Wagonteamster - Sneak Preview

Chapter 1

A Dream

It would be pretty tough to find something more spectacular then driving four beautiful Percheron draft horses, pulling a large wagon through the Vermont countryside on a perfect September day.

I was up well before the first gray of dawn. The moon had set around one am, so the night was dark and still. I went to check the horses and could vaguely make out the three grays, but with her black coat, Joyce was cloaked in darkness.

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The horses were harnessed and hitched by 9:30 am. There was a minor rodeo trying to drive the wagon out of the yard. The tires had sunk into the soft ground and it took a considerable effort to break it out. Finally, when the horses decided to pull together we started to roll down the street. I was loaded down with some great hay, thanks to my hostess and a nice lady across the street whose daughter rode with me for a short time. The daughter had driven single and was excited about the chance to drive four in hand.

The path through Rutland was mostly through suburban neighborhoods, quiet with the kids at school and the parents off to work. I was cutting across the southwest corner of Rutland before joining up with a highway leaving the city. I had to take a detour because of low overhead clearance from a railroad bridge. Coming around a corner, I saw my detour was a 10 foot wide, 150 foot long, single lane bridge with steel planks.

As soon as the hooves from my lead horse hit the steel planking, I knew this was going to be a tough crossing. He danced around on the steel for about two minutes, very nervous about the sound of metal on metal and the lack of traction.  Fortunately, there was a fairly tall steel truss on each side of the bridge, so I wasnít worried about the team going over the side.  With white knuckles I started talking calmly to the team. Doc and the rest of the horses started to feed off my calmness and with a nervous trot began pulling the wagon across the bridge.

Just beyond the bridge, there was a grain store, so I pulled in and bought three bags of grain and a couple of mineral blocks. The team waited patiently without being tied while I went inside. Like most businesses we stopped at, the owner and employees were quite excited to see a wagon pulled by four giant Percheron draft horses.

Most of our route was through higher terrain and offered good view of downtown Rutland.  We stopped for a ten minute break every hour. Whenever we stopped, several people would show up, anxious to see the horses and know more about what I was doing. I would explain that I didnít have a set goal in mind, I was just off to have see America, meet people and enjoy our great country. The traffic on our route was heavier then it was moving through the city, but the horses didnít mind a bit. I steered them down the right hand side of the road and they stuck to their path.

We stopped for lunch in a shopping center parking lot in the town of West Rutland. Several people stopped by to chat, pet and see the horses.  Before I prepared my own meal, I first had to unhitch, unbridle, water, and feed the team. I have been on my journey now for three weeks and Iíve learned that I have to eat quick at lunch. Thereís a lot of good people that want to visit and I had to save time for them.

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I pulled in to Ed Woodburyís place for the night.  He grew up farming with horses and was happy to have me camp at his place.  For the evening corral, I erected a portable electric fence. After I unharnessed the horses, I turned the them into their fenced area for the night. With the help of his neighbor, Ed used some milk cans to haul in water for the horses.

The Gates family stopped by to bring me some groceries and a copy of the Eagle Times Newspaper, which had a nice article on the wagon, the team and I.  I had a very pleasant evening with Gates family. They are what I call groupies - nice people that were enchanted with the idea of the horses and wagon. They loved the excitement and sense of adventure offered by the wagon.  Often groupies would follow the wagon for several days. Nearly all of them are great company and I enjoyed their company as much as they enjoyed mine.  We had a very pleasant evening.

The word ďblissĒ best summed up my feelings about the day - a little excitement, nice places and people, but overall, just pure Bliss!


An Idea is Born

My name is Bob Skelding and Iím driving a wagon, pulled by four Percheron horses on a journey throughout the United States. My only goals are to see new places, meet plenty of nice people, and to enjoy this great country of ours like itís meant to be enjoyed.  I started the trip in Deerfield, New Hampshire and traveled nearly 1800 miles to Mississippi.  After an accident in Mississippi the trip is being resumed in Indiana.  I donít know where Iím going or where Iíll end up, but I think Iím really going to enjoy the people and the places along the way. This is how I got started:

About half the people in the world want to be free of bills and a daily grind, Iím one of them. My dream is to travel freely about the country, seeing new places and meeting new people. Itís hard to take the steps necessary to live a freedom type lifestyle.  I quit a well paying job, sold my house and possessions, packed everything into a sixteen feet long wagon and hit the road.

