Posts tagged with Lifestyle
I met Ron “Dakotah” McGilvery November 28, 2008. It was the Friday after Thanksgiving and I was on my way to an appointment to visit a new client; however, upon seeing his red, three horse-drawn Conestoga wagon pulling up a highway off ramp near my Eureka, California home, I made a detour. One that has certainly enhanced, dare I say, changed my life.
I am but one of the thousands of ordinary citizens over the last twenty-three years who, after seeing this solitary individual roll by at four miles an hour, felt the need to stop and give consideration to the life we ourselves were living. Many of the people I have met this past year, chronicling Dakotah’s journey, have exclaimed that he is “…living my life.”
One such individual stopped to speak to Dakotah just after he crossed into Idaho from California. The gentleman asked Dakotah why he chose his lifestyle. Dakotah replied,
“Why would anybody choose this lifestyle? I made my camp [wagon] after my wife ran off with a truck driver in 1986, and hit the road. I guess you could say I left part out of anger; part out of depression; and another part out of the need for a change of scenery.
Once I got out on the road, I found that I liked it; but I didn’t choose this lifestyle. No one in their right mind would choose this for a lifestyle; especially today with cell phones and people’s incessant need to dial 911 whenever they see me on the road, which brings out the law. And the law only knows two solutions; go away or go to jail. I am afraid the noose is tightening on the ability to move around this great country of ours by horse and wagon.”
I have come to know that Dakotah has a very quick wit; which at times could be interpreted as sarcastic. But in truth, he is equal parts truth, humor, and sagacious. I’ve asked him many times about his end-game; as it doesn’t take a doctorate in any discipline to know that, even for a man such as himself, in perfect health, he is closer to his seventieth birthday than his sixty-fifth, so the clock is ticking.
Whenever asked how he saw the last act of his passion-play, Dakoth would always give a variation of, “Well, ole Chuckie-boy, I suspect that I’ll just be on the road somewhere between where I am now and where I end up, and will have gone out on my terms; but the ‘when’ is not up to me.”
I would just shake my head and mutter to myself that my lack of understanding was certainly shared; as he had no clue either. But it seems the road caught up with Dakotah in Ennis, Montana; and unless things change, Ennis, Montana may very well be his final resting place. This ending was not one I saw coming or could I have predicted; however, just as with our ancestor Adam, who, when faced with a difficult choice, choose the woman.
Ennis, Montana is just Southeast of Butte, Montana on Highway 287. Aside from being home to the very shallow Ennis Lake (reportedly only between eight and fifteen feet) Ennis is somewhat unremarkable. The last U.S. census listed the population around eight-hundred and, aside from a few local businesses, Ennis becomes just another town that resides in anonymity while travelers venture along Highway 287 on their way to Yellowstone National Park some seventy-miles away.
One of Ennis’ residents, in spite of her demure appearance, stood out like a giant redwood amidst a grove of junipers. Teri Freedman, a blondish woman, all of five-foot, one inch tall, is a local artist who specializes in cut-out painted sculpture in the vein of cowboy art. Her whimsical artistic style is for sale and on display at her shop in Ennis, called the Rusty Cowboy ( www.rustycowboy2.com ).
Dakotah drove through Ennis about seven weeks ago and met Teri when she offered a portion of her property for Dakotah to rest his team of horses before traveling on. Dakotah could hardly believe his fortune in having been able to stay on the property and sit in the company of such a beautiful lady. I smiled as he exclaimed on one of our telephone visits, “oh Chuckie, there’s a blonde in our camp tonight!” Inasmuch as Dakotah had previously confessed a weakness for brunettes, I thought this was an interesting turn of events.
Over the weeks that followed, Teri began to take a greater interest in the travels of Dakotah; so much so, she started her own blog, www.rondakotah.com . I was, at first, a little taken aback by the pace with which she began to assume the role of care-taker. She began to call Dakotah more frequently and was calling ahead of his journey to alert the newspaper and radio media that he was coming their way in hope of garnering additional support for him. Teri even began inquiries of how to raise money for Dakotah from those of us who watch his journey with interest. It all seemed harmless and consistent for one of Dakotah’s fans.
