Monday, September 06, 2004

the day dawns....

this is an audio post - click to play

this is an audio post - click to play the fog begins to lift, there is a soft cacophony of work sounds and the smell of fresh coffee in the air. The occasional quiet clanging of metal against metal, the butter soft noise of leather being tightened, or cloth being rolled up, and the low din of "'mornin', sleep well?" are the tell-tale signs that camp is breaking up. As the sky lightens, movement of figures splays out against a blue grey background of early day. Cowboys and cowgirls move with a special deliberateness this morning. The visions of big hats, blue jeans, spurs and saddles, indicate the nearness of the hour of departure. There are lots of hugs, a few tears and an enormous energy about the campground. Family members pass last minute instruction back and forth to each other. They are nearing the mount-up. A dream is slowing awakening this dawning. A dream of traveling down a path blazed so many years ago for reasons all different than today’s path. All different and yet in a sense the same. Those earlier passers-by rode this way for the adventure too.

It’s Monday morning, September 6, 2004, in Bandera, Texas. The parades, and campfires and the dancing are over. Now the trail begins in earnest. Now the ride begins in reality. And at least for me, the story begins in virtual reality. This day will be a historic day for so many. This day will mark the changing of a life. This day will mark the start of another chapter in many people’s life story. This day will be the embarkation of the experience of a lifetime. This day will be the day that the trail riders of the Western Trail put dreams into reality. Six hundred and Fifty-Five miles from now….Forty-eight days from now….Three states away from here and now…the same riders will turn in their saddles and look back at the trail. The dream will BE reality.

I think there are a lot of us in the cyber world imagining what all this must look like. Over one hundred fifty horses and riders and over forty wagons and teams will ride off into this historic journey. For all of us, there is a blur between the historic accuracy of the thing that actually happened, over a hundred years ago, and the vision of what today and those that embrace today look like. For many of us the difference between now and then is a slender line. For these riders, now is all they have to think about. The remembering of the past will come from the experience of riding a horse or wagon up that once leading-edge of civilization. My task then is to give the reader of these posts the experience of riding along with our brave cowboys and cowgirls. Of realizing the same thoughts and sensations of those who are actually there. Of seeing what is left of a frontier from the back of a horse. I also owe it to those who are there to actually show how this experience is affecting them; to report accurately what they live. I think I must be just as excited about this beginning as those who are actually there.

So join us all for the coming weeks, for a foray into the past, the present and the future. As they used to say, “If the creeks don’t rise…” there will be daily posts regarding the progress of the trail riders, photos of what it looks like today, and tales about what life itself was like yesteryear. I am posting some maps tonight so you will have an idea of where we are all heading, and each day will tell you a bit about the historic value of that day’s ride. There will be interviews with trail riders and with the early settlers of this trail. There will be tales about cattle and trails from other places….from places you wouldn’t have thought would affect us here. There will be questions and comments from readers. And there will be activities to think about and to apply to your own present day lives.

So join me in waving a hearty farewell to this brave group of 21st century folks traveling down a 19th century byway. Godspeed to you all. May your trip be safe and eventful.
Bless you each and everyone.


If you would like to read a bit more about cattle drives, "Historic Sketches of the Cattle Trade of the West and Southwest, by Joseph G. McCoy is a pretty good place to start.

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