics, gaming meets, camping and anything else horse related. He put up a corral, a three stall barn, took out the cherry orchard and planted hay for horses.
Enter Mariah Keuler into the story. Mariah was in our Horse 4-H Club through 12th grade and never owned a horse. She borrowed, free leased and rode any steed available. Upon her high school graduation our club was given a rescue horse and we gave Mariah this chestnut mare she named Piper. Mariah patiently worked and worked with this girl until she was ready to ride. And then they rode and trained and rode and rode. Mariahʼs patience paid off and she ended up with a lovely horse. From that time on, Mariah has worked with and trained many horses and mules for all purposes of riding and events. Her diligence, calm demeanor, gentle training techniques and love of horses has given Mariah a huge following---human and equine! Keith and watched Mariah for years and we are so proud of her.
Keith was an environmentalist and a lover of the outdoors. He would be so pleased to see what Mariah and Trent have worked so hard to accomplish. He would have given helpful advice about this trek and he would have been eager to learn from them. His support would be unending and he would want to hear every single story about their great adventures.
---Carol Harris, January 2017