Hitting the trail: Friends make 175 mile trek with horse and mules to promote local rodeo
It probably didn’t seem fun when the pioneers set off across the prairie in search of a new home, but with a bedroll, cell phone and a delivery of fried chicken on its way a couple of Nebraska men are enjoying their trail from Ponca, Nebraska to Burwell, Nebraska.
BJ Robinson of Newcastle, Nebraska, hitched up his team of mules, Gary Stewart, who farms and ranches near Obert, is riding his saddle horse and together the friends are traveling the 175 miles from town to town, mostly to promote the Days of ‘56 PRCA Ponca Rodeo.
The two left the Ponca area Monday morning, July 22, with plans to travel about 35 miles per day in order to arrive in Burwell by Friday.
The trip was inspired by stories told by two other acquaintances – Kevin Kamrath and Bob Kastning, two men who traveled the same route together in 1967 in order to promote the rodeo. “Kevin was 16, Bob was 19,” said BJ’s wife Stephanie Robinson.
Stephanie said her husband enjoys driving his mules, and that he chose the younger of his two teams for this week’s trip. Hank, a 10-year-old john and Molly, a 7-year-old mare mule.
BJ, a project superintendent for a mechanical contracting company, mostly uses the mule teams for family fun – the couple has three small children – and a couple of local threshing bees, said Stephanie, who runs a small herd of cattle.
The two have a bedroll, tent and a cot for evenings, and while family provided supper of fried chicken, biscuits, taverns, pasta salad and more the first two nights, the men were on their own to feed themselves for other meals.
“They’ve been fortunate in towns, people have been welcoming, helping them find a spot to park wagons and hobble and highline the horses and mules,” she said.
Making friends along the way has been a special treat for the travelers. “They stopped in Osmond, where a 93-year-old gentleman said he tracked them down to see them. He said he used to run 6 head of mules to farm his ground.” Stephanie said the men have really enjoyed talking to and meeting people they never would have otherwise.
The first day of the trip, the two men traveled mostly gravel roads, then they hit highway 20 and will finish their trip going south on 11 to Burwell, said Stephanie.
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Thanks in part to the COVID restrictions – which sent their girls home for online college courses, the Plendl family of Kingsley, Iowa, saw many successes in the arena in 2020.