Itís hard to separate yourself from security and material belongings and move completely out of your comfort zone. However, if youíre determined enough it can be done. Sometimes life hands you a ďDo-OverĒ - a window in your life where you can do everything over, exactly like you want. My window of opportunity came with a divorce.  With both my kids almost done with college, I no longer had to provide material support for other people.

When I told family and friends about my intentions, I received a wide range of comments, which included: ďYou go dadĒ!  ďYouíre nutsĒ.  ďThatís pretty coolĒ. I also received a lot of questions, like:  ďHow are you going to make enough money to support yourself?Ē or ďWhat if this or that happens?Ē  Surprisingly, what I did not receive was any doubt about the seriousness of my intended actions.  I guess I had pulled enough crazy acts in my life, that people took me serious. By and large, friends and family realized that money didnít mean everything to me and this was a dream of mine.  As such, they were very supportive.

The sole purpose of the trip is to travel by horse and wagon and meet people. I want them to share their experiences with me and Iíll share mine with them. Iím not supporting any cause, trying to achieve a goal, nor am I sponsored by anyone. The reason Iím traveling in this fashion is because it combines all the things I like best and eliminates those I like least. Also, I canít think of a cooler thing to do.

I first came up with the idea of the wagon in November of 2007.  My second marriage was beginning to fall apart and I asked myself what I wanted to do after I was divorced. At the time I had been employed for fifteen years at an Electrical Maintenance Instructor in a nuclear power plant. Life had become fairly routine and predictable.  Society tells us that we should all have well paying jobs and use the money we earn to purchase things for our leisure time.  I decided to search outside of the society box when looking for an answer.  Once I dropped society rules and left everything on the table the solution was easy to come up with.

I listed the things that I really liked in life. I also made a list of those things I could do without. I then asked myself how I would achieve everything on the first list and leave everything behind on the second. This is how my list looked:

Things I Like                                          Things I Donít Like

1. Travel                                                1. Paying Bill and Taxes

2. Horses                                                2. Going to work everyday

3. Meeting People                                    3. The same old routine

4. A degree of comfort                           4. Making money to pay everyone else

5. Freedom to do what I like                   5. Working hard and going nowhere

6. Writing                                               6. My Job

Next, I asked myself how could I get everything on the first list without having anything from the second. The answer was a horse drawn wagon that had most of the comforts of home. 

In order to virtually eliminate bills, I also had to get rid of the house and whatever else I might have to pay for storage on.

Before I actually decided on the venture, I asked myself Ďwhat sacrifices do I have to make in order to make this happen?í and Ďcan I make the sacrifices necessary to make this dream a reality?í  Hereís how I answered those questions:

     Sacrifices, Potential Problems                 Answers

1. No home base to return to.                     With no one else to support, I could make                                                                           home anywhere

2. I could encounter a problem a little         Lots of friends in New                                   ways down the road and be stuck.               Hampshire to help

3. I could run out of money.                      I could stop and get a job,

4. Lowered degree of material comfort       Iíve lived a lot rougher.  I could get used                                                                            to this life style.

Once I decided that I could deal with the sacrifices and potential problems, I knew that I could make this dream a reality. The next big step was getting started and actually achieving my goals.  One thing I knew for sure was that I had to be steadfast in working to completion all of the steps necessary to make the dream a reality.

This book will be the exciting story of the first journey from New Hampshire to Mississippi. It will show how I got started and prepared for the journey, to include all the challenges we faced along the way. After a magical crossing of Americaís heartland, Iíll describe the devastating accident in Mississippi.  The tragedy and despair of the crash was then turned into the triumph of healing, rebuilding and returning to the road. But more then anything else, this book will prove the kindness and generosity of the great American people.  

Available in late October, 2009 from Wagonteamster.com.

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