Tuesday, 28 September 2010
Hello folks! Here we are in Paragould, Arkansas. We arrived in Clay County, Arkansas on Thursday, 23 September after departing the town of Kennett, Missouri that morning. We stayed over in Missouri for an extra day because I missed a turn in Holcomb and wound up in Kennett the home town of Sheryl Crow. It was no big deal missing our turn and going a little further south before crossing over into Arkansas.
We arrived in Kennett about 4pm on Wednesday after leaving Clarkton earlier in the day. As soon As we rolled into Kennett we were greeted by a gentleman whose name we never did get. He asked us to follow him into town to the fairgrounds where he saw that we were all set for the night; we think he may have been the county sheriff by the badge that he wore on his belt.
After a night in Kennett we were rested and ready to move on. As we were rolling out of town, we were stopped by Mr. Tackeberry who gave us a bag of apples and bananas and five crisp twenty dollar bills for our journey, we thanked him and sent him away with a t-shirt and some post cards. People like Mr. Tackeberry stopping us and for no reason other than the kindness of heart make traveling the we do so much more pleasant and worth doing. We have met many people along the way who wish us well and give just to help us along the way we really are meeting and seeing the best of America.
About six or eight miles out of Kennett we crossed the St. Francis River and into Clay County, Arkansas. The scenery didn’t change. We were still passing cotton fields as far as the eye could see. About ten miles into Arkansas we came to the town of Rector. We were stopped just inside town watering Dan and the girls when Butch French, a member of the Rector Saddle Club, stopped and introduced himself and invited us to camp at the Rector Saddle Club Arena. We followed Butch over to the arena where he helped us to set up camp and get the animals put up in a corral and showed us where to get water and electricity.
Butch said that the Saddle Club was sponsoring a Rodeo on Friday and Saturday night and that the man bringing the stock would be there in the morning. Butch was right. About 2:30am Jamie DeJournett, his wife Amanda and two trailers full of horses, bulls, and sheep, arrived. I got out of bed and introduced myself and lent a hand unloading the stock. With all the animals bedded down for the night we all said good night.
By the time I crawled out of bed later that morning Jamie was already up seeing to all the animals, ours included. We sat around that morning getting to know everyone. With Friday being my birthday, we decided to stick around the weekend and take in the show. Jamie and his family own the 3-D Rodeo Company. Along with his wife, Amanda, and his two children, eight-year-old Alli and six-year-old Justin, they put on a really fun filled rodeo that has events for all ages. Jamie pretty much gave me free run of arena during the two nights of festivities allowing me to take pictures and video of all the events.
Friday night started out with Alli mounted on her palomino carrying the American Flag around the arena followed by the national anthem and a prayer. The first event was sheep riding for the little ones. What a blast! These kids, mostly eight and under, climb down into the bucking chute onto the back of a sheep. When the chute opens, out they come hanging on for all they can as the sheep bolts across the arena. Off they come picking themselves up from the dirt with a smile of accomplishment and a wave or a bow from a few as the onlookers in the bleachers clap and cheer.
The next event was the bare back saddle bronc riding. Friday night only had one bronc rider on the card he didn’t make the eight second ride but still received cheers from the stands.
Onto goat undressing. At the far end of the arena a goat is tethered to a stake in the ground and a ribbon is tied to its tail. From the other end of the arena a rider takes off on horseback to the goat, dismounts, pulls the ribbon from the goat’s tail and runs on foot over to a waiting judge. Watching these kids, many just a speck on the backs of their horses, is fun for all.
The next event was the pole bending competition for different age groups. Six poles are lined up in a straight line as the rider weaves their horse between the poles and races back to the starting point. The best time wins. With this event open to all age groups, you can see some pretty good riding and some fast times.
After the pole bending was the barrel racing competition, again for all age groups. I’m not sure who has more fun here, the smaller kids or the bigger ones. The object is to ride in a clover leaf around three barrels while racing against a clock. Some of the older riders put up some pretty impressive times.
The final two events of the evening are the crowd favorites. The calf riding competition for kids under sixteen and the bull riding for those sixteen and up. I have more fun watching the younger kids on the calves. These little guys, with their chaps and cowboy hats, have just as much heart as the older bull riders. This is where the future bull rider gets his start. Everything is the same as the bull riding just on a smaller animal that gives just as much buck as a full grown bull. With the calf in the chute, the rider climbs on its back, gets his rope set, body squared up and gives the word “Let him go boys.” The gate opens and out they come, calf bucking and rider trying for that eight seconds and the best score.
Win or lose, these little guys all get the approval of the crowd. Just like their PBR heroes they get up off the ground, some a little slower than others, to a happy crowd while waving their hats to the stands before walking back to bucking chute to cheer on the next rider.
The night ended with the bull riding. Jamie brought along some high bucking bulls as rank as anything you will see on your TV while watching PBR Rodeo. With the completion of the bull riding, the show was over for the night with Saturday night promising to bring just as much fun and excitement as the night before.
Pearle, Pauline and Dan watched the show from a trailer that they were tied to for the evening. I think Pearle wanted to get in on the fun. She seemed to take a special interest in the bucking events and I think she would make a good bare back bucking mule.
Jamie, along with his family and staff, put together a really good rodeo. What makes them stand out is that every one of all ages is welcome to get in on the fun. While you’re sitting around watching a pro rodeo event on TV or sitting arena side at a rodeo cheering on your favorite PBR star, think for a minute where these guys got their start. They didn’t become professionals overnight. They all picked themselves up off the arena grounds after being bucked off more times than they can remember at rodeos sponsored by a saddle club and put on by good hard working folks such as Jamie and his 3-D Rodeo Company.
As a teenager in Sylmar, California each weekend at Sam O’Brian’s roping arena, after the roping was finished each Saturday afternoon a few of us kids would climb into the bucking chutes and ride the steers. All of us dreaming of one day being a pro-bull rider. Sam charged us $1.00 per ride. We didn’t get any trophies or prize money, only some bumps and bruises and great time.
If your saddle club or local arena is thinking about sponsoring a fun filled family event give the 3-D Rodeo Company a call at 870-378-3959 or 870-378-4446. Jamie and Amanda will provide you with a fun filled time that the whole family can get in on.
Each time we have been interviewed by a reporter we are asked what the highlight of our trip has been. We have had so many good times and met so many people that until now I really couldn’t answer the question. Each new town is different than the last. Each with its' own special memories of people and places. Crossing over the bridges at The Land Between The Lakes and riding the ferry across the Mississippi River into Missouri were just a couple of our most recent highlights.
The four days that we were in Rector, Arkansas will have to go down as the best time that we have had to this point in our travels. I have to say thank you to the Rector Saddle Club and Butch French for putting us up at the arena and Jamie and the 3-D Rodeo Company for making my birthday this year something that I will remember for a long time to come. James Watson and his Grandson, Tyler, for taking Mary and me to lunch and for the help James gave in getting us on our way out of town on Monday. The town of Rector isn’t very big but we had a large time there. For all of you that we met during our stay we thank you for your hospitality.
We rolled out of Rector Monday morning to our next stop at the Fair Grounds here in Paragould. The trip was about twenty two miles. After a three day rest, the girls were ready to get back to work. Full of energy and chomping at the bit, we trotted most of the twenty two miles and made the trip in just over four hours. Thanks to Butch, we found the Greene County Fair Grounds without any problem. We found a spot to set up camp near the arena with access to water and good grazing. With Dan and the girls set for the night, we had a quiet evening.
Tuesday morning, Holly Morse, a reporter for the Paragould Daily Press stopped by for an interview. The next morning, we were surprised to see we made the front page of the September 29th issue.
We were camped at the back of the fairgrounds and could not be seen from the highway, so we had a pretty quiet stay with only a few visitors. We had to stick around town until this morning, Thursday 30th September, to wait on some mail to catch up to us. We got an early start this morning and were on the road an hour earlier than we usually are. Today was a gorgeous day. The temperature was in the low 80’s and the sky was clear. Not a cloud to be seen.
