Eldon Walker has passed away. In his obituary it said he wrote one of the best things in life is harness that fits. He knew harness fit. He knew working a team.
For years my family threw a weekend wagon ride for friends at the home place.
Eldon lived maybe 40 miles from the site, but he didn’t trailer there. He drove his team.
One year on the way to our place, this black dog fell in with Eldon and followed him all the way to the ride.
When the ride was over the dog was still there. He was a pleasant little feller and Daddy took up with him.
Called him Eldon, of course.
Eldon lived at the barn and Daddy claimed he protected the place. It was obvious Daddy really liked that dog.
At the next year’s wagon ride Eldon drove his team to the camp as usual.
When it was all over and Eldon started home, the dog followed. We never saw the dog again.
Eldon said he thought the dog quit him about the same place he joined up the year before.
The wagon thing started with us when we made a leg of the bicentennial train in 1976. It was really my Grandad John Shaddox who got us all involved. Despite some problems on that trip – a story for another time – Grandad got wagon train fever and by the next year he and some friends from Springdale, Ark. had planned one.
It would leave my hometown of Harrison, Ark., in time to arrive at Springdale to ride in the parade kicking off their PRCA rodeo. In all, five and a half days travel over about 80 miles. Eldon went on that ride.
The first few years were priceless. Just a few wagons, all friends, and an outrider or two for each wagon.
It has been 39 years. It is now a giant production I hardly recognize. I went on year 25 because Mom wanted us all to go to honor Grandad. By then he was long gone to heaven.
It was still fun. Kind of getting to be a production, but I still knew most everyone running a wagon. By then the round-up clubs from each town had decided anyone who didn’t have a wagon but wanted to make the trip horseback could ride in a group behind the wagons.
In my opinion a mistake that forever damaged the point…which was to have a wagon train, but nobody asked me.
My boyfriend Mike is a good cowboy, but he’d never been on any wagon ride despite dragging thousands of calves to the fire.
Last year I thought we ought to go for a day or two so he could see what my family built. Well we left after one day. What a production. State police escort on the highway, full-time catering, and only a handful of people I knew.
On the day we rode, about mid morning I’d had enough of riding with the wagonmaster’s wagon. That’s my Daddy and Uncle Jimmie. A couple of folks who have gone on the train for years fancied themselves the lead wagon outriders and they were getting their tailfeathers in a twist.
They had no need to worry. I wouldn’t have been any help if something happened. Turned out my favorite cow pony was terrified if the wagon was behind him. If the mules had run off, he’d have beat them by a mile.
We rode back to find someone we knew who was having a little more fun. Our friend Ron Lowery was a few wagons back and we settled in there to visit. It was a good move.
Later on a guy comes trotting up to me.
“You know there’s a rule that each wagon can only have two outriders,” he said. Puffed his chest out and everything.
I guess there was someone riding along with Ron when we went back there. I didn’t really notice.
“Oh there is,” I said. “I think we will be OK.”
“The wagonmaster is Jim Parker and the rules are strictly enforced. I have been going on this train for years and I know him.”
Really? I guess he thought he was going to tattle on me.
“So you know the family who founded this train?”
“Yes. Jim and George are Mr. Shaddox’ sons-in-law.”
“Oh. Do you know Jimmie and George’s kids?”
“I know all of them.”
“So you know Kathy Parker?”
“Yep. All of them.”
I started laughing. “Well if you feel it necessary, just go up there and tell Mr. Parker I am violating the rules and point me out to him.”
The guy rode off. I asked Daddy later if he ever arrived. He didn’t. Somebody must have educated him. Or he lost his tattle nerve.
He didn’t understand. These are my people.

13 thoughts on “These are my people

  1. Change is seldom for the good, or so it seems to me, but we have to accept it or get out of the way.
    Ride on Parker.

  2. I’ll never forget any ride with Eldon was an adventure. One year his made had a colt. Couldn’t let it walk all the time, no room in wagon without a mess, so he pulled a trailer for it. Problem solved. Until one time it didn’t want in trailer and bailed off a 12′ embankment that had been freshley cut from limbs and brush. Took 6 teamsters n 5 cowboys (outriders) to manually push back up against it will.(Percheron colt). Eldon stood at back of wagon, I thought in shock) watching. After colt back in trailer, said, I knew if I waited, it’d come back.. Runningd wagon

  3. Funny Kathy!! I sure have missed being your uncle Jimmy And daddy George’s outrider ,Shorty Oizer and I rode up front for a few years,have missed 2 years due to Larry’s work,taking us too far away, hope we might get too this year,but we never know when the pipeline will call on us .the most fun ever riding with these guys!!รท

    1. Well there were just so many things from the first one we could never top…a lost team wearing the harness, being dragged through the sand burrs, bucked off a broke horse riding double… the list goes on and on!

  4. Love this story. Met George and Jimmy at trails end last year. We had a good visit at the rodeo. Nothing like the Parker family. Love u cousin.

  5. Interlopers! I’m surprised you let him off that easy.lol
    And I wanted to thank you for warning me off of that ride a year or two ago. If I want to spend time with a bunch of strangers I probably wouldn’t like I’ll spend a Saturday afternoon at Wal-Mart.
    Love Ya KP and you keep on blogging.

    P.S. Didn’t we used to ride over at Devil’s Den?

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