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Dakotah - The Drive Ends

http://worldonline.media.clients.ellingtoncms.com/img/blogs/entry_img/2009/Jan/05/Lake.jpgPoet, Dylan Thomas wrote: “Do not go gentle into that good night, Old age should burn and rave at close of day; Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” On January 4, 2009, Dakotah’s journey came to the intersection of antiquity and modern-times when the California Highway Patrol (CHP) ended his passage beyond Highway 20, at the Northern tip of Lake Mendocino.On the previous day (January 3, 2008) Dakotah was stopped by two CHP officers as he was traveling southbound on Highway 101, just south of Willits, California. As Dakotah put it, “I have been traveling around the United States for over twenty-five years, and I have been in control of where I went; how long I stayed; and the choice to stay or go was up to me. Not this time…” He went on to explain, “I have never been stopped by the police in any state I’ve traveled; but, since I’ve come to California on this trip, I have been stopped seven times. And if you can believe it, I just lost my virginity (so to speak); I got my first ticket!” And so he has.Dakotah handed me the official yellow copy of ticket #52694 (given to him after an hour of cell-phone calls buy two CHP officers before they decided to escort Dakotah down a narrow six-mile stretch of Highway 101) that cited him for CVC – 21805 – Unsafe Horseback Rider. The problem is, Dakotah was not ‘riding’ a horse, he was ‘driving’ a team of horses; and one might say well, given that, after twenty-five years on the road, (and over an estimated 50,000 miles) he is still here.It seems with age, comes wisdom, as Dakotah was compliant; even to the point of having a CHP officer, sitting in his car, calling out orders over his loudspeaker of when pull over to let cars pass and when to start again.. “You’d think I had never done this before; that I just appeared out of the sky and had no idea what I was doing” Dakotah recounted. “They asked me where I was going, and I told them I was headed to Sacramento, California Valley area, via Highway 20 to Highway 29 around Clearlake. Oh, they told me that I shouldn’t go there. Highway 20 is ‘Blood Alley’, so they suggested I take another highway. But, when I looked at the road they suggested, I knew my horses could never make it up that way; it was too steep with no good place to camp. So I went on a road that was a sure thing.”It appears, by the actions of the CHP on Sunday, that their “suggestion” was a bit more than a suggestion. When the CHP officers saw Dakotah on Highway 20, they made him stop about three miles East of Highway 101, at the tip of Lake Mendocino. “I got a twenty-minute lecture from the female CHP officer who told me that they were there to arrest me for disobeying a direct order; so they made me stop until they could figure out what to do with me and my four horses.”I suppose that the story could have ended there; however, Dakotah had a guest-rider on board that very well may have turned this otherwise tragic turn of events into a glorious day.http://worldonline.media.clients.ellingtoncms.com/img/blogs/entry_img/2009/Jan/05/IMG_0137.jpgAn internet media company (Johnson Digital Media www.johnsondigitalmedia.com ) in Ukiah, California launched an effort to broadcast video in the public interest called, www.ukiahvalley.tv . Tamara Drake, the online correspondent, produces stories of community interest for web-broadcast, which include Board of Supervisor meetings; and today, Tamera was sitting at the right-hand of Dakotah as the CHP pulled him over.