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Saturday, January 23, 2016

Wagon Train, Part 1 of 3

 Last summer our family had the opportunity to fulfill a lifelong dream.  For years each of us had wanted to experience what the settling of the west must have been like.  It so happened that my aunt and uncle were going to join a wagon train reenactment and invited us to go along.

This is our chuck wagon.  Note the side board that folds down for food prep. and the chore lists.
  This adventure began in Jamestown, ND at the old Ft. Seward.  Turns out, its an annual event.  About 150 fellow history enthusiasts get together and spend a week traveling for about 70 miles over dirt roads, country lanes, and through fields in covered wagons. It is an organized event with professional teamsters that run ten or so wagons.  The wagons are neither Conestoga nor schooner, but rather a small wagon made for more modern adventure purposes.
This is a window that can zip closed at night or in the event of a storm.
 We spent weeks sewing the required period-costumes and outfitting as much as we could.  My aunt and uncle would ride horseback the entire way, while The Wood Artist, Laughing Water, Mr. Blueberry Eyes and I would take turns riding in the wagon and trading out one of the horses.
That first night of orientation, we were so excited, we could barely contain ourselves, but because Laughing Water was just recovering from a bad cold, we decided to stay in a hotel before hitting the trail the next day.  Were we glad we did!  It rained heavenly buckets on the campers, horses, and wagons. We didn't know it then, but the whole operation would soon be incredibly thankful for that rain.  But, I'm getting ahead of myself.
I'm pretty sure our foremothers didn't get to sit on red carpeted benches!

Early the next morning all of our gear was loaded onto horse trailers and taken ahead of us.  (Not exactly authentic, but we had a lot of bodies to fit on those ten wagons!)  The horses were frisky and pawing the ground, ready to go.  This is the most dangerous part of the trip.  It had been a year since these beauties had seen each other and pulled anything with so many other horses and people around and it takes them awhile to calm down and find there groove.  At least two run-aways happened in those first few minutes.  Because of this, the teamsters started out first and the people walked until the horses broke the circle and started down the road.  Then it was a mad run (prairie skirts flying) to catch up with our assigned wagons.
Laughing Water waiting for the procession to start.
 I think each of us had our own reasons for wanting to do this.  The Wood Artist is a local history enthusiast.  I used to live in a Laura Ingalls world of imagination when I was a child.  Laughing Water is all about the costumes, and Mr. Blueberry Eyes is all about the horses and pitting his budding strength again weather and fate.
 I suppose that first rainstorm and the run-aways the first 1/2 hour of the trip just underscored that we were really trying out what our forefathers and mothers had done.  Its dangerous. It was a commitment to something not entirely nameable.  Hope? Dreams? Freedom?
The first bit was a muddy mess because of the torrential rains the night before.

Here we are trying to catch up to our wagon without letting our hurrying skirts spook the already frisky horses.

 Our teamster, Mark, was amazing. His horses knew his quiet voice and would obey the slightest command even in the midst of rattling wheels and the loud chatter of children.
 Mr. Blueberry Eyes was in heaven.  This is what he is all about.  He had hoped to take his own horse, but sadly, we had to put him down only weeks before.  I think it helped to have other horses around for a while.
 The Wood Artist was a champ.  He had never been around horses and that first day tripled his time ever spent on a horse. He knew nothing about how to handle or care for them, but dug right in and learned.  This guy, Rebel, had a thing for mud puddles and before The Wood Artist had been in the saddle a half hour, he found himself vaulting into the air as this gentle giant decided to roll in one of those delicious new puddles. Lesson 1: When encountering water with this boy, keep those reigns up. (They don't call us green horns for nothin'!) Later I made friends with a gal who had been behind him at that moment.  Her comment was, "Oh!  That's your husband?  He has some moves!"  Haha.  Well, yes. 
 Each person, whether riding a horse, walking or wagoneering is assigned a wagon "family".  This was ours.  The gentleman in the red kerchief was our teamster. The other family in our wagon just happened to be a home school family from Missouri.  We bonded instantly and had a marvelous time. I still miss their precious faces. My aunt and uncle are on the right.
 These little guys couldn't have been sweeter, cuter, or more well behaved.
The real horse people among us.

