Monday, March 24, 2014

Days 9-11 And miles to go before we sleep!

Day 9 - Friday, March 21, 2014

We started at sunup from the Double C Ranch Headquarters on FM 765.  Everyone is just dragging today….horse, rider, dog and me.  I got about 5 hours of sleep trying to upload all the photos for the last blog.  Winston got about 7 hours.  We had to put DB on a high line with a bell around his neck and he seemed to sleep because we didn’t hear the bell but he was sluggish this morning too.  It is overcast and windy so that just makes everyone feel less energetic but we are pressing on.  It reminds me of a song that Winston plays and sings by the Shirelles….. “Mama said there’d be days like this, there’d be days like this my mama said.”  We just have to keep on keepin on!  We just passed E. Mustang Creek so DB insisted on a photo!  ;) And then later he told us he recognized one more...Middle Mustang Creek.  He thought he remembered they used to have water in them. :)

   I have decided I am either allergic to horse hair, dust or hay because even with allergy medicine, I sneeze all day and night.  We have an abundance of all three in the RV most of the time!  I am trying a new medicine tomorrow.  We are headed to Millersville because our friend we met on the road, Michael Looney and his wife Karen offered to let us stay at their house.  We met them at the post office and headed to their house.  I mistakenly said in my last post that they lived in Lampasas but I misunderstood.  They had lived in Austin but had moved recently to Millersville and Michael still works in Austin a few days a week. Michael had just been in Lampasas that day and had seen the article in the paper there and then randomly passed Winston on the highway and recognized him! 

Anyway, they made us feel right at home and DB started right away earning our keep by mowing their grass with his mouth!  We found a place to tie up Durango safely and Karen told us that her parents Peggy and John were coming over to have a home cooked meal with us! We were so excited about that!  We sat on their front porch and told stories and laughed as if we had known these people forever.  They were so genuine and we felt so welcome in their home.  I got to go with Peggy, John and Karen to put up the guinea hens at John and Peggy’s house.  I can honestly say before that I did not even know what a guinea hen did, said, or looked like.  It was quite entertaining to see them file into their hen house like ducks all in a row. 

When we returned Michael was telling me about their bird sanctuary area and that cardinals come to the trees where they put down feed and water on a daily basis.  He told me that Karen had seen on the blog my story about the redbird on our first day and about the loss of my brother.  There were so many cardinals coming to the area it was mesmerizing.  Michael told me that Karen and I shared something in common that we both had lost a sibling.  Knowing the pain of my own loss of my brother, I immediately felt connected to her and learned that she had lost her sister Tracy at the age of 16.  I told John and Peggy and Karen how sorry I was about their loss and John said, there are good days and bad days still.  I can totally relate to that as I know Jonathan’s family can too.  I asked to see a photo of her and Karen showed me a photo of her at her prom.  She had this beautiful, angelic face and was the picture of innocence and I was struck again by the harsh reality of death.  One day when we get to heaven, I hope we will understand God’s plan fully because there are days that I just do not understand it at all. I will pray for peace for this family and I know Tracy must be watching over them. 

Karen fixed us an amazing meal and we shared a blessing and conversation at their table and we learned that we were their first dinner guests that were not family.  We were very honored.  Then Peggy made peach cobbler and ice cream for dessert and it was delicious!! Good thing DB doesn’t let Winston break during the day to eat or else he would have gained all of his weight back!  John and Peggy gave us a donation when they left and I tried to refuse it but he said please take it, we think it is such a great thing that you are doing.  They also invited us back for their annual Veteran’s Day Barbeque that we will really try to come back for.  We told everyone goodbye since we knew we had to get up early to try and make the 20 or so miles to Eola the next day.  We slept well and DB slept too!

Day 10 – March 22, 2014

 In the morning, they woke up to cook us breakfast and see us off!  I didn’t even want to be awake and I had to be to drive the RV.  They also set me up with a jug full of tea for the road!  Michael gave us a book called The Best of Field and Stream which had the best outdoor stories of all time. It was so sweet and we will enjoy reading all of them.  Michael also gave us this lantern on loan that is called the “Dirty Bird”.  Winston uses it about every five seconds.  We promised to send it back to him at the end of the journey and he said send it back with your signatures on it.  They followed us on foot down the road taking pictures of us and then we waved goodbye.  They were going to meet us in Eola that night.  Again, a day of travel for us, about ten minutes in a car.

