Nov 26, 2009

Back to Sunset Beach

We set out on Saturday, October 31st, about 8:30AM. Our little group included Ronald Hudson of Asheboro, North Carolina, driving two big mules, Tenbrooks and Alice, to his covered wagon, Billie Stevenson acted as his co-pilot. Also, Bernie Harberts, of Southern Pines, North Carolina in his world renown Lost Sea Expedition Wagon, with his trusty mule Polly and lastly, was yours truly, driving my little yellow, mule hotel, drawn by Mary and Jane.

As we headed away from the farm we made our way down through the little town of Wagram, North Carolina, where we made our first stop to get air in the tire on Ronald's wagon and grab a couple of hotdogs. As we rolled down the winding roads through the country, we came out at Maxton by the airport where I began to get sleepy and then actually fell asleep driving the mules. Next thing I remembered, a car horn startled me awake and I discovered that my mules had traveled completely over to the wrong side of the road. The horn was a deputy sheriff who had to drive into a ditch to get around me, but didn't even stop, just kept going! Come to find out, all my companions had been hollering at me to wake up, to no avail!

The plan was to stay in Maxton this night. Our good friend Buddy Locklear had offered us a place to stay, so on the way, we stopped at Food Lion, picked up some steaks and headed his way. Buddy and his wife, Margaret, were wonderful hosts. We cooked the steaks in the yard on one of the gas grills we carry with us, while Margaret was in her kitchen cooking up potato salad, boiled okra and Dixie Lee peas. She was also cooking hoe cakes and we got pretty excited because we found someone who could teach us how to make them! In our travels, we had been carrying frozen biscuits and they worked fine, but it is hard to find ice sometimes. We had been trying to make hoe cakes the last couple of trips, with no luck. For those of you not familiar with what a "hoe cake" is, it is derived from the slave days, where they would mix flour and milk or water and make a patty and cook them on a hoe over hot coals. As we drifted off to sleep, it had started to rain and I began to dread having to harness up in the rain in the morning.

By Sunday's first light, the rained had slowed to a light drizzle and we headed out towards Rowland. By the time we arrived, it was two in the afternoon, and fortunately, the rain had stopped. We hit the grocery store and then a convenience store that offers chicken or fish in a box, which consists of two pieces of fried chicken or fish with fried potato wedges and a roll. After the late lunch, we headed back down NC 130, across the bridge that runs over I95 to a back road heading towards a farm where we had stayed a night on a previous trip, but we arrived too early to stop and decided to push on another couple hours. A Little after four, the sun was getting low and we noticed the houses were getting farther apart, but I remembered that at the end of the road, there would be a cluster of houses, and it was at one of these, that we would ask permission to stay. Bernie drove Polly up into the carport of one of the homes and got out and knocked on the door. An older gentleman, by the name of Leo Hunt, answered the door. Mr. Hunt had been ill and was not able to come outside, but was gracious and offered us to stay in his front yard, and said that his brother would be in after awhile and he would send some things out to us. Leo must have called his brother Bobby, because he arrived with two bags of spots, (a type of saltwater fish), two collard plants and peanuts that were still on the vine. After visiting awhile, his kinfolk found out we were there and they came over and after meeting Bernie, bought every one of his books he had brought. We slept well that night.

Monday morning we threaded out way alongside the Lumber River swamp arriving in the town of Fair Bluff. We set up camp beside the river where the Chevrolet dealer had been. In a while we had a local newspaper man came by and inquire as to what we were doing. Then we had a couple more visitors who gave us a gallon of moonshine. As we started cooking supper, the 12 volt light on the side of my wagon quit working, so we broke out our gas lanterns.

Tuesday morning we treated ourselves to breakfast at restaurant that was a short walk down the road, then harnessed up and headed out. Outside of town, a man came up to our wagons and told us he had a family-owned house nearby, and that on our next trip, we were welcome to stay there. The home is unoccupied, but they keep power on it for guests to stay and even told us where the key was hidden. This day's destination was a place we were offered to stay on last year's trip. We arrived at Steve Betran's house and again made camp and set up our Coleman portable shower. I mounted the pump on the bottom of my wagon and the jerry can holding water on the side, then a portable water heater is hung on a pole and so all I have to do is quick-connect the hoses and we are in business! A jerry can is, for those of you not familiar, is what the US Army uses for water or gas, and is usually mounted on the back of a Humvee or jeep. This night's menu consisted of blackened spot fish, collard greens and hoe cakes that we had now become proficient at cooking, thanks to Miss Margaret.

