It has been a busy spring and early summer. I just got home after a couple weeks on the road, and I need to get this issue of the magazine to the printer, make last minute changes to our wall calendars, a few videos edited and off to RFDTV, before I can head off again for nearly a week to attend AJ Woolstenhulme's Hay Day at his Victor, Idaho, ranch. I am really looking forward to it. I met AJ a few years ago when he and his family were visiting the Julian family in Medford, Wis., and I was there filming Jason Julian's logging operation with his American Brabants.
Over the next several months, AJ had shown me photos and told me stories about the ranches and the men and women who work them in the area. He then told me he was hosting a "Hay Day" at his place where he and others would be mowing, raking and loose-haystacking with a buckrake and overshot stacker. Not for demonstration purposes. It's just how they do it. I was sorely disappointed to find out I had a conflict that year. And the next. So this year I blocked out every weekend in July so when AJ determined which one he would be able to make hay during, I would be available. So next week I am off to Victor, Idaho., and am looking forward to it.
We just got back from one of the best Horse Progress Days ever. The weather was ideal. Low humidity, highs in the low 70s, partly cloudy most of the time, it was perfect conditions for bystanders, vendors, teamsters and horses. The grounds were in perfect shape. Mount Hope Auction always provides an excellent facility for the event, and it was perfectly organized. We will have full reports on the event in the next issue. I got to spend some time with Bob Erickson, one of the nicest men you could ever meet, who is a terrific donkey trainer and metal fabricator extraordinaire. Bob put up with me long enough for me to get sufficient footage for a show that will be on our TV program this month.
A few days earlier, we had been in Jefferson, Ohio, where Suffolk Punch breeders and teamsters were holding their Summer Gathering. I got to meet a lot of folks I had just communicated with over the phone or by email, and made a lot of new friends. We have some photos in this issue, and we'll have an episode on our TV show this month.
We missed the first day of the gathering because I had just returned from eastern Oregon, where I covered two days of the Pendleton Round-Up Wagon Train. It couldn't have been better weather, and the horsemen and horsewomen were top-notch as were their stock. Superior horses, mules and a few ponies. I had a great time and know it will make a terrific couple of TV shows on RFD-TV this month (see the schedule at the back of the magazine to see when the show airs). And remember, if you don't get RFD-TV, you can watch almost all our shows on our YouTube channel. Just search for "Rural Heritage." Don't forget to subscribe so you will be alerted when we post new shows each week.
° ° °
Because I’ve been involved with mission work in Haiti and have a lot of friends there, I was especially distressed to learn of the assassination of the Haitian president. The country has suffered from a long string of corrupt or incompetent leaders, some of them vicious in their response to political opponents. Its latest exleader, Jovenel Moise, had been embroiled in several scandals including massive fraud and misappropriation of funds. Ruling by decree, he had begun dismantling the nation’s constitution piece by piece. His clutch on power had been so successful that now, with him gone, there are precious few left in government to take over, and those remaining lack unity. We are all hoping for the best but fearing for the safety of our friends.
° ° °
Being involved in news reporting a lot of my professional life, I’ve met many event promoters. They come up with big ideas and try to sell them to anyone who will listen. Most times, the results they deliver fall short of their promises.
A couple months ago, I was contacted by Marty Ray Gordon of Shelbyville, Tenn., about an event he was planning for September called the American Mule and Bluegrass Festival. It took a little while for him to tell me all he had planned. Over five days, there would be several saddle and draft mule shows, a two-day wagon train, dozens of bluegrass performances, several evening concerts, square dancing and cloggers, a mule pull, skidding competition, mule clinics, chuckwagon cooking, an American craft fair and lots more.
I was dubious; he had only a few months to pull this off. Well, he's shown he is up to the task. His apparently boundless energy, coupled with some amazing volunteers, has gotten the ball rolling in a big way.
If you go to their website at: americanmuleandbluegrassfestival. com, you'll see for yourself all that’s planned. Tickets are available now. The weeklong, $45 pass gets the ticket holder into the festival all five days as well as admission to the special Thursday night Rhonda Vincent concert.
It has a lot to offer for an inaugural event. But Gordon seems up to the task, and Shelbyville, of course, is a great facility to showcase the American mule.