  We learned on that stretch of road that Durango is terrified of working oil wells.  We guess he thinks they look like a monster with that pumping noise they make and the big arm that looks like a giant head.  He did not want to go past them.  Winston worked with him and tried to get him to accept them since we will probably see another 2 or 3 or 5000 in West Texas!  By the fifth one, he wasn’t as worried.  We had visitors on the road, friends of Winston and Jonathan from high school, Stephanie Norris Streetman and her husband Joe.  Stephanie had written to me and said that they were so inspired by our journey and wanted to come and see us and bring us anything we needed.  They brought us Sonic Iced Teas with crushed ice and stethoscopes for the horse from Stephanie’s dad and jerky from Joe’s dad and some newspapers from Gatesville about the journey.  It was so nice of them to come out for a little while to a place that it took us nine days to get to!!! Joe was the babysitter for Durango while Winston took a little break.  DB is used to me leading him around on his breaks, he was not prepared for 6’5, 285 pound Joe!!  We visited a little while and then Winston had to get going again. They gave us a donation and said to let them know if there was anything else they could do to just let them know.  Amazing kindness at every turn…we do not take that for granted one single day.

    About an hour later, we had more visitors!  Winston’s dad, our friend Arnetta, Winston’s sister Emily and her three kids Witten, Arri and Josie came to bring lunch and say hi.  Witten got on the horse with his Uncle Dub and Arri took a picture from the road with the horse in the background and she said that was good for her.  Later she got brave enough to get on with Uncle Dub holding her.  Hart ran between Durango’s legs during all of this and got his foot stepped on by Durango.  He is okay, but just got his feelings hurt.  Hopefully, he has learned a lesson about being under the horse. 

We reached our goal of Eola and we have gone about 20.5 miles today.  When we arrived Winston had to do an interview and we realized when we saw the place we would be staying that there was not going to be a safe place for the horse.  We took family photos and then Emily said she would take our dirty laundry and we told them we would see them in San Angelo tomorrow. 

The sun was already almost down so we were really getting nervous about what to do without a place for the horse.  We are responsible for the safety of this horse and we don’t take that lightly.  Earlier in the day, a girl in a red mustang pulled over to give Winston the number of someone who had stables.  Her name was Rhonda Coats.  She told us that she was another ten miles past where we were and that was not a possibility in the dark so she called the girl in the red mustang named Staci Dorotik and told her that we needed help.  Staci and her mom, Rebecca Dorotik told us to go across the street to the Eola Water Dept. Treatment Center.  It wasn’t far so they thought we could get safely there in the dark.  I rode behind Winston with my headlights on him and then lo and behold our friends Michael and Karen were in the intersection with a flashlight directing us across the street.  They stayed with us to make sure we were fine.  We honestly feel like we have known them forever.  The water department treatment center had a fenced yard with beautiful, green grass and we thought DB would be safe in there.  Staci gave us the combination to the lock over the phone and we settled DB in there.  He thought he had hit the green grass lottery!  He ran up and down and ate to his little heart’s content.  We were so grateful to these two ladies.  Staci is a volunteer firefighter for the Eola Fire Department and Rebecca is on the Water Dept. Board.  They even came out there to check on us at 10:30pm to see if we needed power or a hose or anything else.  They were so lovely and we learned that Staci’s dad and Rebecca’s husband Wally had owned the bar across the street from there named Wally’s but sadly he passed away in 2004.  They still own the bar but both have other jobs so they only open it certain times of year.  They always have a big party on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving so if you live nearby, please go and have a beer or two and pay their kindness to us forward and say that we sent you!  We are indebted to them for helping us this night when we were out of options. 
     When we were trying to decide earlier in the evening where we were going to move to, we met a man named Shane who is a bone cancer survivor and he could barely tell Winston about his battle with cancer without tears in his eyes.  He said he just wanted to shake Winston’s hand and say what a great thing he thought he was doing in honor of his friend.  A few minutes later we were talking to a man named Kai and he asked us a bunch of questions about the journey and thought it was so awesome too.  He then told us that he had been stationed in Germany when they found out his stepdad had lung cancer and had 6 months to a year to live.  He got transferred back to Texas two weeks ago so that he could be closer and spend time with him and on the day he got home, his stepdad passed away much earlier than their anticipated prognosis.  He told us his mom was devastated and he wanted to share our story with her.  I gave him a brochure and told him that we would say a prayer for his mom who was just starting her journey of grief.  This journey has touched so many and we have only just begun.  Our lives are better because of all the people we are meeting along the way.  They have all made footprints on our hearts and we know we will never forget them. 