“I watched what was going on and thought that maybe my video camera might intimidate them; or at least make a difference” Tamera explained. “…here is this really sweet man, who stops to talk to people when they approach, or let their kids pet the horses; he even let’s people come inside his wagon (his home). I just knew I had to do something when I realized they (CHP) were not going to let Dakotah go any further, so I got on the phone to former Willits Supervisor, Hal Wagonet, and he set the wheels in motion…” And the wheels turned quickly.Within thirty-minutes, local horsemen and women came to the aid of one of their own. Spencer Brewer and his wife Ester Siegel; along with John Tilley and Alvin and Sally Tollini formed an armada of horse and flat-bed trailers with which to deliver Dakotah and his team to a wagon-friendly route.Mind you, this act was carried out without hesitation or calculation of the personal cost of time and money for the 120-mile round trip. With camera rolling, Tamera captured the event as the convoy of trucks, wagon, and horses continued southeast on Highway 20, past the resort town of Clearlake Oaks, to the hill and canyon transition area where northern California meets arid central California and Highway 16.http://worldonline.media.clients.ellingtoncms.com/img/blogs/entry_img/2009/Jan/05/Cowboy_Camp.jpgThe U.S. Department of the Interior, through the Bureau of Land Management, set up a Cowboy Camp Trailhead near the intersection of Highway 16 and Highway 20 and Dakotah found a surrounding that mirrored his mode of travel. Thanks to the kindness of strangers, Dakotah was back in control of his destiny in fewer than two hours after the saga of this day began, and is once again pointed east to Sacramento.http://worldonline.media.clients.ellingtoncms.com/img/blogs/entry_img/2009/Jan/05/Team_at_rest.jpgThe journey ahead is just less than one hundred and sixty miles; approximately a ten and a half days journey (depending on the weather and the availability of water and grass for his horses) before Dakotah will arrive at his winter location near Turlock, California.I asked Dakotah how long he intends to drive on and what is his end-game? He waxes philosophical for a moment, “…this ain’t something I’m ‘doing’, I’m living my life in the manner that I have chosen. For me, this ‘is” my life, so to answer your question, I guess when I’m dead, I’ll stop.” My son wants me to settle back down and maybe train horses for a living, or buy and sell them too, but I am not one to sit for long, so I don’t know”I can not say for certain, but having spoken to Dakotah’s son I believe, if asked how he would write the epilog to his father’s life, he might recite the last portion of the Dylan Thomas poem:http://worldonline.media.clients.ellingtoncms.com/img/blogs/entry_img/2009/Jan/05/Into_the_night.jpg“And you, my father, there on the sad height, Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray. Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”Drive on Dakotah.Other stories about Dakotah can be found here:http://www2.ljworld.com/weblogs/dakot... http://www2.ljworld.com/weblogs/dakot... http://www2.ljworld.com/weblogs/dakot... http://www2.ljworld.com/weblogs/dakot... http://www2.ljworld.com/weblogs/dakot... http://www2.ljworld.com/weblogs/dakot... http://www2.ljworld.com/weblogs/dakot...

