NEZ PERCE COUNTY – When Betty Barnes joined the Nez Perce County Mounted Sheriff’s Posse four years ago, it was historic, and to some, devastating.
A few people left the posse over a woman being allowed to join, Barnes said.
“It’s been an adjustment I think for some of the members, but it’s been good.”
Now there are four women posse members, and Barnes has been elected chief of the 51-year-old organization.
She was named top hand, the equivalent of a board member, two years ago and was asked to be foreman, similar to vice president, last year but didn’t have time, Barnes said. This year, she is leaving the Winter Spirit board after 10 years and can devote the time necessary for the job.
She and the other members of the three volunteer search and rescue organizations – mounted, air and all-terrain vehicle posses – will be sworn in at noon Jan. 12 at the new county jail in North Lewiston by Sheriff Dale Buttrey.
From that point, she will be the posse’s main contact with the Sheriff’s Office and work with the other officers on training exercises and community activities.
The organization has a ride for members each spring and also conducts mock searches to be prepared in case they are called out, Barnes said. One last summer was in coordination with the ATV posse. Sometimes a team approach is needed, because ATVs are good for covering a lot of country, but it takes horses to get into steep, brushy areas where the trails are too narrow for machines.
Members have been called on to transport animals being taken into custody because of concerns over their care, but that hasn’t happened this winter, she said.
The last actual emergency call-out was soon after she joined, but it was canceled before the group was fully mobilized, said Barnes, 48, who works at a credit union and got her first horse when she was 10.
The mounted posse has about 30 members, some of whom have reached lifetime status and don’t ride as much as they once did, Barnes said.
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