Day 11 – Sunday, March 23, 2014

This morning we woke up to find it freezing cold, windy and overcast.  Durango must have been inspired by the cold because he was running at full speed back and forth in the fenced yard and Winston said to him, “you want to run?  OK then let’s run!”  He saddled him up and they went 6 miles in 55 minutes!  That was a record for him! 

They were really making great time and then I got a lightning alert on my phone.  In West Texas that is serious because it is so flat.  There was really nowhere to go.  I doubled back to let Winston know and just about that time we saw the lightning bolt in the distance so we had to just tie DB up next to us and Winston got in the RV. 

It was raining and we were looking at the radar.  It seemed to be moving north east and we were hoping that it would move on.  We had a trailer on standby from a lovely lady in San Angelo named Becky Wilson.  She said she would pick us up anywhere if we needed to escape the weather.  But, in about thirty minutes, the storm moved on.  We could literally see it moving across the open plains and until it was gone.  We have heard that it never rains in West Texas so are pretty sure we will be invited back again since we bring rain with us!  Unfortunately, they need a lot more than we brought! Winston said he could ride in the rain but we didn’t want to take a chance with the lightining.  When the rain moved on, we moved on also.  The wind was biting cold and I honestly don’t know how Winston could stand it hitting him in the face for all those hours.  He said he had his beard to protect him!  Winston’s sister Emily and her husband Jesse and their kids delivered fajitas to us on the road and our clean laundry!  Who knew you could get food delivery and laundry service on FM 765?!!  Winston really couldn’t stop to eat because we had so far to go today and as we all know by now, DB does not like to stop moving.  So, I fixed Winston’s food and then walked DB while Winston ate.  Durango still doesn’t understand that even though he doesn’t need breaks that Winston’s knees do!! Hart just soaks it all in.  He is such an adaptable and good dog.  He just goes with the flow.  When we are home he always gets excited when I tell him we are going “bye-bye” in the car.  He doesn’t care where we go as long as he gets to come with us.  I think he is finally realizing the dirty trick we played on him that now the car and the house are the same place.  But, he never complains and is my traveling companion so that I never get lonely on the road. 
DB definitely knows that the RV has the food and he will be poking along and then he sees it and starts trotting on his own and then stops right next to it.  We are still making great time and it looks like we will make it to Fort Concho without needing to be trailered in.  When Winston headed into San Angelo his dad met us outside of town and told him the best route for the horse.  We passed Goodfellow Air Force Base and we crossed a pedestrian bridge called Lone Wolf Gap.  Winston wasn’t sure what DB would do on this bridge so he asked me if I would walk ahead of him so DB would follow me.  It worked like a charm! In the center of the bridge a couple was taking engagement photos and I told them they were witness to this horse who was going on a 1000 mile journey cross this bridge.  The photographer asked if Durango and Winston could be in the photo with the girl.  So Winston and DB posed for the photo and then we moved on.

The director of Fort Concho Bob Bluthardt said he would be waiting for us to get DB set up in the stables.  We also met Paul Cook who is in charge of the stables and they were both so lovely and accommodating. 