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Willits - Redux

http://worldonline.media.clients.ellingtoncms.com/img/blogs/entry_img/2009/Jan/01/Willits_-_Gateway.jpgThe Fall of 1983 held several events that made world-wide impact. The United States invaded Grenada; Polish Trade-Union Leader, Lech Walesa won the Nobel Peace Prize; and the Korean passenger jet, KAL 007, was shot down after violating Soviet airspace.Locally, on November 16, 1983, a man was spotted south of Laytonville, California driving a two-horse team covered-wagon. The Willits News carried a photograph of the event in their Wednesday’s edition, and the man was Ronald McElvery.During the past twenty-five years, Mr. McElvery has traveled over an estimated fifty-thousand miles; covering nearly every state west, and south of Montana. Now, he is once again in Mendocino County and has stopped in Willits.Mr. McElvery (now called Dakotah) arrived late in the afternoon on December 31 and was noticed by one of Willits’ finest (of the Willits Police Department), Officer Mark McNelley. Officer McNelley suggested that Dakotah make camp just outside the city limits by the skateboard park. He explained that there is a nice grassy area where the horses can graze and the gravel parking lot was far enough off the road so as not to cause a traffic problem if motorists drove by and noticed Dakotah.Dakotah was grateful for the chance to rest his horses and relax into the New Year. He set up his portable electric fence (used to corral the horses) and made camp; expecting a two to three day stay. However, around 1pm on New Year’s Day, Officer McNelley, accompanied by Sgt. Jake Donahue and rookie WPD Officer Ryan Hutts, arrived with a bit of bad news.http://worldonline.media.clients.ellingtoncms.com/img/blogs/entry_img/2009/Jan/01/WPD_and_Dakotah.jpgOfficer McNelley regrettably informed Dakotah that the location he had suggested earlier was unknowingly still within city limits and WPD Chief, Gerardo “Gerry” Gonzalez, said that Dakotah had to move on.The dark sunglasses worn by Officer McNelley could not hide his sense of personal responsibility for the predicament now facing Dakotah. It was too late in the day to find another camp outside the city limits and, even if Dakotah had sufficient funds for a private camp, such as the KOA, they don’t allow horses inside their camp ground.Just as Dakotah, the four police officers, this reporter and my photographer, were standing in a circle staring at one another looking for a solution, an angel appeared. Whereas one might expect an angel to appear in a descending cloud, this angel arrived in a pickup. Her name is Tia Ford.When Tia, a member of Willits’ Frontier Days Association, (a non-profit organization dedicated to giving back to its community) heard that Dakotah was being evicted from his camp, immediately suggested that we contact the Frontier Days Association president, Chris White, for permission to use the Association’s property across the street from the skateboard park. Tia obtained Chris’ phone number and the call was made.http://worldonline.media.clients.ellingtoncms.com/img/blogs/entry_img/2009/Jan/01/Frontier_Days_Assoc.jpgI spoke to Chris and explained Dakotah’s situation. Chris was more than happy to come to the aid of another horseman; especially one who is living a Frontier Days life, three hundred sixty-five days a year. Chris gave us the combination of the lock for the property gate, and Dakotah started breaking camp.http://worldonline.media.clients.ellingtoncms.com/img/blogs/entry_img/2009/Jan/01/Dakotah_in_Tow.jpgFor the sake of expediency, (and so the horses didn’t have to be hooked up for such a short drive) I used my old Ford 4X4 pickup to tow Dakotah’s wagon across the street to a wonderfully lush pasture that is gated and fenced around the whole perimeter. Thanks to the efforts of Tia and Chris, Dakotah and his team are happily in camp. http://worldonline.media.clients.ellingtoncms.com/img/blogs/entry_img/2009/Jan/01/Team_at_Play.jpgWillits’ motto is “The Gateway to the redwoods ~ The heart of Mendocino County” and, in the opinion of this reporter, Willits is also the “Gateway to civility ~ The Heart of Humanity” for the hand extended to Dakotah as he makes his way through the area once again.Whereas Dakotah’s destination is anyplace beyond the horizon, he moves each day knowing that life on this earth is meant to test our mettle and build character. As Dakotah puts it: “…today we all got a chance to grow. One person righted a mistake; another got a chance to help another human being; and I got a chance to grow by not worrying about the outcome; it all works out. Everybody wins today”Drive on Dakotah.Other stories about Dakotah can be found here: http://www2.ljworld.com/weblogs/dakotah-drives/2008/dec/03/dakotah-is-alive-and-well/http://www2.ljworld.com/weblogs/dakotah-drives/2008/dec/07/dakotah-drives-part-2/http://www2.ljworld.com/weblogs/dakotah-drives/2008/dec/14/the-heart-of-dakotah/http://www2.ljworld.com/weblogs/dakotah-drives/2008/dec/21/inside-dakotah/http://www2.ljworld.com/weblogs/dakotah-drives/2008/dec/23/a-dakotah-christmas/ http://www2.ljworld.com/weblogs/dakot...

