Hello everybody. Let me begin with first apologizing for not having updated you on our travels and adventures during the past month. I’ve had to take a crash course in computer operation. While I am able to sit and write all about what we’re up to, I have been unable to post it all to our web site. This is something that I should have taken the time to learn a long time ago. Now that I’ve given you the best excuse I’m able to come up with let me fill you all in on the past month.
We left Phil and Coleen Burt’s home in Benton, Kentucky on August 29th and headed for Mayfield, Kentucky. That Monday morning, everything went well. The day started out and stayed nice all day. We got the girls harnessed up and connected to the wagon with no problems and got on the road.
Riding along with us that day was Mike, a reporter from one of the papers in Benton. Mike rode in the wagon with us the two miles or so into Benton where we let him off at the courthouse in downtown Benton.
One of the things that I really like about many of the small towns and cities that we are traveling thru on our trip, is that many towns and cities have managed to retain their history by keeping their older buildings and town squares just the way they were built. I’m not a big fan of courthouses, or the things that go on inside them, but I do appreciate rolling into a town and seeing, right in the center of town, a courthouse complete with a clock mounted in the face of the building. I guess I’m just a sucker for the old ways and like seeing them preserved for the future.
We stopped on the other end of Benton to let the girls catch their breath at the Benton Electric Company. While we were sitting there, the office staff came out to visit with us. One of them was Leslie Taylor, who invited us to stay the night at her farm about ten miles out of town. With a place to camp for the night we rolled on.
Along the way, Pauline started coughing and sneezing when what should pop up just in time? The Kentucky Lake Equine Hospital, run by Dr. Kim Abernathy-Young. I do believe that Pauline has been here before, how else would she have known? Dr. Abernathy-Young gave her a thorough check up and armed me with penicillin and the proper tools to administer it with and sent us along our way. Before we left her place of business, she also gave Mary a new pink ball cap and refused any payment for her services. I would like to thank her again as it's people like her that are a credit to her profession.
While Pauline was getting looked at, two very nice young ladies, Raelee and her mother, pulled up to see the wagon. Raelee is a fellow horse and mule lover and also a friend of the Taylors. They said that they would show us the rest of the way to the Taylors' Farm. We offered Raelee a ride in the wagon the rest of the trip, but she was too shy to take us up on the offer. That would change the next morning.
We made the rest of trip that day without any further troubles and pulled into the farm a short while later. As soon as we were stopped at the barn, Mike Taylor (have you noticed that we are meeting a lot of guys named Mike?), and his twin son and daughter came riding up on a four wheeler. Mike and Leslie’s twins are something else. They are both full of energy and amazing in their own right. Mike told us how they were born almost four months early.
As we were getting the girls unhitched from the wagon, up to fence walked Peggy, Mikes twenty-one-year-old quarter horse. I complimented Mike on what a fine looking mare she is and, with a grin and a look to the twins, he told me how he didn’t get to ride as often as he used to. Somehow, I don’t think he misses the riding all that much. Dan, always the ladies man, went right to trying to impress this older woman who, much to the delight of Pauline, was having nothing to do with him.
It wasn’t long before Leslie came home from work and Mike’s parents stopped by to see what all the excitement was about. The Taylors' Farm sits along Soldiers Creek. Mike told us a story of a B-29 Super Fortress that crashed not far from there on July 1st, 1945. There were ten men onboard and only one survived. Near the site is a memorial to those men. We agreed that it was worth the time to visit on our way out the next morning.
We got all settled in for the night and before I was able to get the stove out for dinner, Leslie sent Mike back to us with a pot of chili and hot dogs. I get out of cooking like this more and more these days.
We were up early the next day and ready to hit the road. Raelee, along with her mom and her friend Addy, arrived. Raelee was over her shyness and she and Addy climbed onboard the wagon with me to ride shotgun over to the memorial. On this morning, two new mule skinners were born.
We had a very nice ride over to the memorial with Raelee taking the reins a good part of the way. After some picture taking, it was time to bid everyone farewell and get rolling for the day. Word must have spread that we were on our way to Mayfield as, along the way, we passed more than a few people waiting out in their yards to wave to us as we passed by. At one point along the way, we were stopped resting and a very nice elderly lady, whose name I cannot recall, came out from her house bearing gifts of apples for Dan and the girls and soft drinks for Mary and me. I admit that I am unable to remember her name but we did get a very nice e-mail from her daughter a couple of days later.
