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The Kids Of Missoula

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7/17/12, Lolo, MT - The wagon is currently 4 miles north of the U.S. 12 turn west in Lolo, on U.S. 93/12. Today was a very special day in Missoula.  The children of this fine city turned out in droves to welcome and be welcomed by the team.  Above all else the lads excel at taking normal children and turning them into horse petting, treat feeding, equine riding, young horse people. Today the Amigos got a lot of practice at their trade.

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This young lady from Louisiana was visiting her grandpa and had a nice first experience with horses.

As the boys pulled the wagon into Missoula, they had several encounters like the one shown above. But, when we reached Missoula and stopped at the Albertsonís Grocery Store, they really went to work. While I was inside grabbing some groceries, quite a crowd gathered outside. One the hard and fast rules I have for my travels is that I always stop for children to pet and meet the horses.

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Malaya, who later rode with me to Murdochs farm store, is feeding Doc a treat as he offers a seat to a young lady.

Unless you spend time with horses, itís hard to imagine the effect they can have on the young and old alike. Thereís something magical about petting, feeding or sitting on one of these powerful animals. You know they have strength many time over your own, but they also possess a warmth and gentleness that goes right to the heart.

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Three sisters giving Doc a little love.

When you look in their faces, you know these great animals have somehow changed the child. Itís like they have special powers to spread good with whom all they encouter.

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This little girl is a childhood cancer survivor. I think she fell in love with Doc. Her father worked at Albertsonís and kept going into the store to bring apples for the lads.  Doc once stayed a couple of days at an apple orchard and mastered the technique of eating an apple with little waste. He pulls the whole thing in his mouth and manages to use his back teeth to munch up the apple without any spillage.  To him, the Belgians are amateurs.  Where they were standing at the head of the wagon, a huge pile of apple droppings covered the ground.

It was a 3 mile ride down to Murdochís Farm Store where I had to get a new spare tire for the trailer and a two week supply of grain to last until I get to Lewiston, ID.  Malaya, who grew up on a ranch, readily accepted my offer to ride there with me.

That morning, the newspaper featured the wagonteamster story on the front page, so we drew a lot of wellwishers as we drove down the busy street.  In true wagon tradition, Malaya, as the shotgun rider, took charge of most of the waving and greeting for the ride down the road.

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This little girl was initially a little afraid to get on Doc,  But, when mommy hopped up first, she got over her fears and had a good time.

The folks at Murdochís were fantastic. They were very helpful and even threw in an extra bag of feed and a bag of horse treats. Right now, Iím carrying 750 pounds of oats, which should be plenty to reach Lewiston, ID, on the Washington State Line.

At Murdochís we drew another big crowd and Doc got another workout with all the kids on his back.  They werenít all little girls, there were some boys as well, but I was always too busy to get their picture when they were on the horses.

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Life is good when you have your daddy and a giant horse!

Leaving Murdochís I had to make my way back to the route south and out of the city.  Traffic was heavy and the weather was hot, but the Belgians did a good job.

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Tooling through the streets of Missoula.

Traffic was heavy on the road south of Missoula. About 7 miles south of the city, I explored the area around an old truck weigh station as a possibility for a camping location.  Not finding anything suitable, I was about to give up and head down the road when the owners of the Blue Mountain Bed and Breakfast offered me a place with grass and water on their property. It was ideal.

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When first put out on new grass, Doc likes to walk around and strip the seed heads off the mature grass.  The Belgians prefer to eat their salad before the meal and go right for the green grass.

My hosts have been wonderful and even went to the trouble of preparing a gormet meal for my supper.

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Marinated Steak, Jambalya and fresh veggies are pretty hard to beat.

After supper, Malaya showed up for a horseback ride. We started for the hills, but with a thunderstorm approaching we decided that riding in the pine trees would probably not be too smart. So instead, we headed across the highway to see if we could ride near the river. About the time we discovered that the land near the river was too wet to allow a close approach, the skies opened up and gave everyone a nice, warm, summertime shower.  It was actually a nice and refreshing experience.

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With a storm approaching, Bill led the way down from the hills.

This has been a very enjoyable and rewarding day on the wagon. Tomorrow, Iíve been offered some nice grass and water 6 miles up the road and towards the pass from the town of Lolo.  In all likelihood, Iíll accept the offer and make a short day of it. After a 22 mile, hot day coming across the city, a cool stream sounds pretty good.

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Just at dusk, as I was sipping a drink on the wagon porch, a whitetail doe walked calmly along the fenceline about 75 feet away.

Thursday, my friend from Potomac, Brad Hall is going to join me for a ride up Lolo Pass. Iím sure it will be a great time.