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Dakotah - A Place In Time

http://worldonline.media.clients.ellingtoncms.com/img/blogs/entry_img/2008/Dec/31/Team_in_the_snow.jpgIn the past, Laytonville, California was little more than a mid-point stop for gas and a stretch whenever I traveled to Santa Rosa for my Trader Joe’s fix. One day, while on such a trip, a picture posted on the front door of the Chevron gas station and mini-mart caught my eye.Pat Teem, a Laytonville resident and ardent supporter of the High School athletic program, had been fatally injured in a traffic accident just a few days earlier, and the sign advertised a memorial fund raiser on behalf of his family. At that instant, Laytonville became a “place” for me and not just a pass through point of reference. And, as evidence this instance of humanity is not a single occurrence, Laytonville residents opened their hearts to Dakotah when he came to town driving his wagon and three-horse team on Christmas Eve.A winter storm was about to bear down on the area, so Dakotah stopped in Laytonville in hope to find a place to camp. One of the townsfolk was quick to suggest the Harwood Park Rodeo Grounds and made a phone call on behalf of Dakotah to gain access. Dakotah was able to find sufficient dry and grassy grounds on a two-acre fenced portion of land being used to graze two small cows.http://worldonline.media.clients.ellingtoncms.com/img/blogs/entry_img/2008/Dec/31/Dakotah_CMas_Day_3.jpgWhen I caught up with Dakotah on Christmas day, he was in full suede and tassel regalia with his fur cap, busy adjusting his battery-powered electric horse fence so that the horses didn’t over graze any single portion of the land where he camped. “From the outside, people think that I must just sit around all day; but let me tell you, these horses require a lot of attention and they keep me busy all day.” Dakotah explained as he closed the plastic toolbox he uses to house his twelve-volt automotive battery that supplies power to the fence.“When it snows, like it has a few times this past week (while staying at the higher elevation near the Rattlesnake Summit area) the snow collects on the wire fence and weighs it down. Even though the horses only have a walnut-sized brain, they figured out they can walk over the fence and get access to the feed I keep in the trailer. If I’m sleeping, they’ll start nudging the trailer and my wagon starts to sway back and forth like heck, so I have to run out in the middle of the night, in the dark, and put the fence back up.”As far as I can figure, Daktoah is about sixty-eight years old; give or take a year or two. But the speed with which he moves or the ease with which we jumps off his wagon (almost four-feet off the ground) certainly contradicts his chronological years. Even though he would be considered a slight man by today’s standards (at five-feet seven-inches tall and about one-hundred and forty pounds) and for the possible exception of an immense sweet-tooth, Dakotah lives an otherwise healthy lifestyle that is quite evident.http://worldonline.media.clients.ellingtoncms.com/img/blogs/entry_img/2008/Dec/31/Christmas_Dinner.jpgWe sat inside Dakotah’s wagon to share a Christmas dinner of home-made beef stew and a round of Brio Bakery sour-dough bread and talked of the trip ahead. Dakotah has decided to stop in Willits, California for the next several weeks in hope to bypass as much winter weather as possible in his trek onward.We began to talk of where he has been; the relationships he has had (and there have been several; Dakotah seems to have a weakness for beautiful brunette women) and what purpose his choice of lifestyle has brought. He talks of the “Power of the Wagon” and how, just by driving through anywhere he goes, people are drawn to him by the sight of nineteenth-century method of conveyance in the twentieth-century.“Oh, they wave, and I’ll wave back, or people will do a u-turn, if they were driving the opposite direction, to come and talk to me or take a picture. Seems that, by my just being here, I am a puzzle to people. Kids, adults, it doesn’t matter. I’m not trying to make statment, I am just living my life to the fullest I can. I see things (at three miles and hour) that other people can’t see, and I have an appreciation for this land and my freedom to move around it”http://worldonline.media.clients.ellingtoncms.com/img/blogs/entry_img/2008/Dec/31/Dakotah_CMas_Day_1.jpgLaytonville residents welcomed Dakotah to sit a while, sample a stove-side fire and a little “Christmas Cheer”. They talked of the times and how important their community is to them, and for another place in time, Dakotah is a resident; even if for just the moment.Other stories about Dakotah can be found here: http://www2.ljworld.com/weblogs/dakot... http://www2.ljworld.com/weblogs/dakotah-drives/2008/dec/07/dakotah-drives-part-2/http://www2.ljworld.com/weblogs/dakotah-drives/2008/dec/14/the-heart-of-dakotah/http://www2.ljworld.com/weblogs/dakotah-drives/2008/dec/21/inside-dakotah/http://www2.ljworld.com/weblogs/dakotah-drives/2008/dec/23/a-dakotah-christmas/

