On May 1, David Curry, coordinator of the Mule Train, and about fifty sidekicks left Sand Mountain, bound for the Mule Day Celebration that following Saturday in Cullman. The trip, that would normally take an hour by automobile, takes the riders about three and a half days.
Riders Delight in the Comraderie of the Wagon Train
By Grace Smith
||Participants ranging in age from five to eighty years old, traveled from across Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi and even Illinois to ride in this year’s mule train.
In our modern day lives, we’re hammered with high prices, rushed by the ticking of our watches and bombarded with a technological overload. Every aspect of life seems to be fast-paced and ever-changing.
Travel is one area that is most affected by the hustle and bustle of our everyday lives. Whether we’re vacationing or just driving to work, we’re overwhelmed with soaring gasoline prices, monstrous SUVs and impatient "road ragers." But some individuals have found a way to "get back to the basics" of travel, and while they lack the amenities of air-conditioners and leather upholstery, they’ve found greater reward in the camaraderie and nostalgia of primitive travel.
On the sizzling, 86-degree afternoon of May 1, David Curry and about 50 sidekicks left Albertville mounted upon horses, mules and mule-drawn wagons headed toward Cullman where, on May 5, the Mule Days celebration was held. But for these cowboys and cowgirls the real delight was in the journey and not necessarily in the destination.
Curry, the wagon train coordinator, said his interest in mule trains first started almost 20 years ago when he and his children attended the Southeastern Livestock Exposition Rodeo in Montgomery and he was able to see the wagons pulling into town for the event. He began helping with the train that traveled from Boaz to Montgomery for the festivities and he decided it was time to start a mule train that traveled east to west. The Mule Days festival in Cullman seemed like an excellent destination and Sand Mountain was a logical East Alabama starting point.
In 2005, Curry’s vision became a reality and now, three years later, his mule train is well established and providing its participants with an opportunity to experience a reminiscent mode of travel while making new friends and enjoying extraordinary scenery.
Curry said the landscape along the trail is a highlight of the event. The back roads between Sand Mountain and Cullman provide the participants with a breathtaking landscape that is untainted by the hectic metropolitan lifestyle.
"The Mule Train allows the participants to see scenery you can’t see in a car," Curry said. "You can see some of the most beautiful sights in Alabama on horseback."
Moving at approximately four miles per hour, Curry said the group can only travel 15-20 miles a day. Thus the drive from Albertville to Cullman that takes about one hour by automobile, takes the riders about three and a half days. But Curry said his posse doesn’t seem to mind the snail’s pace journey.
"They [the riders] seem to enjoy the laid-back, easy going mode of travel," he said. "It’s nostalgic and it doesn’t cost gas to ride a horse."
This year’s voyage boasted 50 participants, which was a considerable increase from about 30 riders three years ago.
Participants, ranging in age from five to eighty years old, traveled from across Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi and even Illinois to ride in this year’s Mule Train.
Along the west-bound trek, the group had special activities like campfires, a band performance, a parade, a mule show and cookouts that were welcome entertainment after blazing trails along back-country roads under the scorching sun. Curry said they seem to enjoy the relaxation of the evening campsites more than any other activity along the trail. "I think they enjoy the leisure, laid-back atmosphere of the campsites after they get in from the ride most of all."
Curry, who is retired, said coordinating wagon trains is by no means a source of income, but simply a hobby he’s grown to love. He puts much thought and effort into the logistics and details of this trail ride, and he understands sponsorship is a necessity in making an event like this a reality.
"It always helps to have sponsors like Alabama Farmers Cooperative to help get it off the ground," he said. "There are a lot of expenses."
Curry said there’s only one bad thing about riding in the wagon train and that’s having to say goodbye at the end of the trail. But with the friendships made along the way, all of the riders are sure to come back next year. Until then the words of Roy Rodgers and Dale Evans are certain to resound in their minds…"Happy trails to you, until we meet again. Happy trails to you, keep smilin’ until then…"
Grace Smith is an associate editor for AFC Cooperative Farming News.