Day 22 – Afternoon and evening Thursday, April 3, 2014
Well, my allergies did not get better throughout the day. In fact, they got much worse. It was awful. My eyes were almost swollen shut, I couldn’t stop sneezing and my nose was running non-stop. Winston said he had never seen an allergy attack so bad. I think it was a combination of the dust and hay and everything in the RV and maybe my allergies are just not used to all these new allergens in West Texas. Winston felt really bad that I was so sick and he said I could just go up several miles and try and sleep but I was afraid to leave him for that long so I would go up for about two or three miles and get up in the bunk and it was the only time my nose would stop running. The wind was blowing so hard that I was really worried at one point that the RV might tip over. They said on the weather forecast that it was 20 mph winds with gusts of 55mph!! They may call that gusts in West Texas but in Louisiana we call that Tropical Storm Force Winds and you should take cover!! The dust was so thick at times that it was almost impossible to see Winston or the large mesas that were directly behind him. There were tumbleweeds blowing across the road every minute or two. When Winston caught up with me, I told him he should take a break from the wind for a little while. So, I slept and he sat in the RV for a little break.
We were trying to get to a place called Cap Rock where we saw on google maps that there might be a Cotton Gin with a horse pen next to it. The wind finally died down some and we were up in an area called the Llano Estacado. Without the dust and wind, it was really beautiful scenery.
I arrived at the Cotton Gin ahead of Winston and saw that the pen was actually covered in tumbleweeds and seemed to belong to the next pasture. When Winston got there he went down to the house next to the pasture to ask about the pen and I walked Durango. The man that lived in the house was Clarence Spurgens but he was not the owner of the land, his boss owned it but he assured us that his boss who was a nice Christian man would be fine with us staying the night there. He came back down to the pen and helped us get the gate open and then Winston spent a half hour clearing out the pen and I cleared all the tumbleweed from behind the gate so we could get the RV in. When cleaning out the tumbleweed, Winston even found a bathtub for me right next to the pen! Too bad there was no water out here!
Clarence invited us back to his house for a beer but I just wanted to shower and get in bed after the allergy fiasco today. Winston felt like he should go over for a beer to thank him for letting us use the pen. Winston said Clarence seemed like just the type of guy that Jonathan would have wanted to talk to and get to know so he walked back over to his house. When Winston knocked on his door, he was so happy that Winston had come for the beer. He said, “No one ever comes to see me!” Clarence had asked us about Jonathan and the journey and when Winston visited him he learned that Clarence does mechanical work for the man who owns the Cap Rock Cotton Gin and he was trying to save enough money to move back to his home in Colorado. Clarence told Winston through tears about his life changing when his 18 year old niece and her two cousins, his 2 year old niece and 1 year old nephew all died in a car wreck. He said sometimes God takes his people back when he needs them and he believed that was the case with them. A friend told me once after losing my brother that we are God’s children first and he just loans his children to us on earth until he needs them back. I always like to think of that when I lose someone I love….that God needed them back and one day I will understand why even if I don’t understand it now and it certainly doesn’t make the pain any less.
I called Winston on the walkie-talkie and told him the soup I had heated and the sandwich I made him were ready and Clarence drove him back to the RV and we ate and then went to sleep. About 4 or 5am we had our first vandalism of the trip! We heard this loud cracking noise and at first thought Durango was chewing on his feed bucket which he does when he gets bored. But, when Winston looked out the door we had a four legged vandal!! The horses from the other pasture had come over to investigate Durango and found his sealed Sterilite container of feed and found it impossible to resist! One of the horses put his hoof through the side of the container and was having an all you can eat buffet!! Winston had to run out there in the freezing cold in his underwear to salvage the rest of Durango’s hard to find, high protein, expensive feed!! He was able to salvage the rest of the feed but not the container. By the time all of that was over, it was almost time to wake up.
Day 23 – Friday, April 4, 2014
We got up and got on the road and weren’t sure where we were going to stay for the night but luckily there was no wind today so that worked in our favor and I was feeling so much better too which was such a relief. Our horse friends wanted to tag along with us and ran the length of the fence with Durango.