Winston’s dad and sister had arranged a meal for us there and had invited friends to join us at Fort Concho.  We had a big surprise when we arrived here, our friend Burt Greer who comes to see Winston play piano in Shreveport drove six hours to meet us here and say hi.  He and his wife have been so inspired by this journey.  Our favorite quote in one of Burt’s emails to us was “although we'll continue our trust that you will safely return to us Winston, we realize that you need no help from us ‘lowly beings’ - for you have both the Lord and Jonathan to guarantee that trust!! And it doesn't hurt that you have a damn good woman, a damn good dog and a damn good horse to insure that it is indeed A Good Day To Ride!”  It was a lovely meal and we enjoyed everyone’s company.  Our friend Traci Vedros and her family in New Orleans had arranged with Winston’s sister to have a dessert for us!  It was so sweet of them to think of us and we celebrated her son Alex who passed away many years ago but would be turning 19 tomorrow. We will be thinking of Alex and all of his family tomorrow on our rest day and his birthday.  Oh how I miss those big blue eyes and that adorable laugh!
Happy Birthday Alex! We miss you every day!

     DB has been enjoying his first class accommodations at the Living History Stables at Fort Concho.  We are so grateful to Bob and Paul for allowing us to stay at this museum in San Angelo.  If you have never visited here, I would highly recommend it.  We were offered the officer quarters for us but since we have Hart with us we decided to stay in the RV close to Durango.  So, the day we left our first goal was to get to Fort Concho.  Every day we were looking towards that goal.  We felt really great when Winston rode across those parade grounds today and we covered 24.2 miles and made it here by 5:15pm.  It was a great day.  We have covered over 182.2 miles at the end of today’s ride.  Not bad, not bad at all.  As Jonathan would say, “On to Glory!” 

     Well, everyone else in my posse has hit the hay (so to speak J)  waiting for me to finish this so I guess I will wrangle everyone that sleeps in the RV to bed. 

 Our blessings are many, our hardships have been few and we feel lucky to be taking this incredible Journey for Jonathan.  We have a rest day in San Angelo tomorrow so we can take care of some errands and business.  We will head out again at sunup Tuesday morning.  We will be trailered outside of the city limits because on the way out there is too much concrete and would be really hard on Durango.  Keep praying for us.  God keeps putting amazing, kindhearted people in our path and I have to believe that there is a reason for that. Your love, your prayers, your kind hearts and words inspire us each day.  My aunt sent us a quote the other day that said, “Blessed is the man who digs a well from which another may draw faith.”  A perfect quote to end a perfect day. 

Love to all of you!

Donna, (and Winston, Hart and Durango) 


ddschuman said...

I am so inspired by your journey and look forward to every update. May God continue to bless you along the way. Greetings and prayers are flowing from Gatesville, TX.

Dina Schuman

Deborah Yagelski said...

I so enjoy all of your posts. Love that green triple mustang brand shirt.;) I have the artwork to make t-shirts with DB's brand if anyone is interested, maybe we could design a shirt for fund raising and sharing in the journey!

Antha Lou said...

Winston & Donna,

I'm sorry I was unable to make it out to see y'all off, but I've been thinking of you and praying for you every day. Donna, thank you so much for allowing us to go along with y'all on this journey with this blog. I can't read it without shedding big alligator tears! The kindness of the strangers that you've met along the way so far is so touching to me. Winston, keep your head down and your chin up, and know that your best friend is watching every step with that unforgettable smile!

Much love,


Mandy Bradford said...

Donna and Winston-Deborah here is the one that made those shirts for me for the mustang million!! Deb-I surprised them with the shirts and they were so hoping that was what the shirt would be when I asked for their sizes. They had seen me wearing it when they were here and loved them!

Mandy Bradford said...

Thank you again for the update!! I love to hear that he covered 6 miles in under an hour! He loves to run sometimes!! So happy to hear that you all are getting into a groove and moving on. How cool that you got to stay at Fort Concho!! Someday I will DRIVE you route, lol. Wow!!

Lynn Kaminski said...

Once again I am in awe of what the Lord is doing on this journey. He is so good! I hope you get some good rest! xxoo

penny dickerson said...

Yall are so awesome! Thankyou for sharing you journey with all of us! God bless yall !

Traci Vedros said...

Enjoy your day off - we are praying for you - and my angel is watching over you! Love yall!

Melonie McCoy said...

I am amazed by your journey and so happy you are sharing it. I can't help but get a lump in my throat when I read your story and hear of other's you meet and then their story. My you all have travel grace and mercy. May the road be safe for travels and you all continue to see and feel Jonathan.