We rolled into downtown Paragould to the Post Office. With our mail in hand, we started for Jonesboro, Arkansas, a trip of about twenty three miles. We left town on Highway 49. Just outside of town, we stopped at a gas station. While sitting there, several people stopped to take pictures and ask about our trip. Two ladies stopped by with their kids, a boy and a girl each about seven years old. They had a fun time getting up in the wagon and petting all the animals.
Highway 49 from Paragould to Jonesboro is four lanes all the way. We like to stick to the two lane roads as much as possible. A short distance out of town, we turned onto Highway 358. This road travels through Crowley’s Ridge and the prettiest countryside we have seen since leaving Kentucky. I’m not saying that Missouri or the rest of Arkansas aren’t just as pretty; it’s just that since we crossed the Mississippi River, we have been traveling through farm country. All very flat and very few trees.
We have now come into hill country for now: tall trees and green pastures. Along Highway 358, mailbox baseball seems to be the night time game of choice here for the local delinquent crowd. If you have never heard of this game, it’s pretty easy to play. All you need is a car, a driver and a baseball bat. The object of the game is for the passenger to lean out the passenger side window and smack a mailbox with the bat as the driver speeds by. To get a home run you have to knock the mail box off its' post with one swing.
The players around here have no chance of ever going to World Series. These guys are terrible, only making contact with about one in seven mailboxes and never getting a home run. If your mailbox has fallen victim to this game, try placing an open can of paint in your box each night then just look around for a car with your color paint splattered over it.
We were stopped by a lady who asked if we would stop by her neighbor’s house so that her seventeen-year-old daughter, who is paralyzed, could see the wagon. We visited for a few minutes before continuing on, leaving this young lady with a smile and a post card. Some days are just better than others and putting smiles on faces makes any day a good day.
We turned off Highway 358 onto Highway 351 about six miles further still on Crowley’s Ridge. About five miles from the Jonesboro City limits we passed by the home of Sonny Cribbs. Sonny hopped in truck, flagged us down and invited us to come stay the night at his home.
Sonny has about four acres of lawn that Dan and the girls are doing their best to mow for him tonight. Sonny set us up nicely. We are enjoying the comfort of his shop/man cave. We are sitting here with all the comforts of home: a shower, a stove, TV and a pot of his homemade vegetable beef soup.
With the help of Sonny and a few of his neighbors, we got settled in for the night. It wasn’t long after we arrived that Laura Gunter from Channel 8 News pulled in setup her camera equipment and microphone for an interview. Our first TV interview to be aired tonight at 10:00.
So here Mary and I sit watching Greys Anatomy and waiting for the 10:00 news. Tomorrow is a new day. We plan to roll through Jonesboro and to the town of Weiner before camping tomorrow night. I still have many pictures to download into our photo gallery, but first I have to name them all. I will be doing this over the next few days.
The rest of our trip through Arkansas will be taking us along Highway 49 South eventually taking us into Texarkana. We have a lot of people to meet and many towns to pass through in that time. Stay with us and we will keep you updated on what we see and the folks that we meet along the way. What a great country we live in. Come on out and join us in your free time.
Sunday, 03 October 2010
Hi everybody! It’s late Sunday night and though I should be sleeping, I felt that I should get you all caught up on the past few days.
We are at the farm of Kenney Bowen and his wife just outside Weiner, Arkansas. Today has been one of those days when everything just seemed to fall into place without any trouble at all, but first, let me get you caught up to today.
We stayed up later than usual Thursday night at Sonny Cribbs waiting for the 10:00 news, hoping to see our interview. We weren’t on the tube that night, but learned from others that get up before the rooster crows that we did make the 5am news the next morning. Getting up early for me is 7am.
After our morning coffee, we got our day started and got on the road for Jonesboro about 11:30am. A funny thing happened about a mile down the road from Sonnys. The night before, the 6pm news showed a picture of us trotting down the highway outside of Paragould as the newsanchor made a few comments about us and ended with saying that they had no idea where we were at that time. We were almost next door to the TV station just about a mile from Sonnys. We laughed as we rolled past and wondered if they could see us as we rolled by.
We rolled into Jonesboro about 1pm Friday. Our first stop was a bank with an ATM where I found out, much to my surprise, that my bank had cancelled my ATM cards. After calling the bank on their 1-800 number, pressing button after button on my phone, I was finally able to get past all the automated operators and get a real life person who sounded and acted just like the automated robot. This took about an hour, it seemed.
It seems that the bank I chose to do business with several years ago has been taken over by an even larger bank and they had issued me new ATM cards that I haven’t received and cancelled the ones I just received last May after Mary and I were married.
Here’s the thing that I don’t understand. It seems that these days, if you don’t own a computer and have an e-mail address, you almost don’t exist. Here’s a good example of the people who ask for your e-mail address not putting their own rules to use. Anyhow to make a long story short, the human robot tried to convince me that all this was my own fault and that if I would just remain in one place in the future that all of this could be avoided.
Thankfully I have friends that still work at the bank in question and in a week or so this whole mess will be straightened out and I will have new cards. Lucky for us that we still had enough cash on hand to see us through.
We restocked our pantry in town before going on. Jonesboro is a pretty good sized town with lots of traffic. We passed by Arkansas State University on our way through town. With this being homecoming weekend and a big game this weekend, you can imagine all the traffic in town. Pearle and Pauline trotted us through town mostly unaffected by all this while Mary and I cringed in fear each time a car or truck squeezed by narrowly missing the wagon.
It was while we were passing through Jonesboro that we both realized something. The last time we have seen a homeless person, or just someone too useless to get out and get a job, standing at stop light with a cardboard sign begging for money was way back in Bowling Green, Kentucky. I mention this for this reason. We have lived in Florida for several years and travelled all up and down the East Coast in just about every city. On almost every busy intersection, there stands a guy with a sign claiming this disability or that or he’s a homeless veteran with most signs ending with 'God Bless'. Each day of the week you will see this same person on the same corner.
Don’t get me wrong here, I know full well the shape our country is in and that times are hard but I don’t believe that we have an unemployment problem in this country. What we do have however, is an employment problem and as long as a person can get something for nothing, they aren’t going to get up and go get a job.
What I’m getting at is through all the small towns and cities that we have visited since starting out to see this great country, we have noticed that out here past all the busy and overcrowded cities, people out here are working for a living. Farming, driving a truck, working in a factory and doing whatever it takes to earn a paycheck each week. Enough about that. I think you know what I’m trying to say.
By the time we made it to the other end of town, it was getting late and we were in need of a spot to camp for the night. We were able to find a spot for the night in a huge grassy field just on the far side of town that went back far enough off the highway to a stand of trees with plenty of cover and grazing for the girls and Dan. Pete and Junior had plenty of space to run and play with no fear of getting out in traffic. We made camp for the night and ate a dinner of hot sausages and beans and fell asleep early. After our trip through town, though it was short, we were worn out.
On Saturday morning, we were on the road an hour earlier than usual as things were just going along smoothly. The morning was cool and the girls seemed to enjoy the cooler temperature, trotting for the first four miles along Highway 1 South.
We were stopped by an ambulance not far out of town. One of the EMT’s on board was the daughter of a man we had met at Sonnys and had read about us in the newspaper. They were nice enough to give us a county road map that shows a lot of roads that aren’t shown on a regular state map and to show us a short cut to Weiner, Arkansas back on Highway 49.
We were stopped once again by people who were just curious and had also read about us. We stop for just about anyone that asks us to and we have made several new friends along the way just stopping to talk for a few minutes. It makes our day to hear stories from other people about seeing other wagons or about how, in their younger days, they too also worked with a team of mules or their father did. Out here in farm country we have talked with many older gentlemen who spent their youths plowing fields with mules because their family couldn’t afford a tractor and that’s just how it was done back then.
Just like our veterans from WWII, hard working men and women from that era are quickly fading into history. I never tire of listening to their stories and have gained a lot of knowledge of wagons, their history and a lot more about mules and equipment than I knew before we got started.
We found our shortcut just where the ambulance crew said it would be. We turned onto Rayburn Road, rolling past rice and bean fields. I forgot to mention that after leaving Jonesboro we were no longer in hill country but back to flat land with rice and bean fields as far as you can see.