On Wednesday we passed through the crossroads at Nakina ( pronounced nah-KINA) and stopped at a store there. We had a dilemma because we were running short on gas for our lanterns and wanted to find a replacement 12 volt light bulb for my aforementioned dead lamp. Unfortunately, these are hard to find and we hadn't brought a spare, so Bernie suggested we use a common car tail light bulb, and there we bought 4 @ $1.29/two. This was a good deal considering that the 12 volt light bulb runs about $12.00. But now we had another problem to solve; we needed a socket to put these bulbs into. As with Bernie's cross-country adventure, the road provided. A little further down the road we came across the remains of a car wreck, and low and behold, there laid a complete tail light assembly! We scavenged the sockets we needed and would be in business, except that now we needed more wire. We stopped at a shop and the man there gave us a roll of speaker wire, so now we would have light! Along the way, yet another gentleman gave us a bag of dried corn for our mules. This night we were headed to Longwood, where we would stay at a farm, where they sell corn "self-service" where the customers pay on an honor system.

The next morning we were only 12 miles from the beach, so we decided to get breakfast at a McDonald's that was along the way. Back on the road, a woman came by and invited us to an open house at a bank where she was the president. Unfortunately, I parked my mule wagon right next to the drive up window and when the vacuum tube operated, the sound it made spooked my mules so bad they took off running to the left, snatching the wagon around sideways, breaking the tie-rod end. So now what to do! We made some inquiries and found a lady who had a tractor store and told us about a welder who was about 15 miles out of town and offered to carry us there. On the way there we passed a golf cart shop and I had her stop. I asked if they had a tie rod the size I needed and they did, so back to the bank we went. We repaired my wagon and set out towards the beach, now only four miles away. As we arrived at the drawbridge, it was perfectly flat, great for crossing, so we hit it wide open. At the beach we drove out onto the sand for a couple miles and stopped to take some photos. At this time, we were greeted by a police officer who asked us what we were doing there. We explained that we had driven 138 miles and this was our destination, at which time he told us we were not even supposed to be inside city limits because of a town ordinance, "no livestock inside of town limits". Next he asked where we had planned to stay and we answered that we did not know. He kindly offered to find us a place, and within 5 minutes time, he had done just that. We would stay at Carolina Custom Upholstery and they were expecting us. Upon arriving, the owner, Barry Allen, had us tie our mules in the back and come inside. Barry's wife Pam and a friend of hers, had a great spread of food laid out for us. The Allen's are originally from Massachusetts and migrated to Sunset Beach, North Carolina, about 20 years ago. They not only provided us with a generous fare of food and drink, but gave us the run of their shop that included indoor plumbing and a shower. We wholeheartedly appreciated their generosity along with all the others who had also been kind and giving during our journey. The following morning our trailers arrived to carry us home and a six day trip turned into a two hour ride home!

**Bernie Harberts can be found at where you can purchase books he has written about his cross-country travel by mule, including a childrens' book and a dvd on his journey around the world in his sailboat named "Seabird".

