A Training Rig for Jack and Bill – Southern Pines, NC

Somehow, in my new-found enthusiasm for welding, sand blasting and paint, I overlooked one small detail of my pending expedition; my mules Jack and Bill.

After all, hadn’t I bought them early in the planning stages of the trip so I could get them in shape? But now they mostly just kept their round bale company.

Woody and Maggie escaped my inattention. I still managed to ride them weekly. But the thought of riding plow mules raised the hollow enthusiasm reserved for pushing a wheel barrowful of cement. In the end the guilt got me.

I threw my saddle on Bill, whom I judged the milder of the two, and ponied Jack. They immediately blundered into a yellow jacket’s nest which gave the failed attempt more of a Mad Max taste than a Ben Hur experience.

So I built a training wagon, little more than a flat bed on wheels, while I continued on the “real” one.

Scavenging the remains of the original wagon for timbers

With friends Eric and Ginny, I picked clean what remained of the original wagon.

The new frame members are laid out

2 by 6 boards were reconstituted into a box frame.

The box frame

In two days, my friends helped me build a stripped down wagon bed that fit onto my Pioneer wagon chassis. The project came to ten dollars; five for lumber and five for a gallon of mismatched paint from Lowe’s. Everything else was recycled.

Jack and Bill are put into harness

Hitched up at last!

Jack the mule with Bernie and Sparky, un-official “Expedition Dog”

Finally, I was poised to hit the road, albeit in a make shift way.

Then I discovered something else I’d ignored.

I didn’t know how to drive a mule team.

That’s where Hoy stepped in and got me moving.


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