We made it to the outskirts of Mayfield about 3:30 that afternoon and stopped at the first gas station we came to. While Mary was inside getting a few things, our lives started changing for the better, I’m sure. First, two people, Marty and Sherry, walked over to the wagon and asked if we would like to camp in their backyard. It seemed they had some pretty tall grass that needed mowing and Dan and the girls looked as if they needed a job. It was agreed that we would follow them the short distance to their home and put the pets to work on the lawn problem.
As we were talking, a pickup truck pulling a trailer came sliding to a stop. Out pops this guy wearing a straw hat and a smile. He introduced himself as Thomas King, co-owner and editor of One Groovy Planet Magazine and asked if he could do a story on us. Sure, why not?
Thomas followed us to Marty and Sherry’s place. Many of these towns and cities have not been bitten by the developer bug - that big, ugly creature that preys upon anything old and historical and is only satisfied once he has torn it down and replaced it with some, usually not so appealing, image of what he thinks life should be like all across Kentucky. Sherry got us all set up before she had to go run some errands.
We sat around for a while talking with Thomas about the trip and our plans. Thomas had some other things to get done that day and asked if he could come back by the next day for the interview. He had some errands to run, also. It turns out that we were in a dry county and everyone involved was running to the next county to get supplied for the night. Thomas included us in his errand running and brought us back some refreshments.
Here’s one of the many things in life that has me puzzled. Here we were in Kentucky, which is home of Jim Beam, Wild Turkey and numerous other distilleries of fine spirits, and every other county is dry. What were they drinking when they were thinking about these laws?
Thomas returned with the refreshments and bid us good night promising to return the following afternoon. Marty and Sherry returned from their errands and we all sat around the picnic table enjoying pizza and refreshments and lots of conversation - the kind that always goes with refreshments that don’t come from a dry county. Dan and the girls mowed the lawn that night as we slept and, the next afternoon as promised, Thomas came back by armed with cameras and video equipment.
We had a pretty good afternoon talking with him. Before he left that afternoon, he offered us two things: a steak dinner at his home with steak from his family’s farm and me a column in his magazine. Of course we jumped at the offer of a fresh steak dinner. As for the column, of course I took the offer.
Thomas picked Mary and I up for dinner the following evening and took us to his home where we were greeted by his wife, Linda, and his daughter. We also met Camilla Smith, a more than interesting woman, who also writes for One Groovy Planet and will be doing the editing on the stories that I send in to the magazine. Camilla and I hit it right off. As I said, she is a very interesting lady.
We were asked to stick around town for a few more days to get things settled with the magazine. Camilla called her husband, Victor, and made arrangements for us to move the wagon to their home in the country. We had a very good evening eating, talking and enjoying more than a few bottles of wine. The next morning, we got the wagon ready to roll.
As we came through downtown Mayfield, Thomas was busy with his video camera filming our journey through town. The end result is a video now playing on One Groovy Planet TV and on YouTube. I think you will enjoy the video as I did all the narration and I have to say that I am pretty proud of it.
We stayed camped at Camillas and Victors for a few days, just relaxing and having a quiet time. Victor and I went to the Four Rivers Harley-Davidson dealership in Paducah one afternoon sightseeing. I call it sightseeing because I worked for Harley-Davidson as a mechanic years ago, before the dealerships all became mini-malls and t-shirts were something each dealership gave away when you bought parts for your motorcycle.
Before we could get back on the road again, we needed to get new shoes for Dan and the girls. Victor took me over to the home of Leroy Borntreger, an Amish Ferrier, who, although he was booked solid through October, agreed to fit us in on Monday morning if we could be there by 9am. After explaining the situation to Leroy about the distance to his house from Victors, he offered to let us camp at his place. Sunday afternoon, we hitched up the wagon and, with Victor riding shotgun, we made the six mile trip to Leroys in fast time.
We arrived at Leroys home about 3:30 that afternoon and set up our camp. Leroy and his wife, Anna, made us to feel very much at home by opening up their home up to us and loading us up with fresh vegetables and canned goods. Anna found out that I like fresh milk and, each time she did the milking, she made sure I always had a full jar. We camped for two nights at their home before leaving out for Hickman Ferry.