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A Dakotah Christmas

http://worldonline.media.clients.ellingtoncms.com/img/blogs/entry_img/2008/Dec/23/IMG_0105.jpgI’m standing near the top of Rattlesnake Summit, ankle deep in mud, and the remnants of a brief snowfall, as evidenced by the slush along the roadside, looking at a red-colored covered wagon and four horses.Whereas this may sound like a passage out of a western novel of the late 1800’s, the date is December 22, 2008. Ron (Dakotah) McGilvery is the wagon master who stopped at this place to rest his horses before driving his team down the other side of the the summit the evening of December 21st.The rain gauge on the side of Dakotah’s wagon read three inches since he set up camp. The combination of rain, sleet and snow, set the wheels of his 6,000lbs wagon to a depth of five inches.The three horses of Dakotah’s team pulled gallantly to free the wagon; but, to no avail. I received a call from Mr. Nathan Hodges Sunday afternoon. Dakotah’s satellite phone was unable to connect to the network as he sat alongside Highway 101, and without the ability to reach the outside world, Dakotah sent a request for help via Mr. Hodges. Mr. Hodges was traveling from the Bay Area on his way to Oregon for Christmas when saw Dakotah and stopped after he saw the wagon and horses.http://worldonline.media.clients.ellingtoncms.com/img/blogs/entry_img/2008/Dec/23/Dakotah_in_the_mud_3.jpgI have been itching to put my 1989 Ford 4X4 to honest work and Dakotah’s predicament provided such an opportunity. Dakotah’s attempt to free his wagon using his horse team proved too much for the double singletree harness, crucial to holding the team in place, as it broke during the Dakotah's last pull with the team. We hooked the tongue of Dakotah’s wagon directly to my rear tow bar and, in 4-wheel low gear, I was able to free the wagon and set it on dry land.Most of the underbelly of Dakotah’s wagon is a hodgepodge of automotive, trailer suspension, and old-west wagon parts. The repairs needed to be performed by someone who understood metallurgy and old-school wagon construction, and I could only think of one such person; Eric Hollenbeck of the Blue Ox in Eureka.http://worldonline.media.clients.ellingtoncms.com/img/blogs/entry_img/2008/Dec/23/Blue_Ox_Entrance.jpgWhen I presented Eric with the broken parts he disappeared into the recesses of his mind searching for a solution. Not a word was spoken as he took the tattered elements of Dakotah’s wagon from my hand. He made way through the gravel lot into one of the many buildings located on the Blue Ox property; unlocked the door, and went inside.To the outsider (of which I certainly am) the interior of the building looked ramshackle and disorganized. Certainly not the shop I thought I would find; however, I quickly learned, organization is in the eye of the beholder.http://worldonline.media.clients.ellingtoncms.com/img/blogs/entry_img/2008/Dec/23/Eric_Blue_Ox_1.jpgEric finally spoke as he placed the singletree into a vice. “…you know today we have become victims of technology. Like an old steam locomotive with a blade in the front plowing away the snow from the tracks, we plow through technology and load it onto the train. But the train can only hold so much, so just as fast as the new technology is loaded, someone is at the caboose throwing off the old just as quickly. There may come a day when we’ll wish we’d kept that old knowledge…” It was then Eric turned the valve on a tank of acetylene, lit the nozzle and adjusted the flame to a beautiful bluish hue.I donned a pair of welding glasses, fished out of a box of nuts and bolts alongside the vice, and watched Eric work his magic. The steel glowed white-orange at the end of the torch as Eric worked the metal with the same finesse potters shape clay on a wheel.The repair took less than an hour and was facilitated using several washers, an old hex bolt, and other metal objects strewn atop the metal workbench to which the vice was attached. “This is why the settlers didn’t throw away anything; it may look messy, but everything has its place and purpose…” Eric said. I held greater appreciation for having what is “needed” at the tip of one’s hand when time is of the essence; especially, when one is stranded alongside a freeway.Today, just as shoppers are winding up or down their Christmas shopping (solely dependent upon your perspective) Dakotah is on his way once again. He was able to make another eight miles or so south of Rattlesnake Summit just in time to make camp before dark. This time he is on dry land and pointed south.Even though Dakotah is living a solitary life, he intersects the lives of many people throughout his journey. Christmas came three times for Dakotah this year. Once by a man on his way to somewhere else; once by a man who keeps the ‘old arts’ alive - for more than thirty years; and once by a man fortunate enough to chronicle the events of people living their lives, one day at a time.Other stories about Dakotah can be found here:http://www2.ljworld.com/weblogs/dakotah-drives/2008/dec/03/dakotah-is-alive-and-well/http://www2.ljworld.com/weblogs/dakotah-drives/2008/dec/07/dakotah-drives-part-2/http://www2.ljworld.com/weblogs/dakotah-drives/2008/dec/14/the-heart-of-dakotah/ http://www2.ljworld.com/weblogs/dakot...

