Good Samaritan finds missing saddles, equipment; returns them to youth program

Submitted Photo These seven saddles and equipment for a youth horsemanship program on the Fort Berthold Reservation were recovered this week after being stolen from the program this past Sunday. Two saddles and some equipment remain missing.

NEW TOWN – Kevin Finley of New Town was deeply saddened to discover all nine of the saddles and other equipment for a youth horsemanship program he has been working to set up were stolen this past Sunday from the program’s site near New Town.

But “by the grace of God,” Finley said seven of the saddles and some of the equipment were recovered Wednesday morning by New Town resident Jesse Stricker.

“The highlight is there are good people out there,” Finley said.

The twist to the story is Finley and his wife, Edie, had helped Stricker about two years ago to set up an apartment at New Town.

When Stricker discovered the saddles and equipment this week he had no idea they belonged to Finley and that he would be doing a good deed for those who had helped him earlier.

Finley, who works for the Three Affiliated Tribes’ Four Bears Segment, said he has been working to start the program to teach horsemanship to youth of the reservation using his own money, horses and equipment. The program is focuses on youth but is for anyone. “It’s for anyone who wants to come out to ride,” Finley said.

“Growing up I always wanted to own horses,” Finley said. When he was young he owned a Shetland. As an adult some horses were given to him and he has also purchased horses.

The youth horsemanship program is supported by the Three Affiliated Tribes. V. Judy Brugh, Four Bears Segment representative to the tribal business council, gave her approval for Finley to establish the program, he said.

This past Sunday, Finley and his wife discovered the shed at the program site west of New Town had been broken into and nine saddles, several halters and bridles, lead ropes, saddle pads and blankets and a fencing bucket were gone. Other miscellaneous items were missing as well. The door was broken to enter the shed.

Saddened over the incident, that day while driving to Mandaree to feed their other horses, Finley said his son, Dylan, turned the vehicle’s radio to listen to Joel Osteen, a pastor and televangelist. Finley said his son knows he likes to listen to Osteen and thought it would help him get through the ordeal.

Finley also posted a sign at the shed, noting the thieves “stole from the kids of our community, be assured that God saw you and knows what you did, You’ll pay dearly for your crime against our kids after life…” He left the shed door unlocked.

Finley said he isn’t on social media but relatives and others posted the youth horsemanship program’s loss of the saddles and other equipment. He said people from Canada and the U.S. responded. He said he was told many on Facebook said this was “not the cowboy way” and not to do this to others.

“There were lots of hope and prayers and tears and all kinds of things involved,” Finley said.

On Wednesday morning Finley walked into a meeting where he said he was handed a pen and on that pen was a Bible verse saying “I am with you and I will help you.”

About an hour into the meeting, Finley said his phone in his pocket started buzzing extensively. He stepped out of the meeting. He had received a text from his niece, Fahtima Hood, who let him know the saddles and equipment might have been found. He also talked to Jim Baker, a local church deacon, who affirmed the saddles and equipment had been located. Stricker and his son went up on Crow Flies High, a scenic overlook west of New Town, Wednesday morning to pray and there Stricker discovered the saddles and other items.

Finley contacted Stricker and thanked him. “I told him what you did was priceless.” Stricker reminded Finley that he had helped him earlier.

One of the saddles returned had a very special meaning to Finley. He received it when he served as senior pallbearer for the funeral of Wesley Hall.

“The happiness is to get those back, “ Finley said of the return of the saddles and equipment. “They could be in anyone’s barn but they’re home. We went from having nothing to having (nearly all) of it back.”

“The highlight is there are good people out there,” Finley added.

Two saddles and some other items are still missing.

Local law enforcement officers are continuing to search for the missing saddles and other items. Anyone who has information can call Finley at 421-6399 or Three Affiliated Tribes Police Department at 627-3617.