Featured on the Cortez Journal
EXPO feeds ingenuity
Mancos man invents automatic horse feeder
March 8, 2008: Shannon Livick, Cortez Journal Staff Writer
Necessity breeds innovation in all walks of life and it is the innovation of Gary Rowley of Mancos that led him to the Four States Agricultural Exposition.
Gary Rowley, of Mancos, posses with his invention, the Freedom Feeder, an automatic feeder for horses. Thursday afternoon during the Four States Agricultural Exposition at the Montezuma Fairgrounds. Rowley's feeder incorporates the use of a low-voltage DC magnet and a timer to release the hinged door of the feeder, allowing the contents to fall into a bin below. Rowley had a problem: He loves to ski and go out to dinner, but has two horses at him on a very strict feeding schedule. "They need to be fed at 7 a.m., 1 p.m. and 7 p.m.," Rowley said Thursday, while standing next to his trap-door-like automatic feeder invention. Because Rowley wanted to sleep in occasionally, go out to east and still be able to keep his horses on a schedule, the retired General Motors engineer got an idea. The result is something he call Freedom Feeders. It's a wooden trap-door box mounted over a feeder with an automatic timer and a magnet. "You just set the timer, close it, put the hay on top and go ski all day," Roweley said. "It gave us the freedom to do what we want." Rowley said he worked hard to make sure all the products he uses in his automatic feeder are in the United States. He made his first prototype about six months ago and has made several for his neighbors. "Everybody that has them enjoys their horses more because they aren't slaves to them," he said.
Featured on the Durango Herald
For retiree, it wasn't always such a quiet life
May 19, 2008: John Peel
MANCOS-From a tiny Michigan town to a career in international business that put him in the middle of coups and other world events. And now, back to the rural life on a spread northwest of here.
JERRY MCBRIDE/HERALD Gary Rowley stands w/ his 16 yr old horse Faleen in his barn northwest of Mancos
Gary Rowley has come a long, full circle.
He's gone farther than his parents, who raised him on family land in Leonard, Mich., thought he could go - or even wanted him to go. His father, an employee of General Motors, called Rowley's entry into college a mistake, saying he was going beyond his means.
But Gary Rowley went far beyond college. He parlayed opportunities of the times and a willingness to embrace adventure into an exotic career that took him all over the globe. He spent many years in the Middle East and Africa, and can now share insights into the cultures of each place.
Rowley, interviewed last week in the impressive home he and his wife, Cindy, had built on the edge of a small canyon, retired from a 42-year career with GM in 2004. The Rowleys settled into their new abode overlooking the La Plata Mountains in 2006.
Nowadays, he stays busy by inventing machines to help ranchers. His automated "Freedom Feeder" makes it possible to feed a horse without being there. His most recent contraption, a solar-powered remote water heater for livestock, already has seen interest from a major energy player.
"I took my cell phone to the bathroom with me," Gary Rowley said in describing his career. "Working international, it was 24 hours eight days a week because there was always an office open somewhere."
Southwest Colorado is filled with interesting folks. Many, including your seemingly average neighbors, may have stories that would stun you. Perhaps they speak and write Arabic. And have met Idi Amin. And were once thrown into a Saudi Arabian prison.
Rowley got an engineering degree from General Motors Institute (now Kettering University) in Flint, Mich., in 1968. After a stint in the Army and a few months in Europe, he returned to GM in 1971 and began to move up the ranks.
By 1976, he was a fleet sales manager, selling trucks out of Cleveland to the entire U.S. It was late in 1978 when a friend who'd been working overseas asked Rowley if he wanted to work internationally.
"I said, 'Sure, let's go.'"
Soon he was making deals with businesses and governments in Uganda, Ghana and Liberia, among others. Inevitably, interesting challenges arose.
Just after the dictator Idi Amin was ousted by a coup in 1979, Rowley flew into Entebbe, Uganda, to help the country set up a trucking company. Destroyed Libyan planes littered the runway. Celebratory rebel gunfire rang out. Rowley and his cohorts enjoyed the party.
Rowley helped deliver 120 trucks to Sudan in 1980. More than that, he ended up having to drive the trucks off the ship and help teach the Sudanese to operate them. Then came the christening.
"They slaughtered a cow and drained all the blood into a bucket," Rowley began. "Because I was guest of honor … I had to dip my hand into the blood and … bless the hood on each side of (the truck). All 120 trucks."
When he returned to Sudan in 1987, "The blood prints were still there on the side of the hood. … The sun baked it right into the paint."
Meanwhile, he and Cindy married in 1981 and had a child. Rowley took a job in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, where GM had an American-staffed zone office. In October 1982, Cindy and their 3-month-old son moved to Jiddah and settled in with him.
A few months later, near disaster.
While driving home from work, Rowley hit a local man who had run onto the highway. Rowley talked the police into detouring to his home before detaining him. "Honey, you need to sit down," he told Cindy, who was holding their 8-month-old. "I'm going to prison."
Meanwhile, the man whom he'd hit lapsed into a coma, apparently in part because of a previous injury. At this point, Rowley was in traffic prison, but he faced the possibility of desert prison, from where, he was told, no one ever returned.
Time to pull favors. Rowley had prominent friends who were Saudi traders. One was buddies with King Fahd. Time passed as he sat in his cell, and he was minutes away from the desert prison. After a series of communications, Fahd's brother, Prince Sultan, the minister of defense, signed for Rowley's release. He returned to work the next day, 11 pounds lighter and without his passport.
Later in Jiddah he'd periodically see Idi Amin, the exiled Ugandan leader, hanging out at a GM showroom. Amin, "a great big man … with his robes on and his funny-looking hat," was friends with the dealer.
Eventually, Rowley left Saudi Arabia, continued his rise at GM, and returned to the Mideast in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, in 1991. In the mid-1990s, he made good on a promise to his two boys, and the family moved back to the U.S. for their high school years.
Maybe once upon a time in the Old West bullets zinged in the streets of Mancos - as they had when Rowley was caught in the middle of a coup in Ghana - but such excitement is in the past. Rowley, now 64, is not missing it.
"I had a fantastic career. I couldn't have asked for anything more. … But when it was over, it was over."
Now his life is skiing and boating and building horse feeders. With no regrets.