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Inside Dakotah

http://worldonline.media.clients.ellingtoncms.com/img/blogs/entry_img/2008/Dec/21/Dakotah_in_Leggitt.jpgFreedom is a peculiar companion, and in its company, satiation for movement seems unachievable. The angst of waiting was evident as Dakotah weathered the winter storms that assailed the north coast of California.Rain, snow flurries and cold, ensconced the makeshift ranch of horse and teamster along the main street of Leggett, California; and at the first sign of clearing, Dakotah is once again back on the road.This week I crossed the line with Dakotah where friends, no matter how noble their intention, offer advice instead of simply listening as the other thinks out-loud to unravel the complexities of a problem.The rebuke was swift and I understood that, no matter how close someone lets you into their inner circle, boundaries exist. Man’s best friend may indeed be his dog, but don’t put your hand near their bowl as they eat.Dakotah has come in and out of the lives of many these past twenty-four years, but for those of us who see him for the first time, we may forget that a journey such as his requires cunning, foresight, determination and an unflappable spirit. He has been down ‘this road’ before.When I caught up with Dakotah this afternoon around 1PM, he had already shod two horses, broke camp, and traveled six miles south of Leggett. He asked for a couple bales of alfalfa and bags of oats, so my wife and I motored down to deliver his supplies. We learned, from our last visit, that the horses have an affinity for apples and, of all things, hard peppermint candy, so my wife put a bag of treats for the horses to enjoy at the end of their workday.http://worldonline.media.clients.ellingtoncms.com/img/blogs/entry_img/2008/Dec/21/Dakotah_with_map.jpgA tailgate of a pickup is usually associated with parking lot parties before a football game, but today the tailgate of my truck served as a map reading station where Dakotah shared where he’s been, and where he is going.It is fair to note that Dakotah is not the only person driving a team of horses or pack of mules on the open road; however, he is certainly doing it “old-school”, as they say.I was asked by the Long Rider’s Guild to contact Bob Skelding, another teamster who, at this writing, is trekking across the Eastern United States. Currently, Bob is somewhere near Union Township, Indiana from his Deerfield, New Hampshire starting point in August, 2008.Bob built his wagon; however, the wagon is more reminiscent of Park-model RV with every imaginable amenity, including a full kitchen (with a refrigerator, stove, oven, and sink) toilet, shower, solar-powered water heater and full-sized bed. The frame of Bob’s wagon was crafted to allow for multiple storage compartments; on the same order as a Greyhound Bus luggage compartment, and weighs 1,300 pounds. Bob did not spare the ponies either. His magnificent conveyance is being pulled by four Percheron horses that weigh somewhere between 1,600 and 1,800 pounds each. Now that is horsepower.Bob and Dakotah are not the only teamsters I have discovered. Dakotah often refers to a female teamster he calls “The Bag Lady” (Finisia Medrano). Their lives intersected somewhere in Idaho a few years ago. She is still on the road somewhere in Idaho “Pulling for Christ”. http://worldonline.media.clients.ellingtoncms.com/img/blogs/entry_img/2008/Dec/21/The_Bag_Lady.jpgThe Bag Lady is reportedly from Woodland Hills, California where she formerly worked as a nurse.After converting to Christianity, to kick a pack-a-day cigarette habit, The Bag Lady hit the road (sometime in 1984) with a desire to follow her convictions to “Take up your cross and follow me”Dakotah also talks of Lee the Horselogger, who drives a team of three Suffolk Punch Draft Horses. Suffolk Punch horses are built like an NFL center (wide and low to the ground) and weigh between 1,400 – 2,100 pounds each.Lee took to the road after being diagnosed with lymphoma in 2005, and like The Bag Lady, Lee’s life “In the slow lane” is something of a spiritual journey. Lee is fighting his cancer with holistic medicine and has a “live each day to the fullest” mindset.Like Dakotah, Lee and The Bag Lady adhere to a more traditional wagon design that offer little more than protection from the elements; whether cold or heat; snow or rain. Inside each wagon, nothing more is found than the essentials of life for both teamster and team.http://worldonline.media.clients.ellingtoncms.com/img/blogs/entry_img/2008/Dec/21/Chuck_and_Freebird_.jpgWhile going over the maps spread over the tailgate of my truck, I was invited inside the life of Dakotah. Dakotah handed me a large envelop containing pictures of his life from the early 1940’s to the present. I held proof of the essence of another in my hand; someone whose anonymity is the currency of their life.The story of Dakotah is unraveled without agenda or end in mind, only to respectfully look and then write what I see. I believe that by mining the life of Dakotah we may yield gold from one man’s story.http://worldonline.media.clients.ellingtoncms.com/img/blogs/entry_img/2008/Dec/21/IMG_0740.JPGOther stories about Dakotah can be found here: http://www2.ljworld.com/weblogs/dakotah-drives/2008/dec/03/dakotah-is-alive-and-well/http://www2.ljworld.com/weblogs/dakotah-drives/2008/dec/07/dakotah-drives-part-2/http://www2.ljworld.com/weblogs/dakotah-drives/2008/dec/14/the-heart-of-dakotah/