About 15 minutes down the road towards Ralls two men in a truck pulled over and said, “We ranch around here, did y’all see cattle in the road? Is that why you are out here on horseback?” Winston told them the story of what he was doing and we gave them two brochures and they wished us safe travels and we headed towards Ralls. We went through a little area called Emma that was once the county seat but the town no longer exists.
When we got into Ralls we had gone about 12 miles and I had gone ahead and got some burgers from a local place that Clarence recommended. We ate lunch at the local ball park and a man named Ed Moore drove up with his grandson Kye and asked if we had everything we needed. He had a place we could stay with a pen if we needed it but it was in Ralls. Since it was such a nice day we decided we should push on and see if we could make it further so we wouldn’t have to go as far the next day in case the weather was windy again. They were so nice though and when we asked if he knew of a feed store we could get alfalfa hay, he offered to donate a bale to us that he had at his barn. We told him we would be happy to pay for it and he said no it is a contribution to the journey. His gesture was so nice and so appreciated. We told them goodbye and headed off towards Floydada.
We were pretty sure we wouldn’t make it all the way so I started looking for places. I saw several places that had pens but couldn’t find anyone at home. Then I passed a yard about a mile from Cone, TX that had a sign that said Goats for Sale and there were several pieces of farm equipment for sale with a number and there was a pen in the back of their barn. I called the number and left a message that said although I am not in need of goats or any farm equipment, I am interested in renting your pen if you would be willing to let us use it for the night and I also left details about the journey on the voicemail. Becky Monk called me back and said she and her husband Johnny would be happy to let us use their pen for the night. I told her how grateful I was and I knew Winston would be really excited to have a safe place for the night. I doubled back to tell Winston and in the meantime her husband pulled up next to us and told us he would meet us up at the barn. When we got there we learned that in the same stall area but separated by a fence, Durango would be bunking with three goats named Minnie, Mickey and Pluto! When they saw him they started making noises and he got scared and wouldn’t go inside the gate at first. But, then he settled down and by the morning they were fast friends. We enjoyed visiting with these lovely people so much and learning about their family. They have a grown daughter and twin boys that are also grown. Becky decided to send a photo of Durango to her one son who ranches and tell him that his Dad bought a new horse! When Brian called her back he said, “Dad, didn’t buy that horse, we met him on the road today and he is going to Colorado!” 20 miles back the one truck that day that had stopped us on the road was Becky and Johnny’s son Brian who lives in Cap Rock!!! I am beginning to wonder just how small this world really is! Then I learned that Becky’s sister lives in Abbeville, LA which is about 20 minutes from Lafayette where I went to college and where my parents and my sister and her family live! When they go to visit her sister they come through Shreveport on a road two minutes from our house! Apparently this world is even smaller than I thought! We invited them to visit next time they pass through so we can return the favor. We had coffee and cookies with them and shared stories until it was time for bed. Johnny told us that the dust storms we went through yesterday are called, “Yankees go home storms.” He said they called them that because when those storms come up all the Yankees go home. I can tell you that they could also be called “Southerners go home storms” because I wouldn’t last long with those types of storms as a normal occurrence. I had dirt in my teeth, my hair and even in my ears! Winston definitely has found an advantage to having no hair in dust storms!
Day 24 – Saturday, April 5, 2014
Today was the day one year ago that we were attending Jonathan’s funeral in Gatesville. It is surreal to think of that. Some days it does not seem possible that it has been that long and other days it seems like it was yesterday. Cointa told me the other day that it seems worse now because it seems more permanent the longer she goes without hearing his voice and seeing his sweet face. I know Lindsey and Ila Mae have expressed similar sentiments. I wish with all that I have that I could take that pain away from all of them. I know that pain all too well and there is nothing to do but go through it. You just have to be able to hold on long enough to make it through, but at times that seems unthinkable and unbearable. We pray for them every day.
We left Johnny and Becky’s house at about 8:30am and were headed toward the sale barn at Floydada where we knew they had horse pens. We knew it would be a shorter day but we are going to take a rest day on Sunday so we were anxious to get there. Unfortunately today it is cold and the wind is whipping again for a change! Ha ha! So, we have a game we play most every morning called Fool the Mustang!! We haven’t quite figured out how to head away from our pen for the night but make Durango think he is going towards it!! He has this uncanny sense of direction and no matter what he always wants to go back to where he spent the night before. Winston spends a good bit of energy for most of every morning convincing Durango that there is another barn ahead and that when he sees horses that those are not his herd so he can’t stay with them! I can’t wait for the day that he will arrive at Wind River and we will say, “Durango, here is YOUR barn and YOUR herd forever and ever amen!”