A few weeks ago, as Dakotah traveled through Sturgis, South Dakotah, his team of horses took off in a stampede, after something or someone spooked them, while he was buying feed for the team. My cell phone rang that day, mid-morning, and I was surprised to hear Teri’s voice on the other end telling me that Dakotah had been in some kind of accident and that his wagon had been destroyed. In the ten-seconds it took Teri to get those words out of her mouth, I thought my worst fears had been realized and that Dakotah had met a fate similar to wagon-teamster, Bob Skelding. (Bob was critically injured last year while driving his team of Percheron horses through Meridian, Mississippi when a semi-truck hit Bob’s wagon from behind, full force. The accident also killed two of his prized horse-companions)
I called Dakotah immediately after my conversation with Teri and was relieved to learn that he and the team were ok and that the wagon was no worse for wear and could be repaired with a few new boards and a welder. After I hung up from my call to Dakotah it hit me; he had called Teri instead of me and asked her to call me. It was then that I realized the winds of change had begun to blow.
Two weeks after Ron’s near miss in Sturgis, Teri decided to drive the six-hundred or so miles to Rapid City, South Dakota to visit Dakotah; and the visit was, in her words, “magical”. Turns out that the sarcastic, gruff and sometimes scruffy Dakotah found something more valuable than his desire to travel; and apparently Teri found something more to value than her fierce independence. Holy, God; can it be?
“Chuckie, it is time for to quit this gig. I am in a land so flat, I can literally see where I’ll be tomorrow; yet, the Highway Patrol just can’t help themselves and have to run me off. Yesterday I saw only one truck the whole day; yet, the first Highway Patrolman that came along told me to get because I posed a safety issue. For what? Tumbleweeds? Are you kidding me? The universe is telling me it is time to hang it up. The wagon teamster is about to go extinct”
When I asked about the timeframe for his ‘retirement’ from the road, Dakotah told me that his son, Andy, from the U.K. is coming over to the U.S. for a six-week visit, starting mid-October. Andy and Teri are arranging for a horse trailer and some kind of truck with which to tow his wagon back to Ennis, Montana. Dakotah told me, “I am so excited; I am just counting the days. I called Lee the Horselogger and told him I was hanging it up, and he said he didn’t think I could do it. I told him, ‘just watch me’!”
And so it is to be; Dakotah is trading solitary travel through the Western United States, for roots in Ennis, Montana where he’ll enjoy the mutual company of one special person as she enjoys him. Dakotah is exchanging life in a wagon, driving at four miles an hour, for living life one day at a time; side by side with companion in hand.
Live on, Dakotah.
“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
Susanville, California is, by any stretch of the imagination, a small high-desert town in the northeast corner of California.
Aside from a few notable people in the Ultimate Fighting Championship league and Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) community (Frank and Ken Shamrock), Susanville’s only other claims to fame are having been a ‘former’ logging and mining town and current home to some of California’s toughest criminals (The High Desert State Prison).
We caught up with Dakotah last Saturday and found him camped just outside the main drag of Susanville on Johnsonville Road. A local property owner (and owner of one of the larger self-storage facilities) gave our traveler permission to camp for as long as he needed.
http://worldonline.media.clients.ellingtoncms.com/img/blogs/entry_img/2009/Apr/12/Team_in_Susanville.JPG (Photo by Jennifer Edwards)
The four-acre parcel was just beginning to show signs of spring as shoots of new alfalfa growth had begun to peek past the winter-hardened ground. All of Dakotah’s horses (Ed, Monte, Yuma, Contino, and J.R.) were all standing with their heads down eating with reckless abandon. Their sides were wide and their haunches full; as if to say, ‘life here is very good’.
With the exception of a ration of morning whole-oats, (which they chew with great enthusiasm inside their feed buckets) the team has enjoyed some well deserved time off for their pull up and over Morgan Summit (elevation 5,750-feet) coming out of Chester, California. Remnants of snow still hug the wooded terrain, but spring is indeed taking the earth back from winter.
http://worldonline.media.clients.ellingtoncms.com/img/blogs/entry_img/2009/Apr/12/Morgan_Summit.JPG (Photo by Jennifer Edwards
As we pulled up, we could see that Dakotah was awash in color, as his sister sent him another care package of clothing. His orange shirt glowed in the afternoon Susanville sun, and the matching scarf was rather fetching for a cowboy such as Dakotah; mighty fetching indeed.
http://worldonline.media.clients.ellingtoncms.com/img/blogs/entry_img/2009/Apr/12/Dakotah_in_Orange.JPG (Photo by Jennifer Edwards)
The malady, Tic douloureux n. (del-ah-rue), attenuates Dakotah’s vim and vigor these days. The affliction, which attacks a facial nerve just below his lower lip, comes without warning and makes eating, or any activity that involves touching his face, very difficult. The duration of the attack varies and ends just as quickly as it came.