We pulled out Tuesday morning after saying our goodbyes and stopped just up the road about a mile from Leroy and Annas at Toby Borntregers Tack and Saddle Shop to replace a snap on one of the harnesses. Before we were able to leave Tobys place, his wife loaded us up with fresh baked banana bread and canned peaches.
I simply can’t say it enough. We really do live in a great country full of kind and generous people. Mary and I are very lucky to be living out a dream that allows us to meet and enjoy so many different lifestyles.
A few miles down the road from Tobys, Camilla rolled up on us to say goodbye and give us some mail we had sent to her house. Camilla wasn’t empty-handed either. She had baked for us that morning and provided us with, still warm from the oven, cinnamon rolls along with homemade blueberry jam. There’s one thing for certain, Mary and I have no fear of ever going hungry on this trip.
We continued on through the countryside just enjoying the day. We came to a spot in the road where we had to turn left to head towards the town of Fulton. Across the road, at the Beulah Baptist Church, were two ladies and a baby who had been sitting there waiting for us to come by. We pulled into the parking lot and introduced ourselves to Dottie Carter, her daughter Karen Burns, and her baby. It wasn’t long before we were joined by Judy Willets. These very nice ladies unlocked the church and brought us out enough ice to fill both of our coolers along with apples for the pets. We bid them all goodbye and got back on the road.
About six miles up the road, we came to the crossroad town of Fulgham. There is only one store located here and it belongs to David and Kathy Hoverton. Kathy invited us to camp at their property where their house had burnt down this past April. The house was down a narrow back road that we found without any trouble.
As we were setting up camp, we were visited by False Tina Register, a very nice lady who, after taking pictures, had to leave before it got to dark but promised to stop by and see us off the next morning.
Soon after Tina left, David came by to check on us and make sure we didn’t need anything. We had a very comfortable night camped there and got an early start on the day. Tina arrived bearing gifts. She gave us a new chair for Mary, a bed cushion and several other necessities. Thanks again, Tina. You really didn’t need to go out of your way but we do appreciate it all.
We got out on the road and the weather was nice and cool. The girls trotted us the six miles into Fulton so fast that when we pulled into the Dollar General store, one of our wheels was smoking. No problem. Just pull off the wheel, cool it down and apply more axle grease.
While I was doing this, Lee Wolfe, his wife, and their daughter, Molly, stopped by to lend a hand. Lee has a friend who, several years back, left Delaware in a wagon bound for California. It wasn’t long before a lady reporter pulled up and asked to do a story for the local newspaper.
We are getting a lot of stories done on us by local newspapers but we very seldom see them as most of these small town papers only come out once a week. While many of them promise to e-mail us a copy of the story, we rarely hear back from them. I don’t mind this so much as long as people are reading about us and enjoying what they read, but it would be nice if all these reporters would pass the stories on to us so we could share them with the rest of America.
We are beginning to get quite a following out here on the road. Just in the short time that we have been traveling, we have had over eight thousand visitors to our web site. I would like to thank all of you that logon and follow us and we hope that you are liking what you read, even though I have been more than a little slack in getting things posted and keeping you all updated. I promise to try harder to keep you filled in on what we’re up to.
With the wheel greased and back on the wagon, we headed out of town only to be stopped at the Wal-Mart parking lot by Lee and his family who had gone home and put together a care package for us. While we were stopped there, a lady named Melinda and her husband stopped by and offered to let us camp at her mothers place about six miles out of town. Great, we had a place for the night!
Melinda met us out of town near her moms place and guided us in. Melinda’s mother, Margret, is quite a lady at ninety two-years-old and she has the look and energy of someone thirty years younger.
They all helped in getting us set up for the night. Later, we were visited by Steve and Suzanne Tibbs who were kind enough to donate two sacks of sweet feed for the pets and a bag of food for Pete. In her yard, Margret has an apple tree that is overloaded with apples so Dan and the girls were able to more than satisfy their sweet teeth.
We had planned to leave the following morning, but Mother Nature had other plans. For the next two days, it rained. We spent that time in the wagon reading and just trying to stay dry. Friday morning was sunny and dry so we packed up and said goodbye to our host, Margret, and drove the wagon the fifteen miles to Hickman Ferry.