I called a man from the Floydada Sale Barn to make sure we could stay there and he said it would be fine. We went through Blanco Canyon on the White River. It is so sad in this part of Texas that there is never any water in any of the creeks or rivers. They need rain so badly. Meanwhile, on my phone I keep getting alerts that there are flash flood warnings in Louisiana. It is a shame we could not even that out to help everyone. There are so many wide open spaces out here. There is a lot of cotton farming and since the harvesting of cotton is over this year the crops are just dirt right now. We heard that the crop was so big this year that they normally finish in December but had to work until March to finish harvesting it. I have also learned that every time I see a big field of really green grass that it is actually wheat growing. There are no fields of green grass out here with no rain. Blanco Canyon was beautiful but it was tricky getting through it with the horse. But, Durango did great and we made it through safely.
I went ahead of Winston and found the best route through Floydada to the Sale Barn. We got in around 3:30pm and got Durango settled in. We had to do a little farm work to get the stall ready but then we headed to town to try and get some food and on the way we stopped by an RV park to go dump the RV. That is one part of owning or renting an RV that no one properly explained to me before we set out on this adventure. It is disgusting and never easy and I hate it every time. And we laugh out loud every time we dump the RV thinking of the Robin Williams movie “RV”. If you have ever been in an RV, you should watch that movie, it will make you laugh! We saw a Dairy Queen on the way in but we have had that so much on this trip because that is usually what is on the small back roads we have to take, so we were hoping for a real sit down meal. This is not an exaggeration; we drove around for twenty minutes and could not find one restaurant open on a Saturday night in Floydada in a town of 3038 people! Everyone in town told us to go to Nielson’s but unfortunately they closed at 2pm on Saturday and Sunday. Finally, we found a little Mexican restaurant named El Embajador with a Laundromat attached and they also ran the RV park behind it. It was great food and the owner was really nice. It hit the spot. Then we went back to the RV and fed Durango and were ready for bed by 9pm!!! The trail is making Winston and I not the night owls we usually are! Tomorrow is a rest day and we are sleeping in!! Yaaayyyy!!!!
Day 25 – Sunday, April 6, 2014
Okay, so not really sleeping in since Durango knows what time he normally eats his breakfast and to get our attention he flipped his gigantic feed bucket over to let us know it was empty. But, thankfully, we went to bed early so we did get some sleep!
We had big plans to go to Nielson’s today for lunch before they closed at 2! We got up and fed Durango and started cleaning the RV. Like I have said before, rest day is really cleaning day to get the 7 days of dust, hay, dog hair and horse hair out of the RV. We started that laborious task. Winston has a message on his phone for people to call my number if it is an emergency since his phone is off. While we were cleaning, I got a message saying that the fraud department for his debit card was calling to check suspicious charges. He was diligent before we left to set up all of his bills for automatic payments so he wouldn’t have to worry about that while we were traveling. He has not swiped his card since we left Shreveport because we have been using our account that we set up for the journey and he still has the card so he wondered if it was a mistake. When he called the bank, they said that 30 charges had been made to his card today. Some had gone through but then the others were declined until they spoke with him. While he probably will not be responsible for the charges, they have to cancel the card and mail a new one out which we will not receive since we don’t have anywhere to get it quickly and then he has to redo all of his bills with this new debit card. We are still trying to work that out. My dad had also gone to check our house for us and Winston had a check from the IRS saying he owed this ridiculous amount by April 28th which he thought he had set up on a payment plan. It was really frustrating for him to have to deal with these two financial things on our rest day and since it was Sunday they are still not resolved. Since we couldn’t resolve these things and he was upset about it I thought maybe a good meal at Nielson’s would help cheer us up.