Me and my cowboy.

Would we have been ones to venture west a hundred and sixty years ago?  I think maybe so.  I like my cush, but that sense of adventure is pretty strong in my blood.  You, know that Baggins vs. Took thing.

I'll show more of the details of the trip in the next posts.   - Nanette

Saturday, January 2, 2016

To you, our beloved family and friends!
I'm sitting looking out over a snowy landscape, delighting in the nuthatches that have made an appearance at our new bird feeder, and taking stock of our lives this past year. I'm just soaking in the good memories and letting the bad memories slide down my cheeks and away. This life, this messy, beautiful life... So here's the good:
 After four, agonizingly long years, The Wood Artist was able to trade in his slick truck job  (hauling pipe in the Bakken oilfields of North Dakota) for a carpenter's belt here at home. What a blessing that, last August, he was able to get a job back at home in the construction field.  We are soaking up family time and giving thanks for every moment. He keeps busy helping me parent two lively teenagers, and getting caught up on long-overdue projects.

My year has been full of personal stretching.  Some days are best described as, "There appears to have been a struggle." But, truly, God has been so good to me! I still run my reading therapy studio and love my students.  This year I added an experimental group class in writing and literature. I'm testing the waters to see how I might expand my business as I have more time.  Another area that has been a dream fulfilled is that I started teaching at the hybrid school that our kids attend. It is a one-day school where you can sign up for various classes according to your need/interest.  The kids are accountable to the teacher, but are able to work at home within their own needs/learning styles. I get to teach humanities (a mix of history and literature) to twenty-nine 3rd and 4th graders.  I'm being stretched as I've never taught the Socratic literature circle before, but am continually inspired by the fires of curiosity that are lit in my classroom.  What an extraordinary group of kids!

My other activities are home schooling our kids and trying to squeeze in the healthy things like snow shoeing, walking, and personal education.  I'm pretty sure my posterior is welded to the seat of the car as I facilitate the myriad of activities our kids find to participate in.

 Laughing Water is 16 now. Wow! She was so little when I started this blog! She's a junior. We home school her, but really, with attending the hybrid school and taking a math class online, we really don't spend any time teaching her.  She lives in a world of books and friends, tea and conversation.  It is fun to listen as she talks about what she wants to do with her future.  Her faith is important to her and she spends much time deeply pondering it.

She has taken up writing in earnest and has her first article-for-pay being published by "Insight" magazine this month. She is involved in a journalism class and writes for our valley's home school newsletter.  This photo of her was taken on the Gulf of Mexico while she was enroute to Brazil for a mission trip.  She sailed on a mission boat up the Rio Negra and helped with health clinics and children's ministries.  Most of the trip was a wonderful experience. However, she came down with Montezuma's revenge and spent Thanksgiving Day on IVs.  She bounced back quickly, though, and returned with a plethora of wonderful stories.

She took driver's ed last summer and will soon be able to help me with all that driving.
Mr. Blueberry Eyes is 13 and in the seventh grade. He is one of the hardest working kids I've ever known. He is definitely happiest in a pair of downhill skis or on the back of a horse.  It was a year of stretching for him, too, as he spent a month working on my aunt and uncle's ranch in North Dakota.  He had just had to say goodbye to his own horse, so it was comforting to be around other horses.  He did lots of chores and helped with tack and equipment and even pulled a few weeds.  He is pretty sure he was born to be a rancher.

This boy has grown 2 inches since August, and that would explain his enormous capacity for sleep and food!  It is such a joy to watch his sense of humor grow and his curiosity about the world around him take on new levels.

Probably our best memory of 2015 was our vacation in June.  For a week, we participated in the Fort Seward wagon train re-enactment based out of Jamestown, ND. We were assigned a covered wagon with an experienced teamster and traveled 70 miles by riding in that wagon, walking, or riding horseback, all the while dressed in the clothing in keeping with the period. We ate at the chuckwagon and sang around the campfire, and soaked in the experiences that shaped our country. We had the time of our lives and by the end of the week had 150 new friends that felt like family.  I'll post more about it soon.

We send our love to you all in this new year!