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Stories from Bernie's current trip - a mule voyage from Canada to Mexico

Sounds like Bluegrass
February 26, 2008


Spring training at RiverEarth.com
Outside Raeford, NC

With the February days growing ever-longer, mule Polly and I contemplate getting fit for Leg II of our Canada to Mexico mule wagon journey. Last year, we traveled from Neptune, Saskatchwan to Hill City, SD.

Then winter struck. Polly and I came home to North Carolina to do the program tour for the new “Too Proud to Ride a Cow” book.

And I got lazy.

Now it’s time for Polly and I to get back in shape.

Somewhere in my dormancy, I started playing the dulcimer. About the same time, a friend told me of an old feed mill where they played bluegrass on Friday nights. Hmmmm….. My brain may have been winter addled but the notion of taking a road trip with mule Polly and my dulcimer suddenly made sense.

So last weekend I hitched Polly to the Lost Sea wagon for a road trip to Fords Bluegrass Mill in Hamlet, NC. Nothing like a little dobro and fiddle to get us in shape for the upcoming voyage.
Along for the outing were my long time wagon training friends Tash and Kenny.


Tight trail to bluegrass


Big puddle, open road

Traveling the sand roads that traverse the Hoffman Gamelands north of Hamlet, NC was a gentle reminder that wagon travel, though romantic, is filled with puddles, lightening, and dry axles (some wagon wheels rely on heavy grease for lubrication. Loose the grease, well, you get the picture…).


Tash checks the axle grease on his Army wagon

Two days later, we arrived at Fords Mill Bluegrass.


Welcome to Fords Mill Bluegrass

In its early days, Fords Mill really had been a feed mill. Built by current owner James Ford to sell feed and farming supplies to local farmers, the mill operated for decades.

Then James Ford retired. In 2002, he converted the mill into his own Friday night bluegrass concert hall.


James Ford

The plan was simple. Bring in 3 to 5 bands, always on a Friday night, and let folks come for a listen. As a perk, James would be able to play his 1929 American Standard bass.

Now for those of you who haven’t been close to a bass, suffice to say, this instrument is large. It’s nicknames denote heft: bull fiddle, double bass, upright bass. It’s so big, it’s nice to have someone open doors for you when you show up with this behemoth relative to the fiddle.

It’s so big, that when it’s played solo, you can feel what ever you’re made of vibrate inside you.


The hand that built the Mill

It’s so big, according to James, “that if there’s a bluegrass band playing out here in the summer, on the porch, it’s the only instrument you can hear up the road.”

To hear James and his bass, click the player below.

Want to see and hear James Ford play some live bluegrass on that 1929 bass? Here’s how to find him:

Fords Mill Bluegrass
Hamlet, NC
Fridays at 7:30 pm
Contact:James Ford
ph 910 895 6253

Posted Tuesday February 26, 2008 by Bernie
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