We made it to Nielson’s and the parking lot was totally full! We figured that was a good sign! When we went in we loved the atmosphere, there was a sit down counter and then booths and tables and they had all kinds of cool things on display. We met the owner John Nielson and asked him about the collection of old metal lunchboxes he had on display. He said he just started purchasing them to start a collection and they are awesome! He had Star Wars, Partridge Family, Beverly Hillbillies, Charlie’s Angels, Mickey Mouse Club, Disneyland and lots of other ones….literally about 100 of these cool boxes. He also had lots of Texas license plates and so many other cool things. We talked with him and I told him about the Journey for Jonathan and he asked us questions about it. He told us that he had lost his father to pancreatic cancer a little over a year ago and it was the hardest thing he ever had to watch. My heart went out to him because I could feel his pain when he said it.
His wife Tammy and his son Seth were also working and we met them as well. We learned that they bought this restaurant in 1985 and have owned it ever since. You can tell it is a favorite with the customers!! Lovely, lovely family and the food was amazing! I had two full plates from the buffet of home cooking and then had homemade coconut pie that was delicious! When we went to pay our bill, the girl at the checkout said that John and Tammy had treated us to our meals. We told them we wanted to pay and Tammy said no really we want to do this. It is our pleasure. We are humbled once again by the kindness shown to us. We were talking to Seth and he said that he had just started riding horses because a girl that he was dating was on a horse drill team in Plainview. I asked him if he knew of any horse stalls or pens that we could rent in Plainview since we were headed there. He said that Letti, the girl he was dating could probably recommend one to us since her dad was president of the rodeo association there! That was exciting news to us! So Letti, gave us her mom and dad’s cell phone numbers and we will call them to try and set something up.
When we returned to the Sale Barn we talked to Scott and Cathy who take care of the barn and they were so nice and asked if we needed anything at all. Durango was getting bored so I took him for a walk in the parking lot. Hart is still not sure about me splitting my attention between him and Durango. Durango loves to be with people. He doesn’t understand about your space and definitely likes to be close to us!
We still had not replaced the broken bin from the “vandals” the other day so I decided I would run to Family Dollar with Hart and see about getting a new one. I realized it was after 6 and wasn’t sure they would still be open on Sunday. But, they were open until 9pm and so I headed down there. I couldn’t have been in there five minutes when a man came down the aisle I was on and said, “Are you with Journey for Jonathan?” I told him I was and I was thinking that something was wrong with the RV in the parking lot. He said, “I saw your RV earlier this morning and saw the blog address on the magnets on the door so I checked it out a little and when I saw your RV again just now I just wanted to give you a donation.” He handed me some money and I thanked him and told him how much we appreciated it. I ran out to the RV to get him a brochure and told him about Jonathan and about the journey. He thought it was a great tribute to a friend. When I went back inside to pay for my items, I realized he had given me a very generous donation and I thought how amazing a person to contribute to someone he never even met. I sincerely hope that this man’s life is blessed for his kindness today and I am really sorry that I didn’t get his name. The generosity that we have been shown every day on this journey is something that Winston and I will never forget and we will always try and help others in need as a way of repaying our debt to these wonderful people we have encountered.
We learned from the radar that we are expecting rain and maybe lightning. There were rain clouds looming on the horizon but the sun was beautiful coming from behind it. We have Durango in a pen but unfortunately not under cover tonight. We are hoping it will pass quickly but we know this area needs the rain badly so we hope they get a lot of it. There was quite a lightning storm out in the distance and it has started raining. Durango has his head down but seems okay. I told Winston I wanted to bring him in the RV with us to get him out of the rain. He said that he thought Durango would probably try. We are heading out tomorrow on Hwy. 70 towards Lockney and then Plainview. We will probably do that in two days because Plainview is a little too far to go in one day and so we may do two short days instead since we think we may have places to stay in both towns and that way Winston can try and take care of his bank and IRS issues.
He found this spoon and said a spoonful of sugar will help the medicine go down!
We have come over a third of the way on our journey and we can’t believe how far we have come! It is exciting and I never thought I would hear Winston say this but today he said, “I can’t wait to get out of Texas!” It does seem like we have been in Texas a really, really long time! But, when we think of all the great new friends we have made along the way we don’t regret one single mile! Thank you to everyone who is still behind us and for all of your love, support and prayers. It makes such a difference to know that we aren’t in this alone! On to Glory!
Donna (Winston, Hart and Durango too)