Gloria Hillard

In the middle of a gritty urban landscape in Southern California, some modern-day cowboys are trying — against great odds — to keep a little bit of the Old West alive.

Andrew Hosley gently tightens the bridle on Jade, a chestnut mare. More times than he can count, Jade has given kids in this Compton neighborhood a ride.

"I used to have the same reaction when I was a kid of their age," he says, "watching the guys ride by on horses, and I always wanted to touch 'em, ride 'em."

Fifteen miles from the border of Mexico, the city of El Centro in California's Imperial Valley has something most hard luck small towns don't: the Blue Angels.

For 45 years, the city has been the winter training home of the Navy's flight demonstration squadron. The "Blues," as the locals call them, have been an enduring source of pride for the desert community.

The "hay bales" is a dusty crop field a stone's throw from the runways of El Centro's Naval Air Facility. Lisa Gallinat has been watching the Blue Angels from here ever since she was a kid.