Thursday, August 26, 2004


Originally uploaded by bambis_black_rainbow.
...there was a time before fencing...
this is an audio post - click to play

A Trail Through History...

this is an audio post - click to play

Imagine if you can, a weathered old cowboy on the Western Trail around 1880, driving a herd of Texas longhorns to Dodge City, Kan. His Stetson is pulled low over his eyes and his wet bandana is tied tight over his mouth and nose to keep out the swirling dust kicked up by the cattle.

His men are strung out the length of the indifferent herd - just over 2,500 head. The men have a sixth sense about this innocent summer day, and they are on edge. They know the dust can turn to mud in a minute. They know that the docile animals they're driving can, with a flash of lightning, turn into raging beasts in less time than that. It is an uneasy ride.

They've been here before. The prairie has been open range, without fence or farm, since they left Ft. Griffin. Day is drawing to a close. Whatever the night brings, they will face alone.

Now fast-forward to 2004. The trail boss reaches into her shirt pocket for a Cingular wireless phone. She turns it on its side and takes a picture of the fenced pastures up ahead that used to be part of the old trail. She clicks a button and checks the picture she just snapped. Now she dials a phone number to and presents her username and password and downloads the picture to, which is the official blog, or web log, of Celebrate the Western Trail.

She keys in another number and tells the story of today's ride in her Texas drawl. When she is finished with her five-minute report, she keys the cell phone and her voice is placed on the On the Trail Blog, along with the earlier photo.

Children in China will access the website of the blog to read and see progress up the historic cattle trail. Students in Poland can see the same post and discuss how life must have been in the American West of earlier days. The lesson is learning English-as-a-Second-Language, the history of the American Frontier and the uses of technology, all brought about by a review of the blog.

When the trail ride comes to rest by the campfire at the next town on their itinerary, someone will present our trail boss with a set of questions gathered from the day's e-mails and she will decide which ones to answer by e-mail and which ones to answer on the blog.

Tomorrow, when the kid in Nebraska checks the automatic posting of the On the Trail Blog, he'll find out from the trail boss that the batteries are recharged each night and that at least two sets of fresh batteries are always on hand.

Bandera Regional Comm-unity Foundation sponsors the On The Trail Blog, one of the educational components of Celebrate the Western Trail. The foundation organized the Friends of the Western Trail in 2003, whose purpose is to support the trail ride, and to preserve the history and heritage of the American West. The trail ride will leave Bandera on Sept. 6, Labor Day, and follow the Western Trail to Dodge City, Kan.

The blogging, the brainchild of Elderbob Brannan, ( will occur daily for the duration of the trail drive. The On the Trail Blog will also contain a historical narrative that relates to actual sites on the trail, described by Brock Jones III, a professor at Sul Ross University. Jones is blind and will use a voice-assisted computer device to write his post.

Please join the trail ride electronically on the Internet. You are welcome to point your browser to, the On the Trail Blog, for a daily update on the progress of Celebrate the Western Trail.

Celebrate the Western Trail is part of Celebrate Bandera, the annual Labor Day weekend celebration of Bandera's frontier heritage. Celebrate Bandera is also sponsored by the Bandera Regional Community Foundation. The purpose of both events is to raise money for the Bandera County Disaster Relief Fund and to help finance the cost of marking the Western Trail in Texas.


Monday, August 23, 2004

The project starts...

…I had wanted to do some sort of interactive, constructivist blog for some time. And there it was, a note from Sharon Hutson down at Half-Way Ranch outside of Comanche about a neighbor that she knows, who is involved in a three-state cattle drive just like in the old days.

Immediately, thoughts start roaming my head with cowboys on horseback posting audio blogs about cattle herding being heard by boys and girls from Poland to China as an adjunct to their classroom studies of English as a foreign language. Real Texas cowboys talking in real Texas jargon about a real Texas cattle drive…broadcast around the world. Kids and adults could comment on the daily blog posts and through the aide of a laptop, directly to the wranglers. The wranglers, in turn, would be able to see how many people around the world were following their quest. Pictures of the Drive would be downloaded daily from cell-phones and displayed in blog galleries to show visually what things looked like from the back of a saddle in the middle of a real trail drive.

The trail drive is called “Ride of the Century – Adventure of a Lifetime”. It is an authentic cattle drive and Wagon Train from Bandera, Texas, across three states ending at Dodge City, Kansas. It begins on Septemeber 6 and expected to finish on October 23. Six Hundred and Fifty Five miles in Forty-eight days.

I don’t even have the details worked out, when Sharon interjects that I have til Tuesday to pull this off, because that’s when her friend goes off to do advance work on the Trail Drive. That doesn’t give me a lot of time. I still need to get hold of Brock out at Sul Ross in Alpine for his daily history of the route of the trail. He has access to tons of western historical data that could really liven up the blog….if he is willing to do this.

And the blog itself…I have to set up a new blog to make it easy for trail drivers and viewers and listeners alike to access. And I haven’t even contacted the lady in charge of communication to see if she thinks we can do this. I decide right away, that even if she says “no:, I will still have the thing set up to do some other project of a similar nature. Something that links the far corners of the world to a real time event of some nature that has within itself lessons that can be learned to better all of us. And above all, something that becomes what the users want it to become…interactive and constructivist…

Sharon says, I need to have a proposal to her husband by Tuesday, when he can tell Dixie about the details. I start a proposal in Word, but before the first sentence hits the page, I think, “Wait, if this is constructivist, then I’ll post the whole thing on the blog.” So off to to set up the “Elderbob On The Trail” blog. A few connections later and is born. Next on to Audioblog set up the connections that will make it possible to post the audio MP3s on the blog each day. Select a template, and I am almost done. Now all I have to do, is get everyone’s permission and willingness to work together on this to get it all done.

Note to Sharon: As you can see I have already put something together. I would appreciate it if you would have your husband let Dixie Turner know about this blog and a phone number where she can reach me or the phone number where she can make an audio post that will be on the blog. I will be sending you information on both via email.

Note to Dixie Turner: Well, if you read this far, you have an idea of what I have in mind. You know why I want to do it, but I suspect that you can find a lot of other useful ends from the product. I hope you will tell me that is both possible and that you are interested. Even if I am too late to cover this trail drive, there will be others. This one just sounded like the right one to me. I hope you feel the same way.

Note to Brock in Alpine: Ok Dude, is this enough of a challenge for you, is it too much. You can find the itinerary here. I think it is a treasure trove of Western Lore. As far as I am concerned you are free to put what you will on the blog, either audio or text. If you need assistance editing or posting the text, let me know. Short of that, if you will write out the script, I will see if I can get Tom Dodge to read it everyday for the duration.

To the readers: Ok, so far so good. Now the hard part starts. This is a first time experience for me and probably for the rest of those involved. I am convinced that even if we make errors, in the long run it will be a marvelous project.

To the educators and students: I haven’t forgotten you. I want to involve you as best I can, so I am leaving it open as to how best to serve your needs. Please let me know how I can do that.

elderbob - the blog boss