I was unaware that Arkansas grows more rice than any other state. As we traveled along, the wind started picking up and with few trees to block it, we were looking for a place to camp pretty quickly. We pulled down a gravel road that turned out to be a driveway of Kenney Bowen and family. After introducing ourselves to Kenney, he allowed us to camp at the front of his farm along some trees and out of the wind.
We had travelled just about twenty four miles that day and we were all tired. The girls had pulled the wagon about eighty miles since leaving Rector on Monday, a pretty good distance, and I’m sure they appreciated having today off.
As I mentioned at the start of this writing, today has been a perfect day. I slept in later than usual this morning. After having my coffee, I sat down to answer e-mails. I really must apologize to all of you that have sent us e-mails. I am very slow about returning e-mails. Please don’t think that I am ignoring you if you don’t hear right back from us. Sometimes by the end of the day, I just want to relax before falling asleep. I will e-mail everyone who signs our guestbook and reply to all your e-mails in time. I know! I know! I need a lot of work but I’m coming along.
Not too long ago I wrote about what I felt had been the highlight of our travels. I had said the rodeo at Rector was the answer to that much asked question. I spoke a little too soon, and as I’ve said before, things change with us and often do. This is one of those times.
This afternoon, I met Sadie, a very pretty and outgoing, little girl. Sadie was involved in an automobile accident that took the life of her father and left her with a spinal cord injury. Unable to use her legs at this time, she has to rely on a wheelchair to move about. Sadie has been through a lot in her six years of life. Is she bitter and disillusioned about life? NO WAY NOT SADIE!
Before I met Sadie, I was told of her injury and also that she was horse crazy and that she had never ridden a horse. Chuck and Dan to the rescue! I saddled up Dan and we went off in search of Sadie. We found Sadie sitting with her Grandma, Kate, on the front porch waiting for us to show up.
With Sadie and I atop Dan, we took off on our ride all over the farm and down a dirt road past soybean fields. As we rode, I learned that Sadie has a birthday coming up on November 11th and she is having a cowgirls party, complete with pony rides. With Dan’s help, we were able to give a little girl her birthday wish just a little bit early. I’m not sure who had a better time riding, Sadie or me.
Sadie was all smiles when we returned from our ride and wants a pony of her own more than anything else now. Since her injury, she has been through a lot more than most could handle. She is still going through physical therapy with the help of the Shriners in hopes that she will one day regain the use of her legs. When you meet a little girl as strong and brave as Sadie, you have to think to yourself, 'If she can laugh, smile and play, we don’t have the right to complain and moan about any little problems that we have.'
That’s about all I have for now. We will pulling out of here tomorrow morning for Hickory Ridge, just about twenty miles south to pick up some waiting mail from One Groovy Planet. If you haven’t already checked out their web site, check out our video on One Groovy Planet TV. Until next time, stay safe and get on out here and see some of America with us.
Sunday, 17 October 2010
Hello from Clarendon, Arkansas, population 1961. We’ve had a great week since leaving Kenney's farm, just north of Weiner, we have travelled just about seventy five miles this week and the weather has been perfect for traveling. Not a cloud in the sky and the temperatures in the 80’s. I say it’s perfect weather for us to travel in, but not so good for the farmers in this region who haven’t seen any rain for thirty four day’s now. Everything is dry and dusty with each county having burn ban’s in effect.
We pulled out of Kenneys Monday morning at about 11:30am. After having a day off, the girls were full of energy and trotted us the three miles into Weiner without stopping. Each small town that we pass thru always has something to boast about and Weiner is no different. No, they aren't known for hot dogs.
The state of Arkansas grows more rice than any other state and Weiner is the home of the Arkansas Rice Festival, which is pretty impressive for a town with a population of less than three hundred.
Monday, we would travel about eighteen miles to the town of Hickory Ridge which is a nice little town with about two hundred and eighty five residents. Highway 49 from Weiner to Hickory Ridge is a straight shot. Not a bend in the road. Only miles and miles of rice fields.
It’s a busy time here for farmers. Combines are busy in the fields harvesting the rice and bean crops. It seems that every other vehicle that passes us is an eighteen wheeler hauling from the fields to the store houses. Each day we are passed by the same drivers several times. We have gotten to know a few of them over the past week as they now wave as they go around us or pass by in the other direction.
We made it to Hickory Ridge by about 5:00pm. The first place we saw that looked like it would be a good place to set up camp for the night was the New Liberty Church. A police officer was parked in the parking lot there, so I pulled the wagon alongside his car and asked about camping for the night. It wasn’t long before another gentleman pulled in to see what was going on and he was able to obtain permission for us to set up camp for the night.
Hickory Ridge is a pretty small, little town and we met what seemed to be most of the population in just a short time. The man who owns the property next to the church loaded us up with apples from his trees for Dan and the girls. Another man and his wife gave us a jar of honey from his hives. We had other visitors, too. A pee wee football player, his mother and a cheerleader for the football team stopped by to see all the pets.
Dan is getting quite the fan club out here. He is really good with kids but Pearle and Pauline are usually too busy with their faces down in the grass grazing to pay anyone much attention, unless they are offering up treats of some sort. Pete and Junior are always happy to have a new pair of hands petting them. It seems that the pets are the stars of this little road show we have here. Then comes Mary and me. That’s okay though. Pearle and Pauline do most of the work pulling the wagon all day and deserve all the attention they can get.
It was pretty cold that night in Hickory Ridge. We were under more than just one blanket that night. We were up and on our way early the next morning after picking up our mail in town from One Groovy Planet. We trotted out of town bound for the little crossroad town of Far Oaks where we camped for two nights, in a field with plenty of tall grass for grazing on. Across the road was a dairy mart where we were treated to soft serve ice cream and BBQ sandwiches, courtesy of the fine ladies that work there.
We had to stay over to wait on a package that was mailed from Florida. Betty Bull, the Postmaster from McCrory, was nice enough to deliver to us. She came over with another lady that works there at the post office and stopped back by later that evening with her granddaughter. A guy that works over at the truck stop across the road came late our first night and brought us two bales of hay.
We left Fair Oaks on Thursday and traveled about fifteen miles to the town of Hunter where we were invited to camp for the night at Johnson’s Grocery Store, owned by Stan Johnson and his wife Marcia, at 143 North Main on Highway 49. They were all so nice to us there as they got us setup to camp and supplying us with all the water we needed for the pets. They also fed Mary and I some really good hamburgers. Stan’s sister-in-law, Karen, works there in the store and saw to our every need. If you’re passing thru Hunter stop in and grab a burger. You won't be disappointed.
As we were pulling out the next morning, Pauline got in a big hurry and got us tangled up on a phone pole. With Stan’s help, and his truck, we were soon backed off the offending pole and on our way to Brinkley. Before we pulled out that morning, I saw that one of our wheels was getting a little loose so I put in a call to John Stewart for help and suggestions on how to fix this problem.
We stopped in Brinkley at the Ace Hardware Store to get some linseed oil and turpentine to help swell the wheel back up and to find a welder to tighten up the steel tire. Vivian, the stores manager, turned out to be Stan’s sister. She was very helpful and hooked us up with Tiger, a local welder. We found a place to camp behind the radio station at the intersection of Highways 49 and 70.
Tiger came out and within an hour or so we had both rear wheels repaired. What a guy! When I tried to pay him for his services, he refused my money. Instead he stayed around and visited with us for a while. We were soon joined by some friends of his that own a towing company on Highway 70, Dennis and Denise Petty. Denise takes in all sorts of stray animals and tries to find them homes. Denise was concerned about flies biting Dan and the girls. She left for a while and returned with a bottle of fly spray. The next morning, we did a short radio interview on KBRI. Dennis stopped by with some hay for our trip to Clarendon, the seat of Monroe County.
We are really blessed to be on this journey of ours and each day we are reminded just how fortunate we are. Each day we meet more and more good people. Several times along the way, we have been told that it has been an honor to meet us. Believe you me, it is us who are being honored by all of you that have stopped to greet us, invite us to camp in your yards or donate all that you have to us and we really are meeting the best of America in our day to day travels. I encourage everyone to get out here and meet your small town neighbors. You just may end up with some new friends for life.