The only medication for this non-curable condition is Tegretol®-XR (carbamazepine). Dakotah has a few pills left on a prescription he received from the Veterans Administration (VA) in 2004. The label states “Discard after February, 2005”, so I am not sure what the medication is doing ‘for’ him or ‘to’ him.
Dakotah’s son, Andy, found a source from which to order more medication on the internet and is having them sent to my office in Eureka. In the meantime, I asked Dakotah if he had ever taken the remaining pills into a local pharmacy to see if they could re-fill the prescription. He looked at me and said, “…could it be that easy?” I didn’t know for sure, but we all thought it was worth a try, so off to Walgreens we went. We won’t know until Monday if ‘it’ is that easy, but maybe. Who knows? Maybe the VA will come through for Dakotah; I’d like to think so.
The temperature was a crisp thirty-two degrees as we gathered outside Dakotah’s wagon this Easter morning and waited for the sun to rise. The horses were busy about the morning seeking their fill of grass.
http://worldonline.media.clients.ellingtoncms.com/img/blogs/entry_img/2009/Apr/12/Sun_over_the_West.JPG (Photo by Jennifer Edwards)
Susanville sits along a valley in the high-desert with snow-capped mountain ranges directly to the east and west. The sun was casting a beautiful orange glow to the eastern horizon as the foothills, to the west, began to reveal their carpet of green with each minute the sun approached. We all stood looking into the sun and had our individual moment of silence and reflection.
Like many people, I am drawn to the rise of our sun on a new day, and when I take the time to stop and acknowledge its occurrence, my day goes much better. I have been to many Easter sunrise services in my day, so the Christian significance of Easter is not lost on me; however, I think I would like to see more than one sunrise per year before my days on earth are finished.
http://worldonline.media.clients.ellingtoncms.com/img/blogs/entry_img/2009/Apr/12/Dakotah_in_the_morning.JPG (Photo by Jennifer Edwards)
Dakotah finds some of my epiphanies amusing, but he extends kindness to me in the face of the obvious; I don’t get out much. “…these are the rewards of living life in the slow lane” he has said to me on more than one occasion.
Dakotah will be in Alturas, California within a week and very soon his California chapter will be finished. The time of our next meeting is unknown; however, there is much left for us to see, me to write, and Dakotah to live and report from the road.
Drive on Dakotah.
http://worldonline.media.clients.ellingtoncms.com/img/blogs/entry_img/2009/Apr/12/Dakotah_in_horseshoe.JPG (Photo by Jennifer Edwards)
http://worldonline.media.clients.ellingtoncms.com/img/blogs/entry_img/2009/Mar/29/Dakotah_into_the_sun.JPG (Photo by Jennifer Edwards)
From the satellite view provided by Google-Earth, Red Bluff, California, is surrounded by mountain ranges that make this little central-California town seem like a pin on the green of par-six eighteen hole golf course.
Today, the wind was formidable and the clouds, perched high in the atmosphere, took on an other-worldly purple and pink hue that sat on the horizon like a backdrop from a high-school play.
White-capped Mount Shasta appeared high in the north sky and Mount Lassen was clearly visible to the east; both standing as a reminder that, even though all is calm now, this part of California, in geological terms, had a violent past.
http://worldonline.media.clients.ellingtoncms.com/img/blogs/entry_img/2009/Mar/29/Dakotah_Leaving_Red_Bluff.JPG (Photo by Jennifer Edwards)
The past few weeks have been unpleasant for Dakotah. Local police departments, not schooled on every aspect of the California Vehicle Code permitting any mode of “animal” travel (either ridden or driven) on California highways, just can’t wrap their minds around this mode of travel in a modern age.
If a man perched on the deck of a modern-day Conestoga wagon causes consternation for the men and women in blue, imagine the shock of seeing someone driving a cart led by a team of swine or lama?
The most powerful foe in a person’s life is not necessarily from external forces, but those entities that rise up from within. Maladies, that lay dormant for such long periods of time that we tell ourselves they no longer exist, on a fateful day reappear as if to say, “we’re not done yet, you and me”.
http://worldonline.media.clients.ellingtoncms.com/img/blogs/entry_img/2009/Mar/29/Dakotah_6.JPG (Photo by Jennifer Edwards
Tic douloureux n. (del-ah-rue) [also called, facial neuralgia, trifacial neuralgia, trigeminal neuralgia] causes shooting pains of the facial area around one or more branches of the trigeminal nerve, of unknown cause, but often precipitated by irritation of the affected area. Or as Dakotah put it, “it is like someone is stabbing me in the jaw with a sharp object, and it hurts so bad I can’t eat, drink, or sleep; and don’t make me laugh.”
