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UNC-TV and Our State "Mule Rider" Program
September 12, 2013
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Solo wagon voyaging implies the rest of the world has disappeared and it’s just the two of you left. All day long, you plod along with Long Ears. Maybe wave to a contrail in the sky. Just to have some human interaction.

Actually, wagon travel is somewhere in between. Here are photos and comments spanning the spectrum from crowd to isolation.

My cold weather film crew mates. Mike Milstead is fitting a small camera to capture some on-wagon ambient footage. Assisting is Morgan Potts. Cameraman Mike Burke barely squeezed in to my wagon with his giant lens. It was worth all the cold weather fiddling. The guys captured some extraordinary winter wagon footage.
Where to find food in the winter landscape? For Polly, this patch of clover outside Aurora is good enough. While I waited for Polly to fill her tank, a big pickup roared up. I thought we were in trouble. Turns out the guy who owned the land Polly was lunching on just wanted to visit. See if I needed anything. His name was Sid. He gave me a tour of the grain bin behind Polly. It was like…
… a miniature, steel version of the Pantheon. Okay, so it’s just a grain bin. But check out how the sun comes through the circular opening, marking the spot on the wall. In Rome, in the Pantheon, this opening is called the oculus. I think Sid just called it a hole. Not every day you get to see an oculus in Aurora.



While I might make it sound like wagon travel is a loner’s game it’s not. At all. Every day, you need to feed, water and shelter your mule. Here, friends at John and Linda Carawan’s visit for a gam.
I built a fold down writing desk in to my wagon. Perfect place to write in my journal come day’s end.
To hell with smart phones, tablets and touch screens. Give me pen, paper and net twine. They’re just better for my neural network and the hazards of the road. I build journals with whatever I find in my ramblings. Here, some net twine Virgil Potter gave me serves as a fine binding. If I were a critic, I’d gauge my sketches as “more energetic than technically accurate.” Describes me down to the tea (yes, the loose leaf kind, gun powder if you’d be so kind. The mailing address is PO Box 245, Southern Pines, NC 28388…).
A piece of mesh cut out of a fishing net. The curly brown material is part of what they call “conch eggs” in Bayboro, NC. You can see a photo of a whole one on the previous page. It’s sitting on the board in front of my wood stove. Trawlers fishing off the east coast pull them up in their nets. When they return to Oriental to repair their nets, they fall out. When dry, they are crunchy as a potato chip. When damp, they are tough as leather.
Filming this segment involved two trips by UNC-TV film crew. The first trip involved traveling with Polly and me through eastern North Carolina. Later, they joined me on the farm to film some more. Here, they’re setting up for a shot of me walking through my hayfield. They are: Steve Price-lighting, Mike Milstead- grip, Grant Dennis- Audio, Mike Burke- Videographer and Morgan Potts- director/producer.
Good night Polly. Here’s the last thing I see out my back window most nights on the road. That’s my equine travel mate picketed close to the wagon. I stake her out so she can browse all night and bed down if she’s tired. Sure beats being tied to a tree.

The Mule Rider program can be viewed here

(Special thanks to UNC-TV, Our State magazine and BB&T for putting hundreds of hours and vast resources in to this project. Kudos to film crewmen Mike Burke, Mike Milstead, Jay Cartwright, Glenn Abbey, Steve Price, Grant Dennis and director/producer Morgan Potts. A tip ‘o the hat to everyone back at the UNC-TV studio who wove hours of footage into fifteen minutes of kickin’ final product. Also Keith and Melinda at TownDock.net for putting Polly and me up in their yard before and after the filming. Mel, pardon the divots on the garden mound. Polly says it’ll come back especially green….)

Map note: map shows Sid’s grain bin of “oculus” fame.

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Posted Thursday September 12, 2013 by Bernie
Where this story happened:

I just found you through the tiny house blog, & am enjoying your writing. Built my own house, tho’ not tiny (1000 sq ft), just up the road from Robbins. No TV, so won’t be able to view the Our State program, but I look forward to following your adventures here. Best wishes on your next adventure.

Laurie · Saturday September 14, 2013 · #

Great going builing your own place Laurie. Nice patch of country around Robbins. Just enjoyed a weekend there driving Polly at Farmers Day. Maybe we’ll start the No Glow Club for TV-free folks. Hell, between you and me, we’d have at least two members. I enjoyed your site Laurie - especially about the pawpaws. They've always been mysterious to me. Do you think they'd grow in Western North Carolina? Cheers. Bernie

Bernie · Monday September 16, 2013 · #

Kitty corner and across the continent, I, in SW Central British Columbia Canada, am a candidate for third member of the no-glow, TV-free club since 1980.

I do very much enjoy your website, sharings and adventures Bernie. My life has been adventurous also – like packing up three young children, two dogs, my saddle into a Datsun Conestoga wagon in search of the last frontier in the Peace River area of Alberta Canada, from West Berne, New York in 1978. I left the farmstead I had been self-sufficient on, for new adventures. I found them – lots of them through the years. Not all fun, though most of them were, and no regrets. I’m slowed down enough to write about it now. There are adventures still to come…but at a more settled pace now. I haven’t lived in an equid drawn caravan yet, but it is in the plans. The donkeys are growing. Their time will come for harnesses and hitches. Your adventures, and Wagon teamster Bob’s, always inspire and delight me. So sign me up for the No Glow Club and I’ll be checking in to see what you are up to often.