Sep 28, 2009

benson mule days

well this was the trip i had been waiting for all year.i arrived at ronalds house on wendesday about 3 pm and unloaded my wagon and mules and headed to the barn where ronald and billy were ,said movie crew will be here shortly we are cooking pork roast ,cabbage beans and fat back well eat when the movie people get a couple of hours they rolled up we said get a plate and help your self ,they looked at the fat back and didnt know what it was .al asked whats that i said just try it . when we got up from the table i told ronald we were among city people because country would never leave fat back .then out side to show them around ,in loving to play around i decided to get al .in north carolina we have a tree called a pressimon and it produces fruit that is good to eat if ripe ,if it is just i little green it is very bitter.i pulled a couple of ripe ones and ate them then gave al one a little green what a face.then it was time to put shoes on ronalds mules so we showed them how to do that.the next day we headed out for erect (population center of north carolina)with just two wagons we wound our way down to erect and set up camp ,that night several people came by to visit then off to bed .the next day we started cooking breakfast and the movie people had never seen double yoked eggs ,i guess being from the country is a little different .double yoked eggs arnt sold in the store ,they have two yokes when you break them in the pan .so off we were to high falls to a chicken farm that belonged to a friend where three more wagons met us .that night the film crew noticed a jar getting passed around one asked whats that i said north carolina spring water or some people call it corn in a jar (moonshine) so every body just took a little taste.the next day we headed out through the the country side headed for an old church back in the woods .we had stayed here several times before .when we pulled up we told the movie crew go check it out al said whos got the key ,i said there is no locks on the door they couldnt believe it ,its almost 200 years old and never been locked not even a lock on the door.the next day we headed out toward sanford and saw a copper head that a car had run over i was still moving so off with it head and skin it to make a hat band.late that afternoon we arrived at lemon springs .the movie crew found a lot of thing there they had never seen .the farm we stayed on was a working mule farm so a lot of mule drawn equipment was in the barn.there the only lady to drive a wagon met us .the next day we headed for lillington about half way there we stoped to take a break and a guy came out and asked need anything no we replied .as we pulled into lillington a guy stoped us and said come stay at my place ,we said ok.i think thiw was about the best place we had stayed great big field and a lake with a dock so a few of us went swiming.the next day would be the last day of travel so off we went toword benson mule days,.about lunch time we took a break and just as we started to leave i hit a hole in the deep grass and bent the tie rod end so it took about thirty miniutes to fix it.well off on the last leg of the journey.we got to benson about five pm set up camp and the next couple of days just relaxed.then it was time to compete in the events .we finished second it the obstacle drivine and first in pleasure driving.then it was time for what i had been waiting for the wagon race well we won it and the wagon drag race to .well then it was of to home pack up and drive 70 miles in an hour and a half what a differents.

Sep 6, 2009

labor day week long ride

well its back off to ride again,weather here in north carolina has started to cool off friend don king came down with his two pony mules and wagon , he came down tuesday about 9 am ,i was ready to get i decided to hook three mules this time (my two older mules mary and jane and a young mule named birdie) three abreast .off we went down toward the state land i love so much,we walked along at a brisk pace down accross the river bridge on to turn pike road ,not having any trouble all the way to the hunter camp at hoffman north carolina.we set up camp and as we cooked supper a visitor showed up .he had just stoped by to tell us about a military manovers in the area ,we said we were familar with them being in the woods.just as we had gone to bed a helicopter landed in the field just around the corner ,the mules had seen this before so it didnt seam to bother them. the next day ronald hudson and billy steveson arrived with a big mule and a little mule and a little yellow wagon .we then hooked up and headed out for laurel hill to listen to blue grass at the pickin shed .danny pate and mcfarland road bluegrass put on a good show.well the next morning we headed back to the hunter camp arriving in the afternoon we noticed people had started to show up for the nite ride we had planed.after eating supper ronald hudson and bernie harberts had decided to hook there two mules to the little wagon ronald had brought.we were off to a good start down the sand road ,as we arrived at a drop zone a c 130 airplane started droping paratropers ,well guess what you never know what will bugger a mule .as we watched the paratropers fall from the sky in the moon light jane and poly took off in a dead run away down the road some how they stoped them and headed back ,then all over again the mules were in a dead run again as they came by all of us the mules jumped off a bank all at once the little wagon was air born it came down on the front axle breaking it o my when the wagon stoped it launched ronald and birnie(river of the wagon about 30 feet then the mules left running down the dirt road full blast with the tounge and front axle .we ran over to see if they were hurt and all i heard was birnie laughing so i knew one was ok .ronald then responded by saying i dont know,but after sitting there he was fine just skent up a little .well we decided to leave the wagon there till morning .well we still had to find the mules well there one was they had centered a big pine tree and jane was standing there but no poly .we made our way back to camp and decided to wait til daylight to look for her but the next morning she had found us .well off to a day of rest and another nite ride was coming up. this time we had a good ride covering 18 miles with saddle riders and wagons with no problems .then the next day was departure time birnie had decided to drive poly on over to my house with me .we had a good day no prpblems at all untill we got about 100 yards from the drive way as i hit the brakes something broke in the wheel locking it up .after checking it out we just drug it on home .