When asked what triggers an occurrence, Dakotah said, “…it comes and goes when it pleases. I literally can be talking or eating and feeling just fine, and pow. It stops me in my tracks. Then, I have to just wait it out. Sometimes it is a few seconds or several minutes; I never know. It can start simply by washing my face in the morning. I just never know.
Dakotah is an honorably discharged Army veteran, and has a prescription in his possession that helps him cope with this unpredictable and un-curable condition. Tegretol®-XR (carbamazepine), a powerful anticonvulsant medication, was prescribed by the Veterans Administration (VA) for Dakotah; however, the side effects make him look sleepy and talk very slowly.
Additionally, I couldn’t help but notice that the prescription Dakotah held in his hand (more than half-full) was dated 2005; now four years past expiration.
When I asked Dakotah why he hasn’t sought a follow up visit with the VA, his reply was classic Dakotah, “…whaaat! I’m going to just drive my team through a main street in a city big enough to have a VA facility and leave my (now five-horse team) parked in front of the building as I go in? Oh, maybe they’ll have a valet parking service too. Whaaat, this is life on road ole Chuckie-boy”. Well, he had a point, and the thought of leaving his team with a valet did make me laugh a bit.
Now that we’re back home in Eureka for a few days, my wife and I will attempt to wait out the phone maze, that is now standard procedure for any under-staffed organization, to see if we can get Dakotah another prescription filled. I wish I could tell you that I am optimistic.
So much can be taken for granted. Even a simple trip to a pharmacy can be an event for those on the road; especially for an otherwise very healthy sixty-eight year old man living each day in front of the next.
The California sun will soon be setting on Dakotah’s wagon. He is currently camped along a section of Highway 36, approximately twenty-five miles east of Red Bluff, California.
http://worldonline.media.clients.ellingtoncms.com/img/blogs/entry_img/2009/Mar/29/Geological_Scape.JPG (Photo by Jennifer Edwards)
The terrain bares the remnants of California’s geological past with sparsely populated scrub-oak trees rooted in reddish clay among the remnants of rocks scattered as though tossed with the wrist-flick of a giant hand.
“If I ever come back this way, Highway 36 is the way to go. No traffic, lots of grass; it just couldn’t get any better than this. I’d tell everyone that ‘this’ is the way to come into California…”
Dakotah spoke of heading toward Montana or Idaho this summer and the possibility of spending next winter in Texas. His brother still lives in Arco, Idaho and Dakotah said he might go by there too.
I suspect Dakotah will follow the winds of freedom, as he knows it; taking nothing, as he goes, but the experiences of the day. Leaving nothing behind but the memories we mortals, bound by our choices and apprehension to live outside the world we have created, hold in our heart of the man and his wagon.
Drive on Dakotah http://worldonline.media.clients.ellingtoncms.com/img/blogs/entry_img/2009/Mar/29/Setting_Sun_on_California.JPG (Photo by Jennifer Edwards)
In terms of how ‘things’ have been, our lives either have, or soon will be, changed forever. We had a pretty good run with it but, to quote lyrics that just became the theme song for our present generation, “the times they are a changing”.
To be painfully honest, change has been the mantra of the ages; however, control over the change seemed somehow within our grasp. Not so much these days.
Preachers are once again calling down judgement from God; even the famed Minister of Times Square and Teen Challenge founder, David Wilkerson, posted an apocalyptic blog on his website this weekend, “...For ten years I have been warning about a thousand fires coming to New York City. It will engulf the whole megaplex, including areas of New Jersey and Connecticut. Major cities all across America will experience riots and blazing fires—such as we saw in Watts, Los Angeles, years ago.”
When asked what Dakotah thought of the current global financial crisis, his reply was standard ‘Dakotah’ “...what!” (Although to type it the way he says it won’t get past my automatic spelling checker, “whaaaaat!” ) Then Dakotah went on to say, “...you don’t get it Chuckie boy, so let me spell it out for you. I see life different than most people. I have that luxury by traveling at 3 miles and hour, so I get to think about things a lot longer. I watch a lot of cowboy TV and it helps me see things more clearly.”
