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Wagon Thanksgivings Past & Present

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11/25/10, La Garita, CO - Once again, the lads and I had a very nice Thanksgiving. This year, Jerry and Bonnie opened up the cafe at the La Garita Trading Post for a community pot luck dinner. A great time was had by all. This is my third Thanksgiving since I started my travels.  

In 2008, I was on Journey One, traveling from New Hampshire to Mississippi.  The day started out as a travel day, then I was invited to have dinner and stay the night with the Valentine family, in Johnsville, OH.  From the Valentineís I learned that even if you donít have a lot of material possessions, if you have your family, you have a lot to be thankful for.

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Valentine Family, Johnsville, OH - Thanksgiving, 2008

In 2009, Denise and I celebrated Thanksgiving just after starting Trip #3. We were about a week into the trip, when several friends joined us while we were camped at JW Jonesí place in Gosport, IN.  Deep fried turkey is Great! I found that being out in nature, with good weather and lots of good friends gives a man a lot to be thankful for.

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Horse Camp with friends. What a wonderful way to spend Thanksgiving - Gosport, IN - Thanksgiving, 2009

Thanksgiving for 2010 is a little different from the previous two years. Iíve ended trip #3 here in the San Luis Valley of Colorado. Iím currently the guest of my friends Jerry and Bonnie Nusbaum in La Garita, CO. The team is resting for the winter and relearning what itís like to be a regular horse.  After 6000 miles of travel in the previous 2 years, itís a well deserved rest.

The town of La Garita and the surrounding area is a very tight knit community. Neighbors trust and depend on each other and are generally all friends.  So, everyone that wasnít going to a real large family event just headed down to the trading post for a community dinner - what a great time. This year, I learned that a close-knit community and good neighbors gives someone a lot to be thankful for.

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La Garita neighbors having Thanksgiving dinner.  La Garita, CO - 2010

Of all the horses, only Doc has been with me for all three of these Thanksgivings on the road. So, when I went down to give them their Thanksgiving alfalfa, I tried to give him the biggest pile.  But, they all moved around to see which pile was the best and ended up on different ones. In the end, they were very Ďthankfulí for what they got.

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Enjoying some Thanksgiving alfalfa with the lofty Sangre De Cristo (Blood of Christ) mountains in the background

Even when times are especially tough, a lot can be found to be thankful for. If you canít see it right at that moment, just be a little patient, situations have a way of changing, often real quick. This morning, I had a good flashback type memory of how quickly situations change for the better and leave a man with something to be thankful for. 

Nearly a year ago, Denise and I had a very difficult day on the wagon. The morning started out in Chester, Illinois.  After making our way through city traffic, we faced a difficult bridge crossing of the Mississippi River. After a harrowing crossing, we drove several miles across a nearly deserted flood plain, then scaled the bluffs on the western side of the river.  Several miles, and another city later, it was getting dark and the horses were dog tired.  The road was narrow and traffic was heavy. With darkness almost upon us, we finally found a place where we might be down for the night.  On the third knocking, a man finally answered and agreed to let us camp in his backyard.

What followed were two of the most wonderful days of the journey.  We had landed with the Stortz family. 11 year old Heather Stortz was a child prodigy, who was a very accomplished singer, songwriter and musician. While we stayed there, she serenaded us with her magic.  If that wasnít enough, the Stortzís tracked us down a day further down the road, so Heather could play and sing for me the song she had written about the Wagonteamster.

Before she left, Heather gave me a cassette recording of ďThe JourneyĒ. Unfortunately, I didnít have a cassette player on the wagon. Today, I found the cassette and played it in the truck - it brought tears to my eyes. Almost a year later, I had a real reminder of how fast things can change.  One day, a year ago, I went from having a long, arduous, difficult and dangerous day; to comfort, love and even having a talented artist compose and sing a song about me. 

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

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Eleven Year Old Heather Stortz, Perryville, MO - 2009