Jul 12, 2009

its hot in the south most of the summer but we caught a break the last part of the week, my friend billy arrived thursday to ride with me billy has an eye diesease that has left him with only 15% of his we were of to hook 4 mules up to the wagon ,we had hooked my to older mules in the front and to three year old mules in the back as wheelers .well we were off to good start the weather was unusually cool for july only 82 for a high .after going about 15 miles we had decided to try and trot 4 mules up ,and it worked out untill the front mules traces came lose and they all pilled in the ditch ,but we were ok. so we unhooked the to front mules and got back strait in the road then hooked them back in front and off we went to we kenago farm for a night ride .e decided to work the to young mules friday ,so danny our friend had arrived early also .we rode off friday toword a monument on kiney cameron lake .during ww2 eight patroopers lost there life by drowning in the lake .they had mistaken the lake for the drop zone so we droped by and payed our respect for the soldiers that lost there life that night . then off to ride at night,being raised in the sandhills of north carolina we have often rode at night.its just great having a sixty thousand acre play ground ,as the moon came up it almost became daylight you can see great because the sand is white .we had a great time ,we rode from 9 pm untill 4.30 am and covered almost 26 miles .what a blast we had 6 wagons pulled by mules and only 6 sadle riders .then saturday night we went on a shorter ride only untill 1 30 am .

Jun 21, 2009

well for just about fifty years hoke county has had a wagon train ,so this year we just trailered over because the heat was just to much for a all day ride.i had chose my stagecoach for this event.people ask whats it like to ride on a stagecoach well just hop on for a ride. we pulled out headed for down town loaded with kids and the first question one asked was do stagecoachs have flat tires ,i said of coarse not. but about five miles down the road i learned they do.we were just walking along and the front right wheel had come loose and the axle hit the pavement mules groung to a stop .what would we do asked the kids ,well i said we will just like they did years ago fix with what we can find. so with some help we picked up the front and slid the wheel back on,and we could see how it came off .the stage coach had been in a dry building for a while and the steel inside had got loose ,so the best way to fix this is put the wheels in the creek ,but we didnt have time for that.we then asked around anybody got nails ,i heard yea from the back i have some horse shoe nails ,so after puting the wheel back on i drove the nails between the wood and steel to tighten it up (worked great)so off we go .this would be a short ride because the day would just be to hot .as i travled along i told the kids in the old days we would have set up camp ,found a creek and put the wheels in . as we came back in i began to think about what i had read about early travel it had to be just plain tough. some times it gets a little boring so when something does happen it gives you something to talk about and surly a lot of questions from kids such as did they have to go to school if the wagon broke down . why yea i replied they just went late just like you when the bus breaks down.

Jun 15, 2009

dupont forest

pulling logs at dupont

the carolina mule club had a volunteer work day at dupont forest (north carolina state forest) and a ride on the next day. on our work day we pulled locast logs down the mountain to make fence post ,the next day we set out on our ride on the place called land of a thousand water falls some of the most beautiful places in north carolina .dupont forest is located in the blue ridge mountains just south of asheville north carolina what a great place to drive over 90 miles of trails ,most fit for driving with spectacular views .this had to be one of the best places i have been with my trail wagon . shortly after we pulled out i could see how this got its nick name ,just amazing water falls .a camera just dosent do this place justice if you have the chance visit this place .it is open to the public for hiking ,horses and some of the best views of nature in north carolina we had a blast

Jun 14, 2009

well of to uwarrie by wagon ,we hooked our mules at my wagon buddys house(ronald tash hudson)and headed into asheboro first stop golden corral for lunch .after lunch we headed down to happy hollow where we met mr. king ,he had a great place for us to camp by the lake .the next day our friend bernie (river come to ride with us so off toward uwarrie with mr. kings team of pony mules along with us .as we were riding along bernie asked can you get on top of this wagon ,i said i dont see why not boy did we get some strange looks with bernie on thr roof while going down the road but it made some good pictures.we had found a place to camp at abner just a cross road .while being camped there we met one of the most amazing wemon i have ever met ,she said my name is miss iva and this is my farm .we found ourself talking to her for hours .she said i am 93 years old and i have lived here all my life ,it was such a joy to talk to her about old times .after leaving her house the road became steeper as we headed up to a road named low water bridge .i would soon find out why the name as we rounded a curve on a steep hill there it was a narow bridge with no guard rail well no turning back with little room to spare three mule abrest we went across .we then came to a place called coggins gold mine just as in the movies thre it was a goast town .the old hotel stood on a hill all boarded up across the road the store and black smith shop stood it looked like no one had been there in years .after sitting on the old hotel steps for a break we headed out for 4b farm in uwarrie. mr. king and bernie had to leave so tash and i headed out a differant way down a road named king mountain i dont think there was a flat place on it .we made our way out to pisgah covered bridge and camped for the night .only one day left as we headed out down to asheboro to the pancake house for dinner then off to the end of the drive (that just happens to be the name of ronalds farm)