While we were stopped in Brinkley, David Parish invited us to camp at his pasture in Clarendon. We left Brinkley on Saturday and made it to Clarendon by about 3:00pm.
As we rolled into town we couldn’t help but notice what a neat, clean and quiet place it is. We didn’t see a living soul until we got into downtown and even then it was almost like riding thru a ghost town. We stopped at the gas station for supplies and checked our directions to David’s pasture. After talking with several people there in town we made our way over to the pasture. We rolled down a narrow road alongside the White River to a campground just beside David’s pasture and setup camp. As we getting setup, Curtis Clatworthy and his wife Mary, arrived with two bales of freshly cut hay and a gallon of oats.
We were in need of a Ferrier and David was able to get me the phone number of Russell Williams of DeWitt. Russell wasn’t able to get there until Wednesday so we stayed put and just relaxed. I used that time to ride Dan around town and take some pictures and learn about the town.
Clarendon is the county seat and the courthouse was built in 1857. It’s a beautiful old building with a clock tower. Along the main drag of town, all the stores along one side of the street are being demolished which gives you the impression that the town is drying up like so many other small towns. And in many ways, Clarendon is losing more of its population each year.
As with so many small towns in our nation, there isn’t much there to offer the younger generation other than farming work. After the kids graduate high school and go off to college, many of them never return home to start their careers. As a result, the town dries up.
Clarendon is doing something about that. They are demolishing several buildings in the downtown area to make way for a much needed new Mid-Delta Health Systems Medical Center and are also building a new bridge that crosses over the White River.
Clarendon has a lot to offer people that enjoy hunting with the White River National Wildlife Refuge right there at the campground. One word of advice though. You cannot ride your horses in the in this Refuge as I found out. Before using the Refuge, you have to read and sign a permit for use. Nowhere in this permit does it say that you are not allowed to pleasure ride in the Refuge, but according to narrow minded folks at the White River National Wildlife Refuge Offices, unless you are a hunter with an ATV or a truck, you aren't allowed inside the Refuge.
I always thought that these lands were put aside by the Department Of The Interior for all us to use and enjoy. What's a more greener form of transport than a horse? The rules don’t say anything about riding mules so I may try that next. If you enjoy hunting though, I’m told that this area is the duck hunting capital of the world.
Wednesday afternoon, Russell arrived to shoe the animals. He started with Pearle, who is usually pretty good about having her feet messed with. On this day, however, she wasn’t having any of it and we were only able to get her front shoes done. We were able to tighten up Dan and Pauline’s shoes, however.
While all this was going on Curtis stopped by along with Ben Martin and Shirley Lindley to see the show. After about three hours of fooling around with Pearle, it was decided that I might try to find a Ferrier with a shoeing stock to finish the job.
Ben and Shirley were headed into Stuttgart to Wal-Mart and asked us if we needed anything. Ben brought us back a month supply of propane canisters for our cook stove. Turns out that Ben works with computers and has offered to help me out with a few things on the web site. Thanks Ben!!
Thursday morning, Ben stopped by to see us on our way and to help out with arrangements with the Police Department for an escort over the White River Bridge. We met with Ben and Police Chief Jerrell Smith at the foot of the bridge and started over.
The bridge was opened in 1941 and is very long and narrow. With the Chief following us, the girls trotted us the entire three miles over the bridge and levy system out of town. That got us out of town and on our way to where we are now.
Today is Sunday, October 17th and we are in Althiemer, Arkansas at the Stop and Shop gas station. We arrived here yesterday afternoon after leaving Clarendon on Thursday. We made it across the bridge safely and headed for the city of Stuttgart, the Rice Capitol of the World. It’s here that Riceland Foods has its world headquarters.
On our way into town, we were stopped by the Arkansas County Sheriff for, of all things, beating on our children! He pulled us over and asked to see the children that we had been accused of beating on. When he saw that we didn’t have any children with us, he still wasn’t happy and insisted that I get down from the wagon. I guess so that he could get a better look at me and run both mine and Mary's Drivers Licenses. After he was satisfied that we weren’t fugitives running from the law, he sent us along our way.
We found a large field in town, across from the Museum of the Arkansas Grand Prairie, and set up camp. Ben came over from Clarendon and drove me over to the local Taco Bell for a treat. We don’t eat a lot of fast food on our journey, so when we do, it’s a treat.
We stopped at Wal-Mart on our way out of town the next day . While I was in the store shopping, Mary was entertaining several people who came over to see the wagon. We left out of Stuttgart on our way Althiemer.
We stopped for the night at the home of Leo and Ronda Smith. Leo has a team of mules and several head of horses. Living there on his property is his son Phil and his family. Phil has some pretty neat kids, 11-year-old twins Stephen and Stephanie.
Stephen will never meet a stranger. He’s a lot of fun to be around and pretty smart, along with being pretty gifted in gymnastics. He and his sister took a liking to Mary and all the pets. I didn’t see much of their older brother, Josh, who likes to spend his free time in the woods hunting.
Leo had a shoeing stock and I was able to finish getting shoes on Pearle. It’s been more than twenty years since I’ve shoed a horse and it took me a little longer than normal, but I was able to get the job done. I’m still in search of a Ferrier for Pauline.
We spent a quiet night at Leo’s with Dan and the girls safely tucked away in a corral for the night. I was able to sleep the whole night without having to get up and check on them. We rolled out early yesterday morning for Athiemer to where we are now.
As we were pulling into the Stop and Shop, we had, what you might call, a flat tire. The steel tire came loose from our right front wheel. Luckily I was able to get the wagon stopped before it caused too much damage to the wooden part of the wheel. As I was standing there looking at the wheel figuring out what to do next, Issac Butler and his two kids walked over and lucky for us Issac knew of a welder. Issac called John 'The Blacksmith' Smith.
Within a few minutes, John showed up and, between the two of us, we were able to get the wheel repaired. All I needed to do next was to soak the wheel in water overnight to swell it up and get back tight on the tire.
The owner of the Stop and Shop was gracious enough to allow us to set up camp here complete with a large field of grass for grazing. Mary and I like spicy, fried chicken from Popeyes or Bojangles, but I do believe that we have found the very best spicy, fried chicken right here at the Stop and Shop.
Here’s a warning: If you're ever fortunate enough to stop in here and get some of their chicken, do not add hot sauce to it. You will only set your mouth on fire. This stuff is truly the very best.
Well that bring you all up-to-date with our travels. We will be leaving here tomorrow for Pine Bluff. So until next time, stay safe and hit the backroads the first chance you get. You won’t be sorry.
Thursday, 11 November 2010
Hello again. I know it’s been along time since I’ve last written anything and all I can do is offer up an apology for those of you who have been faithfully following us along. A lot has been happening since we left Althiemer for Pine Bluff. But first I would like to thank all SIXTEEN THOUSAND plus who have been following us and I also want to thank all of you that have purchased our postcards and t-shirts or have made donations thru our PayPal account. I never in my wildest dreams thought that so many people would be interested in what we are doing out here. It’s very humbling to look at the counter on our web site and see that so many of you are interested in what we are doing.
We rolled out of Althiemer on October 18th and in just a few hours time, we were crossing the Arkansas River and entering Pine Bluff. We rolled past the college (University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff), through town and to a vacant lot beside the Watson Chapel High School. A for sale sign in the lot had a phone number on it so I took a chance and called the number. I was able to get Mr. Abbott, the owner of the property, on the phone and after explaining to him who we were and what we were doing, he gave us permission to camp there.
It wasn’t long before Mr. Abbott came by to see us and check out the wagon. He pulled up in his car, got out and handed me a white baseball cap with an Arkansas Road Hogs logo on it and he, "You're both now Honorary Road Hogs".
The Road Hogs are a group of three hundred plus, and growing, RV owners and tailgaters that follow the Arkansas Razorback football team to all their games. Mr. Abbott is also businessman who owns a factory in Pine Bluff that makes a hub meter that keeps track of mileage on tractor trailers, buses, etc. He's also an American business owner that should be saluted. In this age where it seems to be the practice for American-owned businesses to pack up and head south to Mexico or cross the oceans to China to set up shop and take jobs away from Americans and support foreign workers, he has opted to stay right there in Pine Bluff and keep his product American made.