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The Heart of Dakotah

http://worldonline.media.clients.ellingtoncms.com/img/blogs/entry_img/2008/Dec/15/Dakotah_and_Ed_II.jpgThe road appears to be a mistress of those who travel without destination or goal beyond the next horizon, as her call must be answered when she beckons. The rewards of this journey measured in moments of the day at hand. Is it moral fortitude that allows one to momentarily bask in the company of others and then return to the solitude of choice? Or, has the heart, that longs for the touch of words, spoken in the breath of friendship, become accustom to the ghost of relationships-past, that within such, sustenance is found?This dreary Northern California day is the beginning of the weather I have both missed, and to which, have grown accustomed. As we prepare to drive the hundred miles south take a few feed supplies and firewood for Dakotah, We are aware that, due to his southerly progress, this is likely our last time to see him for a while.We found Dakotah in the little town of Leggett, California; home of the original Drive-Through Tree. A local property owner permitted Dakotah to hole-up along the Leggett Main street section of grass and gravel to weather our area’s first winter storm before continuing his trek through Rattlesnake Summit.Dakotah is not without other supporters; as while there, two additional fans stopped by. One offering firewood, and the other, apples for the horses; who immediately showed their appreciation by running to the feast as the apples were spread out on the ground.One of our goals for the day was to apply a MySpace stencil to Dakotah’s supply wagon (in tow behind his main wagon) so that passer’s by may contact him if they so desired. As we finished the second side of the wagon (the street side) we had an epiphany as to one of the reasons we were there.We have met many people throughout our lifetime, and everyone, without exception, has wanted their life to have meant something to someone or to have been for the cause of greater good. And even by “opting out” of a stationery life, Dakotah is no different; he intends to leave his mark on society as well.Whether by keeping in touch with his brother and sons (by telephone) or attempting to find a way to reach his daughter (a trucker by profession – dad drives three-horses at a time, and daughter drives three-hundred; kind of ironic, don’t you think?).Dakotah longs to see his daughter; however, they keep missing each other as they crisscross the western United States. Reaching out to her is the main force driving Dakotah to reach the Sacramento Valley before winter catches up. And, for a man who rejects schedules, this must be a powerful draw.Twenty-four years on the road, with several perilous moments as well, have left their mark. The lines on Dakotah’s face bare testimony to his days under the sun, and his presence today stands witness to having overcome the adversity of a teamster’s life.One might be surprised to know that Dakotah, in spite of his stubbornness and self determination, has a soft heart, eager to help.He often talks of the phone calls from one specific muleskinner (that, after meeting Dakotah, thought he too wanted the same lifestyle) seeking advice. Dakotah laughs a bit; “it ain’t all that easy you know. People think, ‘Oh sure, your (Dakotah's) life is easy. You don’t nave any bills, any rent; you just go anywhere you want.’ People don’t see how much oats and alfalfa cost when you’re on the road. It takes a special person to do this lifestyle; especially if you’re attached to things”.Know for sure, that as much as Dakotah is not attached to things, he is equally attached to being with people; even if for only a while.We enjoyed his hospitality and were invited into his wagon-home to sit a while, talk, and enjoy the heat from his log stove as he talks of friends, family, the past and the present. The future is relegated to the discovery of the day; except the calculations needed for food relative to the distance yet traveled.All of our children are grown and living between Washington to Florida, so we, for the first time in our 50-plus years, are opting out of the ‘normal’ Christmas. We bought ourselves a new digital 35mm camera, and made DVD copies of some old homemade VHS movies for the rest of the family. The grand kids will get a few bobbles, but other than that, we’re taking it easy.Our four-wheel drive truck is just about road-ready in case we encounter rough weather, and barring any unforeseen issues, we’ll hook up with Dakotah on the road for a little Christmas Cheer. Not forever (at least not yet) but as a way to sample life lived on personal terms, perils and all.

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Dakotah Drives Part 2

http://worldonline.media.clients.ellingtoncms.com/img/blogs/entry_img/2008/Dec/15/Dakotah_Drives.jpgWhen one lives within accepted society, yet on the fringe of where civilization meets outcast, one might be mistaken for helpless. And nothing stands in the way of a “good deed”.When we met up with Dakotah today he insisted that we find a homeless shelter that could use a couple of food items that were thrust upon him; a gallon of pork and beans and a gallon of instant mashed potatoes. “Do you have any idea how long it would take me to eat all of this stuff?” Dakotah asked. I was both touched and amused by the gesture of a passers by; who evidently saw the same western movies I watched as a kid where every cowboy ate beans out of a can as they sat around a campfire.Dakotah has traveled to the point where old meets new and will soon be driving on a long stretch of southbound highway 101 through rattlesnake summit just south of Garberville, California. The summit title certainly harkens back to the day of wagon trains and dusty trials, but is in fact quite the opposite.For a wagon driver, the romance of the open road is disappearing faster than civility in a big city traffic jam, and there is a rough road ahead for Dakotah.I am cautious to make someone else’s life choices my business, as by doing so, I would have to assume responsibility for the outcome.I have learned from my short, howbeit rich, association with Dakotah that he is his own boss and certain that the way forward leads to his next appointed adventure. So to that end I have offered to be his marquee and will update his show as he checks in from time to time.My wife and I gave Dakotah an old digital camera we were no long using in hope that he may chronicle, as least pictorially, some of his journey. And in the event he meets up with an internet-savvy person along the way, Dakotah promised to upload whatever he has captured.I feel strangely drawn to travel alongside Dakotah. I can’t tell if it is because I’ve had my trip around the corporate merry-go-round and know the price of traveling in the fast lane, or if it is because the writer in me sees a great story that needs to be written. I will have to get back to you on this, as my jury is still in deliberation.But for now, folks can email Dakatoh at rondakotah@gmail.com or visit the MySpace page my wife made for him at: myspace.com/rondakotah.We will pass along all incoming comments to Dakotah whenever he checks in, so feel free to drop Dakotah a note if the notion so hits you. Any pictures or notes we receiver from his journey, will be uploaded to his MySpace page and this blog.Faith is demonstrated when we press on to were the road is uncertain; and so to that end, drive on Dakotah

