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Sharon wrote this in tribute to Andy and asked me to send it to everyone.  I
can add nothing, Sharon says it all..............maryben

---- Begin included message ----
On October 27th the endurance world lost a fellow rider with the passion of
our sport we all possess.  Andy Bender was a great man of endurance.  For 9
years he challenged cancer and in those last moments of his life he was
still in charge.  Andy was a friend to so many of us within the endurance
world.  I know that there are many special stories about Andy... when you
met him, those times he crewed for you, those fire side chats those phone
calls and those un-forgettable multi-day trailer huddles...... we want to
share our "OT" story with you.

Andy brainstormed with Crockett about our Outlaw Trail before it ever was...
he was so supportive and enthusiastic about its future.  He was obligated to
the International Team so was unable to come our first year of the OT but
never missed a year since!

Andy was rider, friend, advisor and mentor to the hundreds of riders who
have ridden the OT.  In 1993 he was sick, yet determined to ride and when we
rode into Desert Downs at the end of day two I had no idea how close we were
then of loosing him.  Ride meeting was over and lights were out.... Andy
drug himself to our trailer and if not for Dr. Mike Jepsen MD, a friend and
rider, he would have died.  There was not time to even get to the hospital.

The next day there was Andy at the finish line cheering riders in!  The
following day he was in his truck hauling water to a remote area of the
trail where everyone knew they had seen the Good Lord!  Andy had water for
horses, people and a cooler full of snacks and "spirits"!

That is the guy Andy was.  If he wasn't riding he was helping out.  Even if
he was riding he was the first to stop and fix a cinch, hold a horse or
close the gate.

Andy spent a couple of the most memorial Christmas holidays with us.  Drove
clear from California to watch CD break the Black, OT Sundance to a buggy as
a 2 year old, and again to "do" Santa Fe and Taos in all the lights of the
rich and famous.  That year he and CD made a video for the Outlaw Trail and
let me tell you.... Ol'Man Bender knew just as much or more about the trails
and history than Butch Cassidy!

Andy planned on the 2000 OT right until the week before.  Jamie Kerr had his
truck and trailer ready to drive Andy, but he was too weak.  We dedicated
the ride to Andy complete with his annual birthday cake and everyone
singing.  As we rode out of Escalante in our silent tribute to the "Ghost
Riders in the sky" a magical sun rise cloud hovered over the riders.....
everyone saw the running horses as if in flight!  My Dad was making a video
for Andy.  He too captured this moment.

We called Andy every day of the OT.  Riders called him on cell phones from
the high mountain trails that he so loved.  Andy sent a congratulations on
email to everyone for the awards banquet.  There was not a dry eye when
Sands Dickson read it to us.

I told Andy I wanted to come visit.  He told me I better hurry.  We shared
the best of times and he too saw the clouds, the horses, in the video.  Andy
got up every day early so we could visit and eat.  Lord how he loved to eat.
We told stories, shuffled through pictures and yearbooks, hung mileage
medallions around his Hall of Fame plaques and favorite ride pictures of his
horses, and laughed until our sides ached.  We fixed gourmet dinners and
toasted each evening.  When it was time to leave it was a happy time.  We
hugged and he whispered "give them hell for me"!

So when you think of all those good times, even difficult times, we share
with those we love, know or ride with... think of Andy who even at his most
challenging times loved his horses, his trails and how he loved life!

Crockett called to make sure I had left on time and Ol'Man Bender still had
the energy to give some advice and ask for his ashes to come back to the OT.
He said he was tired and that it was his time.  He was in peace and he chose
his time that evening.

We will have a "celebration of Andy's life" this coming September on the
Outlaw Trail.

Andy, watch over us... ride with us!
Crockett and Sharon

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