LJWorld.com weblogs Dakotah Drives
Bob Skelding & Dakotah - The Power of the Wagon
Whenever someone says the word “neighborhood” I go to an idyllic scene in my head that resembles something out of a Norman Rockwell painting. A place not too unlike where I grew up in southern Ohio as a boy of the 1960’s. Being an uncommon ‘latchkey’ kid with a single mom who held down several jobs, the neighborhood was a place of enjoyment, exploration, and security. And of course, strict accountabilities; sometimes dealt from the end of the Mrs. Lofty’s ‘whomping board’.
I spoke with Debbie (the sister of the injured wagon teamster Bob Skelding) this week about Bob's release from Rush Foundation Hospital and his next journey to healing. Debbie stated that Bob will be traveling to the house of his other sister in North Carolina for the next phase of his recovery and rehabilitation; a process of unknown length at this time.
This past Thursday, a representative from Citizens National Bank and Macon Beacon newspaper publisher Scott Boyd, visited Bob for the first time since his accident. Bob was presented with a check from the donations received from all over the country as a show of support for his surviving horses and him.
“...I am amazed at the outpouring that has come in for Bob; and the people of Mississippi are just some of the finest people I have ever seen” said Debbie. I mentioned that I have been reading the posts to Bob’s website (www.wagonteamster.com) and that there have been several thousand postings since his accident.
I asked Debbie her opinion as to why so many people are drawn to Wagon-Teamsters such as Bob and Dakotah? Or as Dakotah puts it, what is the power of the wagon? “...you know, back in the day, houses were built with a porch and yard in the front. Everyone knew their neighbors and watched out for one another. Now, instead of a front porch, we’ve got houses with rear-decks. We come and go without notice into the little world we create for ourselves. There is no sense of community.”
She went on to say, “...when Bob comes through a neighborhood or town, he brings his front porch with him. I think people have a built-in instinct for community-lost that comes back to life when they seem him and are compelled to stop what they are doing to be part of it”
The term ‘muscle memory’ comes to mind. If it is true that our muscles retain a memory of the last time we routinely worked out, then maybe it is equally true that our sprits retain an innate memory of community and closeness now lost in the hubbub pace of our modern day lives. Lone commutes to and from our suburban outposts; ‘on-demand’ service for just about everything (from music and movies to fast food), and the staunch individualism of our personal space, create a life where we find ourselves not alone, but very lonely.
Dakotah called me the other day to say, “you, know, I think I finally understand what the power of the wagon actually is. The wagon is to the human conscience what a defibrillator is to a human heart. It interrupts an unnatural rhythm and restores the heart to a natural beat.”
From the many comments and MySpace friends-request that Dakotah has received since last November, the wagon is a mighty draw; and crosses every age and sociologic strata. Many want to go along, but few are able.
And, so it goes, as the wagon teamster travels through our life, we'll pause and partake of time on the porch. Once again we find community with those who do likewise and add our name to the list of those who, unable to join the journey, will stand alongside the road and cheer the traveler.
Drive on, Dakotah