I was more puzzled by the Cowboy TV than our economy, so I asked Dakotah what in the world he meant, “...the fire in my stove! I sit in the solitude of my camp [wagon] and get a chance to reflect on the lives I touch and the lives that touch me. I get to think of my worth in the world and how I am called, [by my lifestyle] to be of service to mankind as a whole, it’s easy when you realize your place in the scheme of things.”
Suddenly the interviewee became the interviewer, “Do you believe you’ll live forever?” he asked. “Sure I do; if you count heaven (which I do hope I make!)” “Then why don’t you live like it?” he responded. “On earth, we’re only in kindergarten. It is okay to make mistakes; hopefully we'll learn by them so we make our life better. This ain’t all there is, so I don’t fret about what I have or don’t have. I learned to live within my means and accept help when it is offered; and then return the favor to others when the opportunity is presented.”
“...If all of us worried less about ourselves, and put all that energy into being more concerned about others, then life here on earth would be great!" Dakotah went on to say, "...I had a thought last night about a couple of things we all deal with; fear and pride. Fear is the great enslaver and pride our greatest weakness. Ever notice how people hang on to what they have so tightly that it drains the life out of them with the grip? They must believe that ‘this is it, this is all I’ll ever have!’. I’m just moving through”
It was then I realized that Dakotah was indeed living what he believed, both physically and metaphorically. He is on his way to somewhere else; yet, the destination is not currently known or completely under his control. (given some of the local police departments who were unaware that California Vehicle Codes permit wagon, horse, or “animial” travel)
Dakotah is currently in Maxwell, California and has decided to lay-over for the next couple of days. Two of his new friends, (a married couple, one of whom works for a National beer manufacturer) have been coming by for a visit these last few days as Dakotah inches his way up and out of the California map. The company is good, and stands representative of travel taken at the speed of life in the slow lane. Where the future lays within the view of the horizon and there is time to course-correct before it is too late.
Drive on, Dakotah
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
http://worldonline.media.clients.ellingtoncms.com/img/blogs/entry_img/2009/Feb/20/california-state-seal.jpgThe California Vehicle code is a mighty work. It contains thousands of laws governing the operation of seemingly every possible conveyance, and in as many pages. I was not surprised to learn that the law actually permits those who travel by horse, or drive a team of horses from the perch of a Calistoga-type wagon, do so with the blessing of law.“…tell that to the one behind the badge”, said Dakotah as he traveled through a residential area of Escalon, California yesterday. “…I was trying to avoid the heavy traffic caused by my coming through town, so I took a side road on the outskirts of the city.”Escalon, California is, by any standards, a small rural town just off Highway 120. By motorized travel, Escalon is about a ten-minute drive north of Modesto; however, by horse-drawn wagon, it takes about three hours. The road to Linden, California (Dakotah’s destination for the day) runs right through Escalon, so travel into the city is unavoidable.http://worldonline.media.clients.ellingtoncms.com/img/blogs/entry_img/2009/Feb/20/patch.jpg“Just before I came to the city (Escalon, CA) I noticed that no one was passing me, so I looked in my rear-view mirror and saw that a police officer in a patrol car was behind me with his yellow-flashing lights on. So, I made a right turn to take a street parallel to the one I was on and I noticed the officer follow me. As I came to a stop sign, the officer pulled alongside me, waved, took a picture from his car, and then drove off. I thought, there goes another happy customer”As Dakotah drove his team, several residents came out to the street to greet him. I chuckled as he recounted the story, “One lady came out; an attractive woman about my age, and said ‘I’ve got a whole house full of women, you want to come in for a while?’ I just smiled, said thanks, but told them I had a long drive today”After five-minutes or so, a code enforcement officer for the City of Escalon pulled alongside Dakotah. “I don’t think she was police, but she had a badge. When the badge shows up, I get a little nervous, cause you never know what’s next” Dakotah said.He went on to say, “she asked me where I was going, so I told her I’m just passing through. Then she told me that city of Escalon does not allow horses on city streets. When she said that, then it made sense to me why one gentleman, who pulled alongside my wagon in his pickup truck, asked me if I’d been arrested yet. I told her I was just making way out of town on my way to Linden and would be out of the city limits in a few minutes. She took my name, then got back into her truck and pulled a block or two ahead of me. She appeared