Houston, Texas, has an event of great tradition.
Old West trail rides with some new additions.
There are pickup trucks and huge motor homes,
Cowboys and cowgirls, on horses, using cell phones.
My hubby and I were invited to "get some kicks,"
Riding the Salt Grass, along with Wagon Six.
A privilege for us, the oldest ride we'd take.
As we are out-of-towners, Wisconsin is our state.
A thousand riders, for a week, a hundred miles they go.
Skinners and their mules have covered wagons that they tow.
The horses crow hop and have a hissy fit;
A red ribbon in a tail means a horse will kick.
Slickers, hat covers, stampede strings for wind and rain,
A galley wagon for our meals, and Porta-Potties hitched like a train.
Our trail boss and his crew were all the best.
The cooks were the greatest, better than all the rest.
The Houston Rodeo Parade awaited us at the end;
We headed for tall buildings with horses and new friends.
With jet planes flying overhead, the crowds would make us smile,
The past and present converged that day, for those last few miles.
And when it came time to part, I even saw some tears.
I hope this tradition will continue through the years.
Then the Old West will live in our hearts and minds,
And we can return to "cowboy up" one more time.
A couple of years ago, I, along with a golf buddy and his wife from Wisconsin, had the opportunity to experience a two-day horseback trip through the Flattops Wilderness in Colorado.
My friend and his wife, Doug and Lynn Calvin, hadn't ridden horses since they were kids, so I was surprised at how much they enjoyed the Flattops trip. I told them that if they wanted to have some fun combined with a horse adventure, they should join me and my wife, Carol, for a weeklong Salt Grass Trail Ride in Houston the following February.
The Salt Grass Trail Ride was initiated in 1951 by four individuals as a means to promote what was then called the Houston Fat Stock Show and Rodeo. The original ride was from Brenham, Texas, to Houston.
Today, the Salt Grass begins in Cat Spring, Texas, and travels 90-plus miles to Houston, culminating with the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Parade, which formally kicks off the show and rodeo.
On any given day during the ride, 900 to 1,400 riders trek their way to Houston. A small city of horse rigs and other vehicles, cook shacks, and Porta-Potties must be moved each morning before the riders, their horses and wagons move out. It's an amazing sight.
To my surprise, the Calvins took us up on the offer and drove to our home outside Houston to begin the adventure. They first had to brush up on trail-riding basics, not the least of which was how to saddle and bridle a horse.
At ride's end, our friends were exhausted, but recovered rapidly. Funny, poignant memories still resonate from their first taste of the Salt Grass Trail. However, the most remarkable product of this experience was discovering what impact this trail ride could have on folks from Wisconsin. They'd never seen or heard of anything like Salt Grass before.
After the ride, Lynn Calvin returned to Wisconsin and penned the poem at left describing her experience.
For more information, visit www.saltgrasstrailride.org.