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Dakotah - The Long Year
“Wherever I go, there I am”. After four months in Oregon and eight months in California, I am finally back where I was one year ago; almost to the day” said Dakotah as we spoke on the phone this evening.
Within the last fourteen days, Dakotah has traveled out of the extreme northeast corner of California and into Oregon, as he continued up Highway 395. I last saw him in Susanville, California on a blustery Easter Sunday as we bid adieu and Happy Trails for a while.
http://worldonline.media.clients.ellingtoncms.com/img/blogs/entry_img/2009/May/01/Riley_Oregon.jpg (Courtesy of Google Map)
The last seven days have been wrought with rain, shifting wind, and snow. “…it looked like Siberia out here in the high desert. No grass to speak of and even less water at times” said Dakotah as he recounted the week’s travel; with the epilog, “…and I am beat. I think I’ve lost ten pounds this past week”
Whenever Dakotah makes camp, he sets out a seemingly endless array of fiberglass insulated poles on which he attaches an even greater amount of electrical wire-tape to set a perimeter for his team of horses. Most have tested the validity of the wire and know that it packs a special surprise to any team-member that dares to transgress.
“I was sleeping as soundly as I sleep, and I heard the sound of horses walking up, around, and past my camp. I got up quickly and discovered that the snowfall had been so great, that it weighed down the electric fence to the ground. Even though their [the horses] brain is small, they know; no-fence, no-problem. So there I went, out in the night, and without much on to speak of, to get them back into the fence perimeter and get the fence back up. That was fun”.
As Dakotah’s narrative continued, “I can’t believe that a whole year has gone by since I was here last. This drive up from Alturas was sure through some desolate areas, but the people I’ve met are some of the most kind. One fellow actually drives over one hundred miles, each way, to work at the prison in Alturas, California. He stopped a couple of times on his way to and from work just to check on me and offer some supplies.”
http://worldonline.media.clients.ellingtoncms.com/img/blogs/entry_img/2009/May/01/Dakotah_and_JR.jpg (Photo by Jennifer Edwards)
One of Dakotah’s MySpace friends from Willows, California, Ed Schnurbusch, went to the trouble of Geo-plotting Dakotah’s travel for me when I first lost phone contact him. It is quite funny that, even though Dakotah as been living on the road to somewhere over the last twenty-six years, I get kind of worked up whenever I don’t hear from Dakotah for more than a couple of days. You’d think I would know better. But such is the case when someone you’ve grown to know and care about is living life on the edge; howbeit a well honed edge.
My wife and I mailed Dakotah a care package of medicine (for his Tic Doloureux, purchased by his son from the UK, Andy); pictures of the ‘Dakotah Experience’ that he hands out to well wishers and passers by alike, and the favorite treat of his team; peppermint candies.
In case you’re wondering how one mail something to someone without a permanent address, the term ‘General Delivery’ still exists today, and the U.S. Post Office will hold a package for someone for up to thirty-days. Who knew? Guess I may have been the last to know; however, it does work.
Riley, Oregon consists of two buildings; the U.S. Post Office (“…not much bigger than my wagon” according to Dakotah) and a little grocery store. That’s it. I called the Post Office in advance of Dakotah’s arrival to let them know I was sending a package for him and the very nice Postmaster said she would keep an eye out for him.
When I called this morning (Friday) he had not arrived yet; so, she offered to take his care package across the street to the store so he could pick it up in case the Post Office closed before Dakotah came. Seems all is well with one of the greatest U.S. institutions, and still the best value for the money. God, I love this country.
Dakotah has a brother in southern Oregon, and hopes to connect with him soon if the brother is able to travel. Dakotah mentioned that his brother was not doing too well; however he didn’t expound on exactly what that meant. I hope it happens nevertheless.
I hope to travel to see Dakotah before he leaves Oregon; but I am in the middle of a huge writing project at the moment, and my time is not currently my own. I suspect I’ll have to satiate my need for stories from the road by telephone and emails form those who are on the road to somewhere else.
http://worldonline.media.clients.ellingtoncms.com/img/blogs/entry_img/2009/May/01/Dakotah_in_horseshoe.JPG (Photo by Jennifer Edwards)
As you travel around this great country that we call home, and you see the man, his wagon and team, tip your hat or give a little wave as you pass. Count yourself blessed to live where travel is open and on your own terms, and wish a “Happy Trails” for the man driving to his destiny; wherever it may be.
Drive on Dakotah