to be watching to see if I was really leaving.”Difficulty in traveling the county is not reserved for wagon-teamsters alone. Dakotah mentioned his conversation with a couple of 18-wheeler Teamsters "...there are so many ordinances where big trucks can't park, that I don't know how they get along. They (the truckers) bring the food and supplies we need to live, but it's like 'thanks for bringing the goods, now please leave' after they've made their delivery. When did folks get so uptight?"After twenty-six years on the road, Dakotah continues to wax philosophical; "it's all about building character; it ain't easy to do, but we'll be better off if we take time to think about what comes in our path before we start getting all worked up about things we may not have any control over."http://worldonline.media.clients.ellingtoncms.com/img/blogs/entry_img/2009/Feb/20/JR_Gets_New_Shoes_web.jpg(Photo by Don Wilson)The new member of Dakotah's team, a six-year old quarter-horse mix named J.R., is learning the rigors of traveling on the road. "...oh, this horse is soft. We covered fifty-miles these last two days and he (J.R.) was all foamed up with sweat. But I'll tell you one thing, I put a new set of shoes on him yesterday and he just stood there like a tree with no problem. I had him done in about thirty-five minutes. It's a little too soon to know if he'll be able to pull, but I'm hopeful"Dakotah is scheduled to be part of radio show on Saturday morning called "On The Road" with Greg Wray on KFIV, Modesto (www.kfiv1360.com) at 7AM. His cell phone battery may not allow him to be on the air long, but it should be an interesting program where Dakotah can answer questions from listeners.http://worldonline.media.clients.ellingtoncms.com/img/blogs/entry_img/2009/Feb/20/100_4467.JPG(Photo by Jennifer Edwards)On the road, is where I'll beSeeing life, as it can be seen;Living daily, in front of me.On the road is where I'll be.Drive on, Dakotah
http://worldonline.media.clients.ellingtoncms.com/img/blogs/entry_img/2009/Feb/18/Bob_at_pose.jpgwww.wagonteamster.comI spoke with the Mississippi Highway Patrol yesterday regarding the official cause of the accident between the T.K. Stanley Company tanker and the horse-drawn wagon driven by Bob Skelding.MHP Trooper, Walton, stated their finding was “Failure to yield on the part of the T.K. Stanley truck and no apparent improper driving on the part of Mr. Skelding ”, When asked if a citation would be issued as a result of the accident, Trooper Walton explained, “…when we do an accident reconstruction, we look for cause, not blame. Blame speaks to the intent of what a driver was thinking, and there is no way for us to know intent of the T.K. Stanley driver.”When pressed about the possibility of the second T.K. Stanley driver (the one who struck Bob’s wagon) following too close behind the first truck, Trooper Walton explained, “…at 65-miles per hour, the truck was traveling approximately 100-feet per second. If the first truck, that saw the wagon, waited until the last moment to pull over and pass the wagon, the truck behind him, whose sight may have prevented him seeing the wagon, would have had even less time to react. Normal human reaction time is 1.6-seconds, even if there was three-hundred feet between them, I don’t care what he’s doing, there is no physical way he can stop that truck…and irrespective of how tragic the accident, it (the accident) was unavoidable.”Trooper Walton would not release the name of the T.K. Stanley driver and when I contacted the T.K. Stanley main office in Waynesboro, Mississippi, the Safety Officer (who would not give his name) said that all questions were being referred to their insurance company, Ace American Insurance Company, in Philadelphia PA; however, calls to their office were, at the time of this writing, unreturned.I asked the Safety Officer how the truck driver was doing, in the wake of the accident, and he stated, “…he’s pretty shook up and trying to deal with the situation”. It is unknown at this time if the driver that struck Bob’s wagon is back on the road driving for T.K. Stanley.http://worldonline.media.clients.ellingtoncms.com/img/blogs/entry_img/2009/Feb/18/Rush_Hospital.jpgwww.rushhealthsystems.orgRush Foundation Hospital was unable to release Bob’s condition in an official capacity; however, an un-identified source did share that Bob was sitting up and was “looking pretty good”.As I was writing this story, a friend approached who retold a dream they had last night. Two angels appeared before him. He understood them to be the spirit of abundance that comes from emptying ourselves of the ‘stuff of life’. http://worldonline.media.clients.ellingtoncms.com/img/blogs/entry_img/2009/Feb/18/docjoyce.jpg(Surviving horses, Doc and Joyce - Photo by Scott Boyd, Macon Beacon)In their right-hand stood the spirit of receiving abundance, and in their left-hand, the spirit of giving the same. And now, from of the spirit of abundance, we receive so that we may then, in return, give.It appears, at this time, Bob Skelding has both angels with him; and he continues to touch lives in a way he could not predict; even his own. Drive on, Bob Skelding.