Jun 10, 2009

Driving in the rain! This was a ride we did from Cedar Falls, N.C. (just south of Greensboro)to my house just east of Raeford, N.C. -Kenny

A Day at the Beach.....Muleskinner Style

As seen in Rural Heritage Magazine - Spring 2009
By: Shannon Hoffman as told to her by Kenny Tyndall

For miles and miles all you hear is the clip-clop, clip-clop of mule’s hooves on pavement. The rump, rump of wooden wagon wheels turning at a steady pace. The men driving these wagons are modern day muleskinners. Are they old souls from another era or men who have figured out, that the simple things in life are still real and true?

Ronald “Tash” Hudson and his co-pilot Billy Stevenson from Asheboro, NC drive a wooden wheeled wagon, original from the early 1900’s. Kenny Tyndall of Raeford and his co-pilot Danny Tart from Dunn, NC drive an interesting but very functional, home made wagon. Bright yellow with green trim, rubber tires and a few running lights complete the look. He has some luxuries that others don’t, roll down clear plastic, like the kind on a golf cart, he can keep going even in the rain and stay warm and dry! The wagon also sports a fold out bed in the back and tons of shelves and storage compartments. Don’t tell the mules, but he also carries a small TV, radio and a Laptop so that he can check his business’s email! This trip, being just after Halloween, there is a human skeleton decoration hanging from the back of the wagon! I am sure this makes motorists look twice, never mind the mules!

All important mule power is provided by, Mary and Jane, owned by Kenny, the 6 year old sisters are a nearly perfectly matched team of Molly’s except one is a touch darker black than the other. Ronald’s mules are Alice and Tippy, solid built, good looking Belgian mules that have won several World Championships at Bishop Mule Days. They are in their late teens now but still have so much heart that Ronald usually travels in front.

This is not their first adventure; this crew has been many miles on North Carolina’s roads. Ronald with a team of black pony mules, traveled many times from Asheboro to Benson for Mule Days. Only to rest the mules a few days and then compete in the wagon races and the parade that weekend. In September 2008, the group made the trip from Asheboro to Benson Mule Days again, taking 4 days and 85 miles. This time they attracted the attention of a Raleigh TV news crew!

This trip however had a very special goal in mind. Sunset Beach, North Carolina. Why you ask? The goal is to drive the mules across the last free-floating drawbridge on the east coast. The center part of the bridge floats up and down with the tide. Cars can cross any time, but at low tide they have been known to get stuck in the middle when the angle was to steep for cars to climb the other side of the bridge. When a boat needs to pass the bridge is released at one side and floats out of place, once the boat is clear it is pulled back. This was the most popular type of drawbridge but the need for it to be manned and the larger amounts of boat and car traffic the drawbridges have been replaced with large span bridges at other beaches. Cars can travel night and day and the spans are tall enough for most any boat in the sound to pass under.

So how would the mules handle crossing the bridge, well the muleskinners have a few days to worry about that!

November 6th – Ronald trailered his mules to Kenny’s house in Raeford to leave from there. Kenny started the day off by having to run one of the mules for half an hour, because she seemed to know that something was up! After finally getting mules, wagons and people loaded, they pulled out at 9:37 AM with 112 miles to go!
They headed towards the town of Wagram and crossed the Lumber River on an old wooden bridge. As they passed through Wagram’s down town they got a few looks from people, but the town folk here are just about used to seeing Kenny and his mules.
They covered many miles and came to Maxton Air Port, this used to be Maxton Air Fore Base during World War II. It was a Glider Base for training troops for the D-Day Invasion. With Fort Bragg near by, the training of troops continues, the Mules and Muleskinners were treated to a training mission of Paratroopers parachuting from the sky. They set up camp that night by a lake and cooked steaks! Maxton has a rich history and culture of Bluegrass. The group had arranged the start of their trip so they could be with in walking distance of Buddy Locklears place on Bluegrass night! Kenny bought three beautiful handmade quilts (Don’t tell the mules they had to carry that too) from Buddy’s Grandma. He is not sure how long she has been around but Buddy was born in 1924. Buddy and his friends played into the evening! He has an interesting band, with one of the members being Chief Leon of the local Tusoroara Indian Nation. That night Kenny and Danny decided they needed a bath and this might be their last chance for a while, so they braved the cold water in the lake, Kenny swears it was only 45 degrees. Brrrr……

