Posted on

Two-state two-step

Two-state two-step
Two-state two-step
Wagon master Jim Stevens, right, of Newtonville, talks with his passenger as they prepare to drive across a bridge on Mathis Road Monday afternoon.

Mention the words ‘wagon train’ and images of the stereotypical wild west landscape dotted with a string of covered wagons with huge wooden spoke wheels and being pulled by burly horses come to mind.
While a few of the 13 wagons that rolled through Crawford and Harrison counties Monday and Tuesday as part of a nine-day, 160-mile trip resembled those old-time wagons, most had many creature comforts of today for their drivers (and three out-riders), who ranged from retirees to a teenage girl to even a prison school teacher.
The wagon train was part of the Southern Indiana Draft Horse and Mule Association’s second tour in as many years. Several years ago the group, which is now based in Perry County, used to call Corydon home. It still has some Harrison County participants.
Instead of looking for new land to conquer, those who take part in wagon trains are simply looking to enjoy life and the scenic countryside at a much slower pace.
‘I enjoy the people, the food and the lies,’ said 83-year-old Raymond Nix of Cannelton, who was making his second ride on the current trail. ‘The lies and stories and the occasional cold beer are the best part of it. That’s what I like about it and why I do it.’
For Jim Krutz of Derby, the ride serves as both a getaway from the everyday grind of life, but also as a form of healing after his wife passed away.
‘It’s one of those things I enjoy doing and she enjoyed it with me. It’s a way to remind myself of the time we had together,’ Krutz said while removing harnesses from his mules. ‘One of these mules was mine and one was hers, and she’d sit right up in that seat right there with me.’
Janet Drach of Ferdinand, who has taken part in a number of wagon trains, including one to Missouri, teaches at a Perry County prison. Last year on this route, she rode a mule. This time, she’s piloting a wooden buggy.
‘I actually preferred riding,’ Drach said. ‘It’s a little bumpier than being in the wagon, but you feel like you are able to help others out if something breaks down and you are more free to move around.’
Instead of thin wooden wheels that utilize a hand-brake, most homemade schooners these days use wheels, tires and seats from passenger cars; stopping power is provided by a hydraulic brake system. Power is provided by draft horses and mules, which have a reputation for being stubborn but can actually be smarter than they let on.
‘I have two mules that are 2 and 3 years old, and we were coming around a bend in the road that led to a fork. The one side was fairly flat, but the way that we needed to go was up a big hill. At the exact same time, those mules looked up the hill and immediately turned towards that flat stretch of road,’ said Vince Robertson of Boonville. ‘They decided it upon themselves they weren’t going to tackle that hill, so I had to steer them back the right way.’
The wagon train started near Tell City on Saturday and meandered through the quiet backroads of Southern Indiana to Leavenworth, then to Jean Brunner’s farm, located southwest of Corydon. From there the train was scheduled to make its way to Mauckport yesterday, camp underneath and then cross the Matthew E. Welsh bridge into Brandenburg on Wednesday, and then run parallel to the Ohio River, where it would eventually go into Hawesville, Ky., and cross the river back into the Hoosier state at Cannelton on Monday.

Click here for photo gallery