http://worldonline.media.clients.ellingtoncms.com/img/blogs/entry_img/2009/Feb/14/mississippi_map.jpgIt is not unlike folks to characterize the actions of the citizens of Kemper and Noxubee County, Mississippi as angels, in the aftermath of the collision that injured Bob Skelding and killed two of his four Percheron horses. But, after talking to several people who were at the scene, seconds after the melee began, I have come to see that these folks are not other-worldly; they are just good county folk who performed at their best when things were at their worst.http://worldonline.media.clients.ellingtoncms.com/img/blogs/entry_img/2009/Feb/14/Kemper_County_Map.jpgThe portion of southbound U.S. Highway 45, on which the collision occurred, is about one mile outside Noxubee County into Kemper County, Mississippi. This section of rural Mississippi has the distinction of being twenty minutes to or from just about anywhere; so medical assistance, either by road (for EMT/Ambulance) or by Helicopter (to a major trauma center) may be unequal in distance but are equal in time.Those of us who write about events in the news never set out to ‘be’ part of the story; however, on this fateful Tuesday, Macon Beacon publisher, Scott Boyd, became an important part of the survival of two of Bob’s horses, Joyce and Doc.As Scott put it, “…when I got to the scene, I saw the two horses lying under the wagon debris; and then I saw them move a bit, so I went over to take a look.. A Kemper County Deputy Sheriff (Jeff Jowers) was standing over near the road and I told him that we need to get them horses up out from under the wagon. There were about twenty people standing around, most of them bigger than me, and I thought we could just lift the trailer off the horses. The horses still had their harnesses on, so I thought we could control them. The deputy looked at me and said, ‘…are you out of your mind? We’re probably going to have to shoot those horses'.Scott has known the deputy for many years and was adamant when he looked back at the deputy and said, “you had better not shoot those horses… there isn’t going to be any shooting out here today!”Another person at the scene, Ms. Elaine Jewell, of Macon, Mississippi, was on her way to a medical checkup, (following a heart attack she suffered in December) when the accident occurred.Ms. Jewell said “…I called her (the 911 operator) and told her that we needed to get a vet out here right away, and she told me that ‘there was no need; the horses were all dead’, and then hung up the phone.” Ms. Jewell went on to say, “… there was a lady about ten cars back who raises horses…she called the 911 operator and told her that we needed to get a vet out here also, but the 911 operator told her the same thing she told me and then hung up on her. We all tried to tell her that we could see that two horses were alive, but she just wouldn’t listen.”I contacted the veterinary office of Dr. Billy Calvert to learn the status of Joyce and Doc. His assistant Cathy told me, “they’re (Joyce and Doc) doing great. They had sutures to close the wounds they received from the accident, but now they’re out grazing. They’re pretty big horses; I had to lead them from the front to the back, and if you didn’t lead one, the other wouldn’t go anywhere.” And so the healing has begun.I spoke to Bob’s sister, Cathy Fagen, on Friday to ask how she and the family is coping and what she thought of all the support being thrust in Bob’s direction. She said, “I was driving back from trying to gather some of Bob’s things (at the accident site), and it occurred to me that if something ever happened to me I could only think of a couple of dozen of people – outside of my children – that would even care something happened. When I look at all the emails, and calls, and folks that have been in contact and I’m just in awe”. She went on to say, “…my little gate keeper here at the hospital told me, ‘honey, your brother is more popular than Oprah when she was here’; I had no idea Bob was this popular”So what makes men like Bob Skelding and Ron Dakotah so popular? At the end of the day, they are just slowly traveling down a road minding their own business; so what’s the draw?I asked another wagon-teamster (who has been traveling on the road for the last twenty-six years) Ron Dakotah, his take on why so many people are moved to see the man in the wagon. “…our (Bob and Dakotah) life is a magnet to people who are trapped in the life they ‘have’ to live. They come along and say ‘you are living my life’. So, what I have come to understand that to mean is, it gives people hope to know someone can indeed live as we live; and maybe someday they can to. We’re kind of place-holder for their dreams.”Ms. Fagan was quick to let me know that the family would not violate Bob’s privacy by discussing the nature or extent of his injuries; however she would state that he is in serious and stable condition. One thing that she would say was how much she and the family have come to appreciate the people of Mississippi. “…the people of Mississippi offer from what they have to give, and I believe my brother is here today because of them, and nothing else matters except that my brother is alive in that (hospital) bed in there, and we’re grateful.”We look forward to hearing of Bob’s return to health and to learn if he will continue the journey he started in August, 2008. In the meantime, prayers are being offered daily for Bob, and those of us who stand along the roadside and cheer the men in the wagon are cheering still; God’s speed to good health and safety for the journey ahead.