By the time we arrived in Pine Bluff, both Pearle and Pauline were in bad need of new shoes and I was having no luck finding a Ferrier. Within a few minutes and a few phone calls, Mr. Abbott had the problem solved. We had to stay put until Wednesday before John McVay could come by to shoe the girls. On Wednesday, John McVay arrived in the late afternoon on his way home from a day of shoeing other horses. In no time at all, he had both girls shoed. When it came time to pay for his services, all he requested for payment was a postcard from California. I agrred to form of payment, although a bit high, and sent him home with a t-shirt and a postcard for his kid. Thanks again John not only for going out of your way to help us but also for your donation of the shoes and your labor.
Later that same day, we were visited by two very nice ladies, Laquitta and Michelle. They asked that we stay through the weekend so that I could go on a trail ride with them and some others on Saturday. They also invited us to attend Cowboy Church on Sunday. Along with so many other visitors, Ben also drove down from Clarendon and brought along with him a few friends with their children, one of these being a very brave boy of about five-years-old that had no fear at all of the girls. It’s a good thing that the girls are so easy going when it comes to children as this little guy was all under foot and face to face with both of them. At one point I looked over and Ben had him sitting on Pauline’s back. That little guy left with a lot to tell his friends.
Saturday morning, Laquitta and Michelle arrived with a horse trailer. We loaded Dan in the trailer with their horses and headed to a large cattle ranch for our ride. When we arrived at the ranch, we were met by about eight other riders. With everyone saddled up, we began our ride. It was the beginning of hunting season so we stuck to riding in the many pastures of this really huge and scenic ranch. We rode along slowly, each of us pairing up and enjoying the day. As we rode along, it was plain to see just how badly rain is needed in this region. The grass was dry and brown and all the creeks that we crossed, that feed the many ponds and watering holes that the cattle rely upon, were bone dry. No mud, just dust. We passed many ponds that had all but dried up. Those that weren’t dry, were very low on water.
All along the ride, we passed herds of cows nursing their newborn calves with many of them just a few days old. Our ride was over in about three hours and I had a wonderful time riding along with others and learning about the area. Any day that you can ride along with other horse people is great. After the ride, we loaded our horses into trailers and said our goodbyes. I would see many of these same people in Cowboy Church the next morning.
Sunday morning, Laquitta arrived at about 7:30am to get me for church. Mary stayed behind to watch over the pets. A lot of places where we camp, we have to cahin the girls and Dan to stakes and the dogs cannot be left alone so one of us has to be there with them at all times. Cowboy Church was held at Troy’s Arena on his ranch that, up until not too long ago, was a full-fledged horse ranch. As we drove along, over in a pasture to our right, there stood a huge Texas Longhorn and not far from that was a buffalo. Much to my surprise, they are both made from fiberglass. Entering the indoor arena, you pass through the Lonesome Dove Hotel, where we had a breakfast consisting of coffee, donuts and pigs in a blanket while I met all those that would be attending church.
As I walked into the arena where church is held, I passed by a few vintage buck boards, wagons and even a prison wagon. At the far end of the arena was a roundpen and grazing on a bale of hay insde the pen, was a white horse having already been tricked twice this morning. I had to go and see if the horse was real. Yes there is still one real animal there, other than the odd barn cats that ran around.
Troy has done a really nice job of putting together a place for his friends and other horse people to come to for their Sunday worship. The Cowboy Church here is non-denominational and the dress code is boots, jeans and a cowboy hat if you wish. Troy told me that he gets most of his décor for his arena at a flea market in Canton, Texas on the first Monday of each month. Mary and I are hoping to be in Canton sometime during the month of December. Troy told me this flea market has all sorts of wagon and harness material and a good time can be had.
After church, Debbie Moncrief, the owner of the Hard Times Ranch, came by the camp and offered to take me to the grocery store where, for a treat, I bought steaks for dinner. Later that afternoon, the sky turned dark and the bottom fell out of it. The fire I had going to cook our steaks on was doused. Debbie arrived and told us that there were tornado warnings and more severe weather on its way. She was worried about our safety and invited to load the pets in her horse trailer and come stay at her place for a few days until the weather got better. She set us up in an RV/horse trailer in her barn and supplied us with movies and a flat screen tv. We stayed there until Thursday while the wagon dried out and the bad weather passed.
We left the wagon that night but went back the next morning and towed it behind Debbies truck while I sat in the wagon and worked the hand brake. It’s a strange feeling to be riding down the road in a wagon without any reins. Its an adventure that I hope I never do again. Debbie very skillfully towed me and the wagon to her ranch without any trouble, just my shaken nerves. While the wagon dried out and we rested, the pets were able to run free in a pasture and do as they pleased. Debbie was a terrific host and is a very special lady. Not only did she go out her way to see to our safety but she made us feel very much at home.
The weather was clear on Wednesday so we decided to pull out on Thursday. First I had to pick up mail in town, though. It’s about a seven mile ride from the Hard Times Ranch to the post office in Pine Bluff. Debbie was at work so I saddled up Dan and we headed for town. The ride into town was easy. It was the return trip that gave us trouble. I think the trouble was with me, though. It seems that Dan had a pretty good idea on how to get back to the ranch but instead of giving him his head and letting him guide us back, I got us lost. What should have been a fourteen mile ride turned into about eighteen. We saw some pretty nice neighborhoods in Pine Bluff and entertained the kids at the elementary school.
At one point in our journey we passed by the Pine Bluff Country Club. I, myself, have never had much use for the game of golf and have always maintained that a golf course would make a really nice horse ranch with all its grass, watering holes and sand traps for the horses to roll in. Dan was getting thirsty and in need of a drink. I didn’t see anyone about so we walked over to first water hazard we saw and had a drink. If anyone saw us, I don’t think they minded. We finally found the right road to get us back home. Next time instead of being so hard headed, I’ll just let Dan get us back.
Thursday morning was bright and sunny and a little cool. As Mary straightened up in the trailer we stayed in, I got everyone ready to hit the road. Debbie had taken the day off and was there to see us off. The girls were ready to go after having had so much time off and rested up. We rolled out of the Hard Times Ranch bound for Rison, about seventeen miles down the road. As we rode along, we began to realize that since we had crossed the Arkansas River, the scenery had changed. No more flat land with fields of beans, cotton and rice. We were now in rolling country with tall trees and streams. Trees not unlike those we had gotten used to during our years in Florida, but these trees have leaves that change colors in the Fall of the year. When we entered Arkansas, the welcome sign read 'Welcome to Arkansas, the Natural State'. What a beautiful place to be.
On Highway 79, between Pine Bluff and Rison, is a rest area. I thought that rest areas on back roads were a thing of the past and only being built on interstate highways. We arrived in Rison around 3:30pm and were greeted by Officer Greg Harrod of the Rison Police Department who made arrangements for us to set up camp across from the Veterans Park. Officer Harrod stopped by a few times during the night to make sure all was well with us. On his last visit before his shift ended, we stood around and talked for awhile. Greg and I have a lot in common with both of us being former members of the U.S. Navy and having been to a lot of the same ports during our time in the service.
Up and on our way the next morning for Fordyce which was a trip of about eighteen miles. Along the way, we passed through the township of Kingsland, the birthplace of Johnny Cash. Kingsland is a very clean, small town with a modern looking school. We saw several signs declaring that this was the birthplace of Cash but nothing showing exactly where he was born. Still it’s a nice place to visit.
We made it to Fordyce just as it was getting dark. A very nice lady and a fellow muleskinner named Jetta gave us directions to the Fordyce Arena and made arrangements with Buck Oliver for us to set up camp there. By the time we found the arena, the sun had left the sky. Buck and two other guys met us there and helped us to get all set up for the night. We put Dan and the girls in the arena for the night and after a quick dinner, we were in bed.
