About Hidalgo

According to the movie, in 1891 American cowboy Frank Hopkins and his mustang Hidalgo were part of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show and advertised as “the world’s greatest distance horse and rider”. A wealthy Arab sheik demanded the show either stop using that phrase or have Hopkins and Hidalgo prove themselves by winning the “Ocean of Fire” race – a 3,000-mile endurance ride across the Najd desert.

Frank Hopkins’ father was European American and his mother Lakota Sioux. As a half-breed, he felt sympathy for his mother’s people but did not generally reveal his heritage – especially after the Wounded Knee massacre, for which he felt partly responsible. Known to the Lakota as “Blue Child” or the “Far Rider”, the Ocean of Fire becomes not only a matter of pride and honor but identity as well.

Near the end of the race, Hidalgo is severely injured. Hopkins is dying of thirst and sings his death prayer to Wakan Tanka. Then suddenly Hidalgo struggles up and Hopkins rides bareback to victory, winning the respect and admiration of the Arabs. Returning to the United States, Hopkins uses his winnings to buy a herd of mustangs about to be killed by the US government to eliminate mustangs and force Native Americans to convert to farming. Hopkins has the horses released and frees Hidalgo to join them. The epilogue says Hopkins went on to win 400 long-distance races and was an outspoken supporter for wild mustangs until his death in 1951 – and that Hidalgo’s descendants live free in the wild to this day.

Hidalgo the mustang was real enough – but Hidalgo the movie is no more real than reality TV. That said, it conveys an inspiring story that hit home with me in several ways. For that reason, “Hidalgo” is the name I chose for my 1999 Harley-Davidson Dyna Sport Convertible.

Like Hopkins’ horse, my FXDS is real enough. I’ve ridden Hidalgo from Key West Florida to Road Forks New Mexico to Ocean Beach California, from Terlingua Texas to Telluride Colorado to Garryowen Montana, plus to more Black Hills rallies in Sturgis and Bike Weeks in Daytona than I can remember (literally). And if you ever see my Hidalgo on a trailer, call 911 ’cause somebody stole it!


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