http://worldonline.media.clients.ellingtoncms.com/img/blogs/entry_img/2009/Feb/12/Bob_By_Wagon_Ready_4_Walls.jpgwww.wagonteamster.comWagon teamster, Ron Dakotah, once told me, after I asked him about the perils of traveling by horse-drawn wagon on modern roads, “…I don’t have time to worry about what is coming from behind me, I’ve got my hands full looking at what is ahead of me…”When I told Dakotah of the collision where a semi-truck hit the rear of Bob Skelding’s wagon in Mississippi, he wept. “…I told you these people drive too fast and don’t pay attention to what they’re doing. What a sad end to those fine horses; it just makes me cry. We (those on the road) can’t worry about what might happen; otherwise, we’d just have to sit on a porch somewhere and not go out.”He went on to say, “I don’t know how many times this could have happened to me over the last twenty-six years; and I don’t think about it. When I started this journey it wasn’t a big spiritual thing, it just evolved into that. I have learned to ‘live’ my faith, not talk about it. So many people just ‘talk’ about their faith, but don’t ever step out in it. If you have faith, you have to show it. And everyday I hitch my team up is an act of faith”When I spoke to Bob Skelding two weeks ago, he had just crossed into Mississippi and was deciding on which route to continue; either further south, or east to the coastline.Bob Skelding was enjoying the celebrity that comes with driving a team of horses at four miles an hour, but didn’t seem the kind of person who sought celebrity and had the grace to accept those who came alongside him.Bob and Dakotah also shared a common beginning to the “Journey of a lifetime”. Both men had just come out of an unsuccessful relationship and wanted to think things through or get a “do-over” as Bob once said.Gene Bonner, an over-the-road trucker and former Deputy Sheriff, was driving his truck northbound on U.S. 45 between Meridian and Columbus Mississippi around 11:30AM on the morning of February 10th.It was a partly cloudy day with good visibility. Gene was one of three trucks on the road with two trucks from the T.K. Stanley Company directly behind him. Gene stated, “I saw Bob’s wagon up ahead, so I signaled-left to pass him. The truck behind me did the same, but as I watched in my rear-view mirror, I saw what looked like an atom-bomb go off when he (the third truck) hit Bob’s wagon. It was a sight”http://worldonline.media.clients.ellingtoncms.com/img/blogs/entry_img/2009/Feb/12/wagontankercollision1.jpgPhoto by Scott Boyd of the Macon BeaconGene pulled to the side of the road as quickly as he could and approached a group of people who had gathered alongside the road. “I saw Bob lying in the ditch, and I asked if he was still alive and they said ‘he’s dead’. I asked if anybody had gone over to him to see, but no one had, so I went over to see for myself. I felt for a carotid pulse and he had one, so I stayed with him.Gene went on to say; “…just about the time I felt for a pulse, Bob woke up and asked ‘what happened’, so I told him. The first thing he asked was how was his horses and about his dog, Clementine”Gene then brought his dog over to Bob so the two of them could be together. Gene said, “The dog was sitting all by itself in the middle of the debris just shaking, so I took him over to Bob until the EMT’s arrived. Then I took the dog to my wife so our Vet could take a look at him. The Vet said she was in pretty good shape for a sixteen year-old dog, all things considering.”Gene told me that, aside from Bob being unconscious, his only other visible wounds were some abrasions and cuts that would need some stitches. “…it was pretty miraculous that Bob didn’t have more or worse injuries”Bob is recovering from the injuries he sustained from the accident last Tuesday; the extent to which has not been released. I spoke to Sgt. Cain, of the Mississippi Highway Patrol, this morning and he reported that Bob was doing much better and was expected to recover fully.Bob’s sister, Cathy Fagan, is at his side today. She is, at this writing, with a member of the Mississippi Highway Patrol visiting the accident site.http://worldonline.media.clients.ellingtoncms.com/img/blogs/entry_img/2009/Feb/12/IMG_9733.JPGRon DakotahThankfully, it appears Bob’s journey will continue; however, in what form or destination is unknown. As life is lived one day at a time, and with our eyes fixed firmly to the road ahead, what was once our physical journey, is transformed into our spiritual journey if we answer the call.Drive on, Mr. Bob Skelding.