We stayed in Fordyce until Saturday, November 6th. We are finding out that travelling around and relying on banks and atm cards can be a real problem. I went to Wal-Mart and put my new card in the ATM only to find out that my bank had changed my pin number. No problem, right? Wrong! I called the bank only to be told that they could not give me my PIN number over the phone but that they could mail it to me. So we were stuck in Fordyce without any money. Lucky for me, I have a good friend working in the bank in Daytona Beach and she was able to help me get to my funds.
While we were in Fordyce, I had to visit a doctor to get a prescription refilled. There was just one problem. The one pharmacy in town is closed from 5:00pm on Friday until Monday morning. The only other pharmacy is in Camden, which was thirty three miles away. This was not a problem as I was to find out. You really have to appreciate the way business and just plain courtesy is in many places like Fordyce. Officer Johnson of the Fordyce Police Department heard of my troubles and got in touch with the gentleman that owns the pharmacy and on Sunday morning, he came down to his store and filled my prescription. Mary and I continue with each new day to meet up with good people and our journey just keeps getting better.
It began raining Monday and continued on and off most of the week. Most people in our position would complain about the rain. It wouldn’t do me any good to complain as I can’t change the weather. Besides that, the farmers and ranchers in this area have been in bad need of rain for quite some time. Pearle, Pauline and Dan enjoyed the mud that comes along with the rain and rolled in it so much that I had to wash them and tie them where they couldn’t get dirty again. We had let Dan and the girls loose in the confines of the arena one afternoon only to find out that I hadn’t checked the fencing well enough and they found a way out through a hole. Mary and I were chasing them down a road about 9:00pm Thursday night and finally caught up with them in a pasture about a quarter of a mile from the arena. With the help of Greg, a man living beside the arena, we were able to collect them up and get them put away.
It’s things like this that make life interesting. Pearle is like a little three-year-old kid and all she wants to do is play while we were trying to catch her. She would let us get close to her then run off again. She does have one big weakness though, her stomach. A feed bucket with a little bit of grain in it will get her attention every time. Pauline enjoys playing, also. When a bucket won’t get her attention, Dan will. The trick is to catch Dan. Then she comes along peacefully. I don’t understand the relationship between those two, but they seem to be inseparable. During our stay there, Buck stopped by each evening to check on us and to bring us bales of hay.
While there, we meto Floyd Wages and his wife, Betty. Floyd, up until recently when he began to have health problems, owned a team of horses and a wagon that he enjoyed trailriding in. Floyed stopped by each day to talk with Mary and I and give us pointers on harnessing and wagon maintenance. Betty sent us over pans of cornbread and other things. One afternoon, I arrived back at the arena to find Mary talking to a man and his wife. I thought the man was our friend John Stewart from MuleSkinner.com. Gilbert, as it turns out, could be John's twin. Gilbert and his wife, Retha, have a team of Halflingers and a wagon. After talking for awhile, Gilbert and Retha decided to ride along with us in their wagon for a few days. Joining them in another wagon would be Bill 'Hickey' Hickman and his team of horses.
Saturday morning, we all harnessed up our teams. Gilbert and Retha brought along their four grandkids and all three wagons hit the road for Dewey’s Razorback Shack out in the country, just outside the town of Beardon. Our trip that day was about fifteen miles through some of the prettiest country we had seen so far. Passing by a ranch on a very narrow backroad, two dogs belonging to Don, a friend of Gilbert and Hickey, joined us through the next two counties. Don wasn’t too worried. Before we got to the end of the road, he came and retrieved his dogs and took them back home. From what we were told, these two dogs will follow any horsedrawn wagon that passes by.
We passed through the quiet town of Beardon Saturday afternoon and on to Deweys Bar. As we rolled into the parking lot, the sight of three wagons brought all the patrons outside clapping and cheering us. Having other wagons riding along with us was a fun time. At Deweys we were set up with electricity and water by our host, along with a pile of fire wood. Dewey has a nice place out in the country. H has taken an old quonset hut and turned it into a western themed bar. Inside, it's trimmed out in polished wood with a fenced in deck out back along with a stage for a band. Out in the parking lot, Dewey has added water and electric hook ups for RV’s. If you ever find yourself passing thru Beardon, you have to check this place out. If you are in an RV, on a motorcycle or in a wagon, or even on horseback, Dewey will make you welcome and comfortable. We stayed here Saturday and Sunday.
For the first time since we started our journey, Mary and I were able to sit down together, watch a Nascar race and just enjoy the company of others away from the wagon and the pets, who were only a few yards away if they needed us. Monday morning, after posing for some pictures in front of the bar, all three wagons rolled out for the Fairgrounds in East Camden . A short ways down the road, we stopped so that Mr. and Mrs. Moore could join along Hickey for the ride. We took a back way towards East Camden that, without Hickey and Gilbert, we would have never found. We followed behind the other wagons along a gravel road for a few miles through some very pretty country, finally arriving on another road that took us alongside a railroad track and on into East Camden, past the Martin Lockheed plant and into the fairgrounds.
We traveled about eleven miles that day and had a really good time riding along with the other wagons. Once we got into the fairgrounds, Hickey saw to it that we had a good place to camp with electricity and a bathroom close by. Electricity and a bathroom with running water may not sound like much to most of you, but for Mary and I, it has become a bit of a luxury out here on the road. Most days we take our baths with water that we heat on the stove and when we need electricity, we use our generator. Our bathroom is a portable toilet that we carry along with us.
We set up our camp with the help of our new friends. Hickey loaded up his horses and took them home for the night, while Gilbert corralled his there at the fairgrounds. Mr. Moore came back by later in the evening with some brownies and cookies that Mrs. Moore had baked. Before bidding us good night, he offered to bring us a hot breakfast the next morning. Hickey came back before too long with some hay and drove me to the store for supplies. Finally off to bed. It wasn’t long before things began to get noisy.
I heard voices that sounded like they were coming from where I had the girls tied up so I jumped out of the wagon thinking the worst only to realize that we had camped next to the Post Office and all through the night, trucks were rolling in and out with the mail. Now I see how the Postal Service can deliver all those packages overnight. As promised, Mr. Moore arrived early the next morning with breakfast. Scrambled eggs with cheese, sausage and some of the best homemade biscuits and homemade grape jelly to be had anywhere. After we had finished breakfast, Gilbert, Retha, their grandson Aaron and Hickey arrived. With all three wagons ready to roll, we were escorted by the Camden Police Department over the bridges, going into Camden about three miles. I would like to once again thank those officers who took the time to see us all safely into town.
We passed through Camden stopping by the office of the Highway Department where Hickey works so everyone there could get a look at the wagons. While we were stopped, Mary Brown, of the Camden News, did an interview with us and took some pictures. After meeting with several of the people that Hickey works with and giving an interview to Mary, we were back on the road and headed for our final stop of the day at a rest area outside of town that Hickey had arranged for us to camp at over night. This was as far as our travelling companions could ride with us - they have jobs they had to get back to.
The rest area had all our favorite luxuries, complete with hot water. After we set up camp, it was time to say goodbye to our travel partners. They loaded up their wagons and put their horses on trailers and left us there for the evening. That night was pretty quiet for us. I was woken once by a lady and her two daughters. Their minivan had overheated and they were in need of water. I got out of bed and helped them to refill their radiator and get them back on the road. While we were getting the wagon ready to roll the next morning we were met by several people, all interested in what we are doing.
One of the many things that make this trip so much fun and interesting is all the different people that we meet in the course of a day. So if you happen to see us out here, don’t be afraid to stop and say hi. Hickey stopped by to see us off as did a few of his coworkers. Another gentleman who works with Gilbert stopped in just as we were getting ready to pull out. He gave us directions to where we would be staying in Stephens, thanks to an arrangement he made with the Mayor of Stephens. The ride to Stephens was only about thirteen miles with most of it being downhill and on flat ground. The girls pulled us the distance in about four hours, barely breaking a sweat. Along the way, we were met by the owner of the Blue Moon Saloon on Highway 79. She also offered us a place to stay in Stephens. As I’ve mentioned before, some days we find ourselves turning down offers of places to stay the night. People have been so kind to us along the way that we never seem to have any worries about finding a place to stay for the night.