We arrived at the Ferry Friday afternoon but had agreed with Thomas that we would wait until Monday morning to cross over into Missouri, so that he could get more video of us on the ferry.
We had a pretty good time camped at the ferry. We met and talked with a lot of people taking the ferry across and enjoyed camping alongside the Mississippi River for three nights, except for the mosquitoes that threatened to carry us off but decided not to for fear of losing us to the bigger guys.
One of the nice people we met there was Donnie, a tugboat captain. He took me over into Union City, Tennessee so I could pick up a few things. While there, I learned another paper had done a story on us. AJ, who works on one of the tugs there at the ferry, gave us mosquito repellent and fresh pears.
That gets us all caught up to Monday, September 13th, the day we crossed the Mississippi River into Missouri. What a great day. We finally crossed a state line, not just by rolling across some line on a map, but by water. We hitched the girls to the wagon and walked onto the ferry. I was more than a little worried as I wasn’t sure how the girls were going to react to riding on a boat. I was surprised and very proud of Pearle and Pauline, even Dan. They all acted as if this was something they had been doing all along. Thomas and Camilla got some great video. The Captain of the ferry waived our fee and got a lot of pictures to hang on his pilot house bulkhead.
Once into Missouri, we said goodbye to Thomas and Camilla and started for East Prairie. We made camp Monday night about ten miles outside of East Prairie, Missouri. While we were setting up camp two gentlemen showed up. One of them was Randy Sutton, the owner of the land we had camped on. Randy is a very nice man and told us as he was leaving that he was going to tell the East Prairie newspaper about us.
Within an hour of meeting Randy, his daughter, Amy, and her son and daughter stopped by for a visit and offered to run into town for us to bring back ice (we go through a lot of ice).
Mary woke me at 7am the next morning to let me know that our camp had been overrun. I came out of the wagon to find Randy and a host of other folks from town, along with Kevin, the reporter from the East Prairie newspaper. The good people had not arrived with empty hands. We had coffee and sausage and biscuits for breakfast while we entertained our guests, telling all about our travels and the wagon. As they left us to get our day started, they welcomed us to town and assured us that when we arrived in town, we would have no problem finding a place to camp. Boy were we in for a surprise.
We were met in town by Kevin who gave us directions to a place to camp. He gave us directions to the Grace Inn Motel, which is owned by Gary and Theresa Hancock. We pulled the wagon into a field beside the motel and were met by Gary, Theresa, their staff and others from town. When we got down from the wagon, Gary handed Mary a key to a cabin for us to stay in free of charge. We have stayed in some nice hotels over the years, but I have to tell you, this cabin we were given was far better than anything I’ve ever seen before.
We had a porch to sit on and watch the animals and inside was a hot tub just waiting to be filled with hot water and put to use. I asked Gary where the closest store was so I could throw a saddle on Dan and go shopping. Gary handed me the keys to his truck and sent me on my way.
The next morning, I was in all sorts of pain. It seems I had cracked a tooth and needed to see a dentist post haste. Theresa made some calls and got me into a dentist that day. Theresa had her carpenter take me to see Dr. Timothy Raushe, D.D.S. who, after some x-rays, informed me that I had two impacted teeth that needed to come out. I’m not a big fan dentists and I don’t know anybody who is. Dr. Raushe understands this it seems and, with very skilled and gentle hands, had the two teeth that were causing the pain out of my mouth and laying on a stand beside me. The bill wasn’t very painful either.
We had to stay one more night at the Grace Inn and Gary allowed me to pay for that night. We were up early Wednesday morning and with no pain in my mouth, we had the girls and Dan groomed, harnessed and ready to roll out with one quick stop by Dr. Raushe’s office to drop off a few post cards.
We trotted out of town bound for New Madrid, Missouri, a small town along the Mississippi River. We had a nice day of travel atop a levy road all the way to New Madrid. As we were coming into town, a gentleman in a red truck stopped us and asked if we would like to camp at his house in town. We made it there and were greeted by his nice wife, Sarah Ann, who is a school teacher.
With the help of Sally Ann and several of her neighbors, we had our camp set up in no time. A guy we had met along the road into town, John, was there and gave me a ride to the grocery store. When we returned, I was surprised to see two of the girls from Dr. Raushe’s office. It turns out, they live in the same neighborhood. This turned out to be another night that I didn’t have to cook. One of the neighbor ladies and employee of Dr. Raushe grilled hamburgers and hot dogs and they were terrific.