— MaryAnna · Monday September 23, 2013 · #

MaryAnna. Wow, Member #3 in the No Glow Club. Pretty soon we’ll be in the double digits and need a Secretary.
Great to hear you’ve given in to the same wanderlust that inhabits me. Sounds like you’ve had some grand adventuring there. With more to come.
You mention going with donkeys. I say that’d be a super way to go. Just get ones that walk fast. If you don’t believe me, my buddy Ronald will let you walk/drag his mammoth burro up a hill. He’s fine going down but uphill he’s slower than one of those cement yard donkeys… Keep adventuring! Bernie

Bernie · Monday September 30, 2013 · #

Bernie, I do think pawpaws would do fine there. They’re indigenous to 26 states… I believe I read as far west as Nebraska. I got mine years ago from edible landscaping in afton, va. It looks like his selection has widened since I purchased mine. Another place you might check, closer to home, is useful plants nursery in Black Mountain. I don’t remember them having pawpaws when I picked up some other interesting things there a few yrs back, but they’re nice folks and might be helpful.
Love the No Glow club! I do on occasion watch a movie; just not hooked up to the rest. Does that disqualify me :o)

Laurie · Wednesday October 2, 2013 · #

Laurie, Thanks for the pawpaw encouragement. No, watching an occasional movie doesn’t disqualify you from the No Glow Club…as long as the curtains are pulled. At least that’s what I do when I fire up the laptop on the wagon. Hell, it could launch the No Glow Club’s first line of merchandise – black out curtains. The perfect gift and club fundraiser (along with a sledge hammer). Cheers. Bernie

bernie · Wednesday October 2, 2013 · #

My lifetime dream is to go from the east to the west coast. Now that my four children are grown its time for us to make our dreams come true. I have said that I was born at the wrong time because my heart belongs to a more simpler time. We have decided to bike although I had tried to talk Steve into mules and a wagon like our for fathers so many years before us. After watching you on TV Steve has began to rethink our mode of transpotation. Any advise for us.

— steve and lolita · Friday October 4, 2013 · #

Finally reading your response Bernie…and chuckling.

Yes, a movie played on the laptop now and then. Just enjoy it when out of civilizations way and one doesn’t have to draw the black curtains…the sound of hoof beats, dirt bikes or helicopter coming will give you time enough to get it off…like time enough to pull out of the water tub and put some clothes on when bathing.

Six Mammoth Donkeys, ranging in age right now between 6 months and 3 years plus an aged Jenny (mother of two of the others) as my anchor in training and traveling. I may be crazy to have six…but at 800# mature (14 – 14.2hh) they won’t eat as much a Bob Skeldings three drafts…and they can eat brush and leaves like goats, along with grass). I reserve the right to change my mind, as well.

Fast walking…I hope so…for donkeys. I’ll train with that aim in mind, carrot on the stick just out of range. I rode and drove a large standard donkey I saved from death row. The Vets didn’t think I could rehabilitate him, but we fooled them. I saw the life in his eye and listened to his plea to live. In the 1970s, we traveled with one of my young children on his back and the other two in the cart with me. He went along great and never lost a kid as they changed places so all could ride. But when the hill got somewhat steep, he stopped. I clucked him on. He lowered his head. Something must be wrong with poor Poncho. I stepped out of the cart and up came his head and he stepped on. I train well (by horses and donkeys), from then on when he was going up hill and slowed his step and lowered his head, I stepped out and walked it. The donks and I will work it out. I can still walk.

And Lolita, I love that name. I named one of my Morgan fillies Lolita; and I named one of my three yearling Jennets (which I bought as a day old donkey foal) Lolita. She is pretty as a picture – sweet and cheeky, alternatively. Best wishes for you and your husband and the trip across the US. Whoohoo!

— MaryAnna · Monday October 7, 2013 · #

Dear Steve and Lolita, You asked about traveling across the US on mule and wagon vs bike. At the risk of a wagon shaft across the chops next time I show up to borrow my buddy Ronald’s wagon, I’d say take off on the bikes. Once you’re on the road, you’ll have the Adventurer Mantle on your shoulders and, should the urge strike, you can trade up to mules. Main thing is to just get going as soon as possible. Cheers! Bernie

bernie · Wednesday October 16, 2013 · #

Howdy MaryAnna, Got a kick out of your Poncho story. I’m a big fan of burros – big ones, little ones and wild ones. But especially fast ones. Burros in general remind me of a cross between a desert island goat and my ’92 Dodge diesel. Skinny, grey and able to grind away decade after decade. Neither are fast. Which brings up my favorite donks. The ones that walk out. Because damn they can be s…..l….o…..w….. Sounds like Poncho taught you that.
One of my crusty mule buddies suggests, when choosing a donkey, to walk in to the herd, light a firecracker and see which one runs away the fastest. That’s the one you want…. Okay. That’s just a theory. Maybe you can tell me how it pans out! All the best with your 62 chromosome adventures. Bernie

bernie · Wednesday October 16, 2013 · #

Hi Bernie, Just got on your website for the first time in a long time. Wanted you to know I had a book published and remembered what you told me about Xlibris. I am writing a sequel and wanted to know if I could use one of your real life stories. I want to tell about how you threw everything overboard when you were sailing around the world. My book is an inspirational fiction and the Pastor is telling this story to the guys at the coffee shop. Wanted to get your permission first. Would also like to use your name, too. Can’t wait to hear from you. Bro. Joe and everyone at the radio station says “Hello.”
Merry Christmas!
Connie Johnson

— Connie Johnson · Thursday December 4, 2014 · #

Enjoying reading some of your adventures,glad to know you are well and still travelling. We are all well, the girls are growing up. Would love to hear from you some time.

— Louise Peddle · Tuesday October 27, 2015 · #

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