November 7th – Broke camp early that morning, heading toward Evans Cross Roads and on to Rowland. They needed to stop at the grocery store to stock up. They stopped at a Fish House for dinner. They came across a horse trader who told them about a farmer, on the other side of town, who might let them camp at his place. They called ahead and sure enough he gave them permission. That night the local horse trader and a few others took the group out to supper! Sounds like a day of more eating than driving!

November 8th – Everyone was up at daybreak, eager to hit the trail. After a good breakfast of grits, eggs and a side of meat, the mules were harnessed up. That is when a light drizzle started. Kenny rolled the plastic down on the sides and front of the wagon. Being clear and form fitting to the sides and a space at the bottom to slide the rein through it makes for a dry ride! As they headed down the desolate road towards the town of Fair Buff Kenny counted only six cars passing that morning. As they arrived in town about 4pm that day, they were surprised to find it a near ghost town. Fair Bluff used to be vibrant town with shops, restaurants and a Tobacco Market. Kenny used to come to town each year with his grandfather to sell the crop. The found a place to camp right across from the police station and learned from a resident that the last restaurant closed two weeks ago. The man was in his seventies and said he used to own the Chevy dealership in town. Sad to grow old and watch your town, grow old with you. Kenny lost his co-pilot Danny that night, because he had to return to work.

November 9th – The next morning the group headed out of Fair Bluff, rough and ready, towards the beach. From this point on there will be no more towns, just small communities between here and the beach. Suddenly the challenge for the day was in front of them. A cotton picker, taking up the whole road, was headed straight for the Muleskinners! Lucky for them, there was a yard without a big ditch on the side. They piled mules and wagons into some one’s front yard! They got lucky and the mules decided to show how broke they really are. After covering many miles that day they arrived at a place they had stayed once before. The owner had told them to come back any time and so when they found no one home they just pulled in and set up camp. When Steve finally came home he as a little surprised to see the group, but welcomed them all the same.

November 10th – Setting out early today and good thing because the group took an unplanned detour. After getting back on track and heading on “Old Tram Road”, after crossing Waccamaw River Bridge the traffic began to pick up. They arrived at an old store that sells corn and feed. Kenny said that “You would not think there were very many honest people left, but bags of corn where just left outside, a sign says, Just put the money in the box.” After setting up camp next to the store and having dinner, the mules where treated to pears from two trees.

November 11th – The group woke up to “frost on the pumpkins” that morning and excitement that they would reach the beach today. They headed East down Rt. 17, called Beach Highway. More excitement built as they passed a sign saying, Sunset Beach, 1 Mile; this is what this trip was all about. As they arrived they saw the bridge, but it was low tide, too much of an angle to cross right then with the mules and wagons.

A crowd of people had begun to gather over the three-hour wait for the tide to come in. People wanted to see the mules and wagons and asked many questions. One man asked what they were going to do after they crossed the bridge. When Kenny told him that they would like to go out onto the beach for a little while, the man offered to call his friend, the police chief of Sunset Beach. With permission granted and the tide in, the muleskinners headed toward the bridge. Billy Stevenson said he would walk across because he could not swim! Ronald got another co-pilot, a lady on vacation from Georgia. Ronald told the lady, “If I say jump, you better jump quick!” she asked why, Ronald said, “Because I will be right behind you!” What a story she will have to tell about her vacation at Sunset Beach!
The bridge was now level but still moves as it floats and the deck plates are metal. The mules were more confident than the muleskinners at this point as they only showed a little reaction when the wagon wheels changed sounds as they hit the bridge.

The group was rewarded by a nice drive on the beach and Kenny found that the mules were more afraid of the waves than the bridge!