We were met in Stephens by the Mayor and the Chief of Police who guided us to where we would be camping. We set up camp in a large lot beside the Stephens Pit Stop owned by Jason Langston, who showed us where to camp and offered us his services along with water and electricity. We had heard rumors that the Pit Stop, a gas station and grill, had some pretty good hamburgers. The rumors turned out to be true. Not only are the burgers good but so is everything else on the menu that we tried over the next three days. Stephens is a clean, little town with a population of just over twelve hundred. Other than the odd barking dog and the many trains that pass through, it’s a quiet little place. Thursday was Veterans Day and we were still camped at the Pit Stop.
I had checked Pearles' hooves and seen that the shoes that John McVay had put on both girls, were worn out. The distance from Pine Bluff to Stephens is only about seventy miles, not a long distance at all. When John had shod both the girls, I knew that we would not get a long distance on the shoes because of the type that they are - regular flat shoes. I called Hickey and told him the situation. I had saved some old shoes with drilltex that still had a lot of use left in them and Hickey said he could come out Friday afternoon and put them on. Friday morning about 9:00am, Gilbert and Retha arrived with a batch of Retha’s homemade fudge and a surprise. The surprise was Dusty, a four-year-old Palomino Quarter Horse that Gilbert decided to give us. Dusty is a pretty smart horse and has taken a liking to Mary, which is a good thing since I acquired him for her to ride.
Well that gets us caught up. It doesn’t look like we will be in Texas next week as I had thought, buit hey, that’s the beauty of not having a schedule to stick to. We can take as much time as we like. I don’t normally travel on Sundays, but this Sunday we are going to go a few miles. We have stayed here at Jason's place a little longer than we had planned and we don’t want to feel as if are wearing out our welcome here. Jason and his staff here at the Pit Stop have all been very good hosts. One young lady in particular, Courtney, has been a ray of sunshine. She's a very hard working young lady who works two jobs, attends college and raises two children all on her own. Keep up the good work Courtney and stay focused.
For all of you out there, thank you again for following us along and showing your support. Until next time, take care and SUPPORT OUR TROOPS! Without them, we could not live the free life that we all enjoy right here in America.
Monday, 22 November 2010
Wow! What a time we have had in the past eleven days. Before we left Stephens, Hickey put some shoes on Pauline and was only able to get Pearle's front shoes on because she was being hard to get along with. For the first time since we have had the mules, I was kicked in the top of my leg by Pauline. I was hurting so bad that I thought I was going to pass out. She gave me a look that seemed to say she was sorry. I guess she was just getting tired of having her feet messed with. Dusty, Mary's new horse, broke loose and we had to chase him through town, finally catching him at a school thanks to Chief of Police, Larry Arrington, and a guy named Gary.
We rolled out of Stephens on Sunday and went about six miles to an old pawn shop where we set up camp for the night. We met several people that afternoon. Bubba came by and gave us a sack of feed and several others stopped to satisfy their curiosity. John Paul Eddington brought us three sacks of corn and invited us to come stay at his ranch until the bad weather passed. Monday morning we harnessed up and drove the girls the one mile to Mr. Eddington’s place where we stayed until Thursday morning. During our stay at Mr. Eddington’s, I learned a lot about chicken farming. He raises chickens and not just a few. He raises 80,000 at a time. He has four chicken houses that each hold 20,000 chickens. I was amazed to learn that the chickens we buy are only 45 days old. The go from birth to over five pounds in that short a time. Now I know how professional wrestlers get so big. That growth hormone is some pretty strong stuff.
Did you know that Arkansas is the number one producer of chicken, rice, diamonds, and pulp wood for paper? Mr. Eddington is a true gentleman and very knowledgeable of the history here in Magnolia. Thursday morning, we said our goodbyes. Mr. and Mrs. Eddington were taking a trip to Louisiana and we were headed to Magnolia to Dr. Franks Animal Hospital to pick up the coggins report on Dusty. We rolled past the Southern Arkansas University pasture lands and The Mule Rider Stables and stock pens. WHAT A HUGE PLACE! Now I’m not able to tell you much about the place because I just don’t know. We were stopped by a very nice man who, although we would spend several hours together, I am only able to remember his first name, Chris. He offered us all sorts of assistance from feed to a place to stay for the night. Unfortunately it was just a little too far and too late in the afternoon to make it to his home. However, we were still in need of shoes for everyone but Pauline. Chris gave me the number for Frank Waggoner, a local Ferrier, and just one helluva nice guy.
It was about 3:30 when we arrived at Dr. Franks and the coggins report had yet to arrive. Mary, one of the friendly staff members there, was able to get us a faxed copy of it and assured us that if should be in the next days mail. With no other plans for the day and it being too far to travel to the Dayton Dickson Arena, we were told that we could setup camp for the night beside the Animal Hospital. All right! Water and electricity. Our animals and the wagon draw a lot of attention and being there At Dr. Franks was no exception. Everyone that we talked with at Dr. Franks had nothing but praise. Not only for the good doctor but for all of his staff, as well.
Just as Mary had suspected, the report on Dusty arrived in the mail with good news that the test was negative. Dusty could now cross state lines without any problem. Let me tell you about 'Dusty.' According to Gilbert and Retha, Dusty’s former owners, it is believed that he is close to five-years-old. Gilbert was unable to tell me much more than that. Dusty is a Quarter Horse and in the two years or so that he has owned him, no one has done anything with him except geld him and let him graze with other horses. Dusty arrived to us Thursday morning. Before unloading him, we took him Dr. Franks for the coggins. Once we got back to camp and unloaded him, he was very frightened. Mary and I spent the next few hours settling him down. He was just shook up about his change in environment. He managed to trip Mary with his tethering rope and make a fast break for town. Once he was caught and tied up again, the bonding experience began. Dusty has taken a real liking to all of us here. Dan is more than just a little jealous of Dusty but is starting to come around. While he lets me fool around with him and train him, it is very obvious that he is Marys horse.
Friday morning, November 19th, we rolled out of Magnolia in route to the Dayton Dickson Arena. It was a short day of travel for all of us. We were given a shortcut here that really shaved off some time for us that day. We pulled into the arena at about 2:00pm and were greeted by Mrs. Deanie Dickson, owner and operator. Riding shotgun in her Mule ATV were one of her great grandsons, accompanied by her large German Shepherd and some funny looking terrier dog. Pete and Junior had met new friends. We had made arrangements for our stay here thru Brian Faulk, son-in-law of Debbie Dickson and husband to Courtney. Deanie showed us to a pasture for all the kids. They really love being set loose in an area where they can run and romp.
After Brian got home from work, they came to see us and brought Addison, their soon to be 4-year-old daughter Addison. What a little charmer she is. Her and Mary have become good friends over the past eight days. Yes that's right, eight days. We had hoped to be in Texas by this week, but it seems as if some problems have caught up with us this month. Having foul-ups with our banking system (mail and atm cards), we ran out of money earlier than I had planned. Since we have no sponsors, our monthly income consists of my disability, which isn't that much, and our postcard and t-shirt sales. Overall, we get by pretty well each month. All the animals have plenty of feed. The horses, mules, dogs and of course Mary and I are in no fear of going hungry. This month we have run low and out of coffee, sugar and creamer and, though I hate to admit it, cigarettes. We are far from suffering, though. I could never make me up one of those signs that says 'Homeless, Hungry, Disabled Veteran Will Work For Money, God Bless.' I could never do that. I guess that I’m just too proud. Besides that, I’m afraid that someone I know would see me. I also believe that any United States citizen that wants to work can always find employment. Illegal Aliens don’t seem to have any trouble finding employment.
Brian, who likes to hunt, brought over some venison steaks and sausage. Yum Yum!! Chris had given me the name of Frank Waggoner, a damn good Ferrier. There are several things that make him good in his trade. First off, he enjoys his work. He’s gentle with animals as he takes a little time to get to know the animal he's going to shoe. He is also very patient and doesn't get in a hurry to get the job done. He also writes and recites some really good cowboy poetry. Pearle stood very still for Frank as he got the rear shoes on her, Dan is always easy to shoe, but then came Dusty. I don’t believe that Dusty has ever had shoes put on his feet. At first, he was all over the place trying to fight and just be a pain in the southern exterior. Thanks to a training aid called the Noavel Headstall (invented by Rick Wheat). A hackamore looking device that, when used properly, is not cruel to the horse. It just simply gets their attention at the nose. When the horse starts to act up, a slight tug applies pressure to the nose. Frank spent about forty-five minutes working with Dusty in a pen. The end result was that Dusty stood for him.
