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Old West-style wagon train hits the trail again

by Sarah Boles

The fourth annual Weiser River Trail Wagon Train rolled out of Weiser Thursday afternoon with 55 happy participants enjoying a sunny afternoon, finally, after many days of rain. Three wagons, a few carts and many riders on horseback made up the train this year.

The annual event is organized by Dan Dickerson and Terry
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Bonner. The trail ride has grown over the past years with last year having 76 participants. The ride started out with seven, the second year grew to 32 and this year had 55 plus. Having a cup of coffee before the start of their four-day ride were Roy Allen (left), of King Hill, Idaho, and Vern Gillespie, of Mountain Home. The two have participated in an annual event in Glenns Ferry commemorating the crossing of the Snake River on the Oregon Trail. (To more photos from wagon train)

Thursday night the group planned to camp at their primitive campsite between Weiser and Midvale. Friday night would be spent in Midvale, and Saturday in Goodrich. The end of the trail for the wagon train was to come Sunday off Hornet Creek Road, where the horses, wagons, carts and camping gear would be loaded and planning for next year’s trail ride would begin.

Al and Joan Whitworth came from Hansville, Wash., located in the Olympic Peninsula west of Seattle, with their covered wagon and team of two Perchron draft horses. When asked what brought them to Weiser and the trail ride, Al said, "Last year I met Dan at his auction, I kinda liked him and came down to visit." They also brought with them three friends, Gayle Lund, Chris Olson and Randy Berg.

Al and Joan have been on six wagon trains. Al still farms and logs with his draft horses, Lefty and Poncho, who each weigh 1,950 pounds. Their wagon is a Mitchell wagon built in the Portland and Spokane areas and is of the 1900-1920 vintage. The wagon is mostly original except the chuck box built on the back. Al purchased the wagon 20 years ago through the Small Farm Journal magazine. They also brought Joan’s saddle horse, Shane.

Bringing friends Gayle, Chris and Randy lent color to the wagon train. The whole group makes fun of Gayle because he bought a girls’ saddle, but when they harrass him about it, he just quips back: "What’s my name?"

Chris Olson rode his mule, Mary, and Randy Berg rode his own beautiful lineback dun quarterhorse, Buzz the Wonder Horse (named after super hero Buzz Lightyear).

Making the trip with difficulty from Salem, Ore., were Dennis and Linda Dickenson. They blew a tire on their way and arrived in Weiser at 10 p.m. Wednesday evening. They came with their two horses, a bay by the name of Joey and a buckskin, Lucy. They say they started trail riding 25 years ago and moved to breeding and showing. They raised a national champion hunter under saddle which is the preliminary class for English riding disciplines. Hunter under saddle derives from fox hunts, when horsemen would ride into the field after the foxes.

The Dickensons found that show-ing and breeding wasn't as much fun as trail riding and one year ago took up trail riding again. The Weiser River Trail ride is their first long trip. They heard about the trail ride through the Capital Press want ads. They called Dan for all the information and the next thing they knew they were loading their horses.

Two interesting cowpokes were found around their wagon drinking their coffee before starting their trek. Vern Gillespie of Mountain Home and Roy Allen of King Hill were shooting the breeze about their years of trail riding. This was Vern’s third year in Weiser and it was Roy’s first. They are old hands at trail riding, participating in the Glenns Ferry Three Island Crossing that commemorates the Oregon Trail crossing of the Snake River. This year’s event will be held Aug. 13. Vern has the distinction of being the oldest participant in the Glenns Ferry event. Vern and Roy participated on the first crossing, but after three years Roy’s children made him quit.

Vern brought his mules David and Johnny, and Roy his mule BS, which stands for Babysitter.

Fruitland residents Dan and Nancy Cone, attending for their first year, brought a beautiful 1880s Studebaker wagon that the couple obtained in Parma. They found it sitting in a yard and refurbished it in 1989 for their ride in the 1990 Idaho Centennial wagon train. They commented that when Studebaker went out of business in the 1960s, the company had the longest history of manufacturing wheeled vehicles. Pulling the covered wagon were two Belgian horses, Turbo and Rex.

Completing their group were Lee Barton of Nyssa and Greg Perdue of Fruitland. Their nighttime accom-modations called for sleeping on the ground and not in the wagon, but each night one of them would be afforded the benefit of an air mattress, which was packed inside the wagon already inflated.

Adding to the charm of the train were three miniature horses. They were one-year-olds, born within two weeks of one another. They belong to Susan and Richard Welch of Meridian. The original plan was to have them ponying to the back of Terry Bonner's wagon, but once on the trail, Terry's Clydesdale walked too fast and the three little ones couldn’t keep up. Next year they will be able to pull a cart. Topaz, Spice and Onyx have been competing in shows and halter and in-hand trail. The Welches belong to the driving club Treasure Valley Whips and found out about the trail ride through friends John and Jan McEnroe of Nampa. This is the third year for the McEnroes.

Adding to the true Old West feeling was a 9-year-old mustang, BB. His owner, Howard Johnson of Portland, adopted the wild stallion when the horse was already 4 years old. To others he recommends against getting a wild stallion of ages 3 or 4 because that is around the time when they are normally kicked out of the herd to fend for themselves and they are really wild. With a lot of work, however, BB has been made into a great horse.

Multiple generations were represented on the trail ride. Dan and Mary Dickerson’s granddaughter, Emily, 10, has participated for two years. When asked what she remembers most about last year’s ride, she tells about walking along the trail with her friends. They kicked a rock and saw a scorpion, which sent them all away screaming. She said she has a lot of fun with Grandpa.

The camaraderie and friendships gained from the ride will last a lifetime and it is great that organizers Terry and Dan bring the Old West back to life in this way for everyone to enjoy.

--WEISER SIGNAL AMERICAN
5/23/05