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Dakotah is alive and well

http://worldonline.media.clients.ellingtoncms.com/img/blogs/entry_img/2008/Dec/15/Dakotah_Drives_3.jpgI was with my wife late Friday afternoon as we started to leave for a four O-clock meeting with a new client in Meyer’s Flat, California. Just as we were about to enter southbound on highway 101, we saw a sight that made us both do a double-take. We live in the Elk River area of Eureka, so equestrian folk are not strangers to us; however, I can’t recall a time where we’ve seen a covered wagon being pulled by a three-horse team making a right turn at the Herrick Road off ramp by the Park-n-Ride.I was born a naturally curious individual, so maybe you can appreciate the fact that my interest was instantly piqued and that I was going to be late for my four O-clock meeting.The scene looked more like an impromptu parade being lead by a small statured man (who calls himself Dakotah) sporting a grey goatee wearing a red shirt, black jeans, and black soft-brimmed “Open Plain” cowboy hat. Close behind Dakota was an SUV covering the rear as the wagon made its way off south-bound Broadway Ave.The driver of the SUV trailing behind Dakota (from the Madaket Museum) is an acquaintance of the manager for the Pro Pacific Fresh Produce Company (Jody) and had called ahead to secure a place for Dakotah to bivouac on the lush grassy area of Pro Pacific’s lot.As we pulled into the lot Dakotah was busy setting up his portable electric fence around an acre of grass as his horses stood like the Swiss Guard. I had my camera at the ready but was more interested in talking to the man, many years my senior, moving at a swift pace as he began setting up his camp. When I asked if I may approach, he replied “if you can keep up with a man almost seventy years old, I suspect you could”. And so I did.I would like to cut to the chase and tell you upfront that Dakotah is not some victim of circumstance and is living the life of his choosing for over twenty-four years. Aside from being a Veteran, he has worked and is retired; been in relationships (on and off the road, including marriage); has children (two sons and one daughter); and has traveled from Arizona to Montana and back again.The point of our meeting is his first trip back to the area since 1980-something, and navigating our roads, with a mix of Interstate, city, and highways, has proven a challenge for Dakota and his team. Folks drive way too fast, and many of the lanes of the road are narrow with little or no shoulder on which his horses may walk. So, the Pro Pacific lot was a welcome sight.I think we are all drawn to people who have the spunk to live on their terms; yet very few of us (myself included) would be willing to trade the security (or false security) we’ve created and set out to discover what it is like living life one mile at a time. Unless of course we own a 40' Fleetwood Excursion Luxury Diesel Pusher that sleeps 4, is fully loaded, and has a triple slide. Oh, and let’s not forget the small SUV in tow behind the motor home.I laughed when Dakotah told me “it’s not that I draw so much attention; it’s the circus that follows me…” Referring to people (like me I’m afraid) that just can’t help ourselves to stop and ask the questions of “…why are you doing this?” or “…you must be so lucky!”, or they’ll claim some kind of spiritual connection to Dakotahand his horses.In one sense, I believe the Dakotah’s of the world are here for us so that we’ll stop taking ourselves so seriously. Maybe we strive for the wrong things in life. We seem to value ownership over relationship or take stock in paper but not in people. And in our pursuits the days go swiftly by and we ask ourselves: “how did I get here?”Dakotah didn’t see the turn onto Hookton Road that would take him southbound down Ell River Road, so he trekked up Tompkins’s Hill Road thinking that it would lead him to Ferndale. When I got a call from Dakota telling me his horses were loosing traction up this vastly steep and wet road, and “could I help?” I was in my truck and on the road in a flash.When I caught up with him, Dakotah had made it to where Tompkins’s Hill Road meets Highway 101; which meant he was past Ferndale and had to backtrack a mile or so on Northbound Highway 101. Dakotah’s lead horse (Ed) was panting heavily so I knew they had to set in for the night. I called my friend Dick Lindsay, who owns Fernbridge Tractor, to see if Dakotah could rest his horses set camp on the grassy area of Dick’s lot. Dick was more than obliged to help.It is not lost on me that, given the perilous economic times in which we live, the new wealthy may be those who have learned to live, not without, but within what they have. Community may be the currency of the new age; where kindness and an encouraging word will be the price of admission.Dakotah is once again back on the road driving his horses through the California Redwoods as he makes way to the Sacramento area for the winter. We sat in his wagon tonight and listened to his stories of the road and could hear, no matter the trials, how the road beckons for Dakotah. Just as the wind carries a Fall leaf into destiny, so Dakotah follows the roads of those who've gone before.The ruts of the wagon wheel are gone, but the journey abounds.Drive on Dakotah.

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