We got up early the next morning and got ready for the day. We were unable to say goodbye to Sally Ann as she was up and gone with the sun, I think. We got on the road and started trotting towards the small farming town of Parma, Missouri.
About fifteen miles from New Madrid, we stopped in Lilbourn and passed through Catron, population 68, and finally to Travis and Joyce Stewarts farm in Parma, population 685.
It’s a pretty busy time here in this part of Missouri. The land is flat and you can see cotton and soybean fields for miles and miles with an occasional corn field. With it being so busy, the roads and fields are filled with combines, tractors of all sorts and sprayers. Some of the sprayers resemble really large and angry mosquitoes, and for some reason, really freak out Pearle. Every now and then you may hear the sound of a low flying airplane which turns out to be a crop duster.
As a child in Southern California, I would watch for hours as these daredevils of the skies would drop from out of nowhere to within inches of a crop and dust them. Then, just when you thought they may fly into a tree line at the edge of the field, they would pop back up into the sky, make a sharp banking turn and do it all over again.
Before we got to Travis and Joyce’s house, we met Mark Scallion, an employee of Travis' who was waiting alongside the road for us to pass so he could get a picture. I pulled the wagon to a stop and ask him if he knew where we might camp for a day or two and I could pull the wheels off the wagon and soak them in water over night.
Every now and then these old wooden spoke wheels start getting loose and the steel tire gets loose. The only way to tighten them back up again is to soak them in water and swell the wood back up.
It’s been a long, hot summer and the heat from the pavement had loosened up one of the wheels. Mark gave us directions to Travis’ house and said that he would meet us there because he wanted to pickup his wife, Lori, so she could see the wagon.
It was only about two more miles to where we were going and when we pulled into the yard, we were greeted by Mark, Lori, Travis, Joyce and a few others. Travis is a farmer and, from what I can gather, he farms a lot of land. He is also a very fine gentlemen.
They all made sure we got all setup and even produced a couple of kids wading pools just big enough for the wheels to soak in. In no time at all, I had two of the wheels off and soaking with the wagon sitting on blocks.
I had to think back and laugh looking at the wagon sitting there on blocks. It was not an uncommon site in Oxnard, California in the 1960’s to ride your bicycle down the street early in morning and hear someone cussing out loud as they gazed upon their car sitting there on cinder blocks - the victim of a thief in the night.
We arrived at Travis’ Friday afternoon and spent the weekend there leaving out yesterday morning to where we are now just outside of Clarkton, Missouri. We had a great time in Parma at Travis and Joyce’s home. Each night, Mark and Lori came by and we enjoyed some ice cold beverages and just plain good company. Although Mark has a crazy sister named Marge, she makes life fun for all of us. She's crazy...in a good way.
Dan and the girls were able to stand around and do what they do best: graze! The trip from East Prairie to Parma was about fifty miles or so and from Parma to here in Clarkton about twenty three miles.
We really had a great time in Parma and we didn’t leave there empty-handed. Bradley, one of the guys that works for Travis, was in the shop Saturday night working on a car with Mark. In the back of his truck was a small puppy, of unknown breed, about nine-weeks-old that someone had dropped off in Bradley’s yard. I guess I’m a sucker for puppies with hard luck stories, too. Anyway, this is my story and I’m sticking to it. Pete has been needing a companion and playmate for quite some time now so now he has Junior. Laugh if you will.
We were stopped by a highway patrolman yesterday as we rolled past the cotton fields. Not for speeding or anything like that. He was just curious about the wagon and where we were headed. We get the strangest looks from people when we tell them California, but they all wish us well.
That brings you all up to where we are tonight, sitting in what used to be a barn yard on Highway 25, about twelve miles or so from the Arkansas border. Tomorrow morning, weather permitting, we will hitch up the girls and drive into Arkansas heading southwest to Texarkana and into Texas.
We hope you will continue to follow our travels and that you too will get out here and see some of America. To all of you that we will be leaving behind here in Missouri, I would like to say this. Your state logo is The Show Me State. I don’t know what Mary and I have shown you, but all of you have shown us a really good time and we thank each and every one of you.