We have been here a little longer than expected. Everyone here at the Dayton Dickson Arena have been just great. After a short training period with Dusty, Mary is able to ride him. Dusty still has a little confusion about reining but catches on quickly it seems as if he wants to please you and at the same time learn all he can. He and Mary make a pretty good team. During our stay here, the Dicksons have opened up the concession stand for our own use. After finding out that our air mattress had once again popped and was on its way to the trash, Debbie and Brian went out to one of the barns and brought back a queen sized mattress. WOW!
Several things have extended our stay here. Mostly it's been bad weather. The rain is a welcome site for all farmers and ranchers, though. Along with the rain, we had a few nights of high winds and I was waiting on some mail to catch up to us here in Magnolia. The temp drops each night but we stay warm with an electric heater - it's really too small for both of us, though. We also have a Coleman propane heater that heats real good but just a tad expensive to run at $6.00 a night. Those along with two really good comforters, we manage to stay quite warm. The hardest part of the day for me is getting up from a warm bed. I’m pretty sure I don’t have the market cornered there. As I’ve already mentioned, this month caught me by surprise. Thanksgiving snuck up on me. This is the first year that Mary was unable to fix a big dinner.
As far as the day went I can say this: it’s not just the turkey with all the fixings that make the day. This year, though disappointed that we didn’t eat till we burst, I was thankful just for my life with all its ups and downs. We've been through some hardships, but we still have each other. I’m thankful that we have three grand kids, Harlie, Kaleb and Tucker. I'm also thankful for my son, Wesley, and our daughter-in-law, Angle. But what makes me the most thankful is that I was fortunate enough to have been born a Citizen of The United States of America, where we are still free to travel about as we wish, at least for now. I love our country and I pray that working class America will take a stand against Washington and our corrupt career politicians. Our web site here is not for me to stand on some political soap box, but folks we do need to wake up. There’s a not too old saying that says, "I love my country but fear my government."
Our Thanksgiving dinner was not a complete loss. I was going to cook up a chicken with stuffing, potatoes and gravy. Before I was able to get dinner going, our hosts brought us over plates of dinner, so as you can see, all was not lost. Friday afternoon, I had to go into town to pickup mail that was supposed to be there guaranteed. It wasn’t there yet. No big deal.
I unfortunately was forced to go into town this morning. Getting a ride was not the problem as Brian asked his friend, Steven, to drive me into town. The problem is that I awoke this morning to a swollen knee. GOUT had raised its ugly head during the night. Having gout is bad enough, but when you only have one leg to stand on, it makes getting around very difficult if not impossible. I was able to get stood up and walk the few steps to Stevens truck but at the Post Office, I couldn’t stand long enough to make it to the door. Steven went inside and for our mail for us. Courtesy of the Veterans Outpatient Clinic and a good doctor, I have a large enough supply of the medicine that gets rid of gout overnight.
We have had a relaxing stay here at the Dayton Dickson Arena. One of the highlights of our stay here has been the use of their round pen for Mary and Dusty. I began getting Dusty used to a saddle being on his back. I saddled him up loosely and gradually, over a few hours, I tightened the cinch all the way. Then we just let him stand around all day, petting him and reassuring him that all was well. The next morning we saddled him early and added the bit and bridle. Again he was to stand with periods of reassurance by both Mary and I. After a few hours of this, I tied him close to a fence and had Mary sit there on him for about thirty minutes petting his neck and talking to him. Mary got off his back and I loosened the cinch for about an hour. I then tightened up the cinch again and the three of us walked down the road to the round pen where I had Mary mount him again. Once she was on his back again, he was a little unsure of what to do next. I led him around the pen for about thirty minutes having Mary stop and start him. They were both doing so well that I turned loose of the lead rope and let them do as they pleased. Dusty was a real gentleman. He never once tried to buck or run off.
We will continue on our travels Monday morning, weather permitting. If you live in the Texarkana area and are in need of a good farrier, call Waggener Farrier Service at 903.748.2319. Not only will Frank do you a good job, he may even recite some of his cowboy poetry!
Monday, 29 November 2010
Well here we are. It's Monday and it’s raining big bucket loads. Mary and I are staying warm and dry inside the snack bar here at the Dayton Dickson arena. The dogs are piled up on each other and Pearle and the rest of the gang have taken cover inside a feed shed. This area of Arkansas has been needing rain and like the song says 'Rain makes the corn grow and corn makes the whiskey.' The rain is definitely a good thing. It looks like we won't be going anywhere until Thursday.
Since we’ve been on the road and without television, I haven’t been keeping up with the news in the rest of the world. The news is usually the same each day, a rerun of the day before. More doom and gloom. Here’s a good example of just that. I turn on the radio this morning and what do I hear? Leslie Neilson has died and Willie Nelson has been busted for pot again. Law enforcement really should lighten up on Willie. It’s no big secret that he enjoys his weed. Besides that, they didn’t bust him when he tokin' on the roof of the White House and I’m pretty sure that Big Bill was inhaling that day.
I had to deal with a touch of the gout in my knee for two days but all is well now. I was talking to another man who made this trip to Arizona last year. John has a website you can check out TwoMulesandaWagon.com. He made the trip in about 120 days. Mary and I aren't in that much of a hurry. John has a pretty neat wagon, complete with a bathroom, that really makes our 100-year-old wagon look primitive. He’s off on another adventure at this time. I contacted John after several people we have met along the way had also allowed him to setup camp with them. It seems as if we are on the same path he chose to take. I was checking out this month's issue of One Groovy Planet online last night. The November Issue has my first installment of what I hope to be many more in the months to come. My column starts on page 32 in the latest issue. Other than my writings, there is lots of other good stuff in this month's issue.
With wet weather, there's not a whole lot for us to do except relax. After so much time off, Pearle and Pauline are getting antsy and ready to be harnessed and on the road again. Too much inactivity and they can be pretty hard to handle the first mile or so. I bring this up for a reason. Not everybody we meet out here is cheering us along. It just goes to show that you can’t please everyone but you can have some fun at their expense. We’ve have had a few run-ins with members of PETA, an animal rights organization that believes that no animal should be made to work or be eaten and that those of us who enjoy a rare steak from time to time, should become vegetarians. Now not all members of PETA are misguided unknowledgeable do-gooders. I can appreciate someone who is knowledgeable and well intended but there are a lot of animals out here being mistreated. Unfortunately most of the PETA members that we have met along the way, though well intended, don’t know the difference between a donkey and a horse.
We were approached one afternoon by two well dressed women with pads in hand writing down our web site. They were more than a little upset that the girls were sweating and after they both informed me of just how much they knew about horses, I then walked them to the back of the wagon and introduced them to Dan, a horse. I then walked them back to the front of the wagon and introduced them to Pearle and Pauline, the mules. I sent these two along their way with a complimentary postcard. They probably have a wanted poster out on me now.
We do have fun out here. Now that Thanksgiving is out of the way and, Wal-Mart has repackaged all the Halloween candy and turned it into Christmas candy while repricing everything so that your kids will drive you nuts for this or that, I’m looking forward to getting back on the road. I like seeing all the decorations in yards along the way. Too bad we can’t ride around all night looking at the lights. I also enjoy my share of Christmas candy and other sweet stuff. It’s also the only time of year that you can purchase Eggnog, a thick, sweet drink that goes so well with rum.
That’s about it for now. Now that it's the Holiday Season and so many people will be on the road traveling, please try to be safe as we want you around for the New Year. And if you can spare it, take some time to put a small package together for our Troops serving overseas. It doesn’t have to be much. Just a card or something homemade can cheer them up. Phone cards are always nice, too. Until next time Chuck, Mary and the gang.