Wagon Construction Week 5
March 26, 2012

The concept was simple. Build a two-wheeled cart. Build a two-wheeled covered wagon. Hitch the wagon to the cart and pull the rig through the Canadian Maritimes. I built the cart. I built the wagon.

So far, so good for 5 weeks of work.

Polly hooked to the cart. Technically, it’s called a forecart. It was designed to pull equine powered implements such as plows, hay rakes or scrapers. I’ve repurposed it to pull my wagon. On the back of the forecart is a tray that holds feed, hay, water and, in this photo, a bucket and shovel for mule emissions.

Flash forward to Oriental, NC. This week, I hauled cart, wagon and Polly to friends Keith and Melinda’s house to start my 10 day shake down tour. You know. Make sure this whole thing works before I schlep it 2000 miles to Canada.

So far so good.

Then I saw the 21-foot sailboat parked in Keith’s driveway. Suddenly, pulling a covered wagon seemed so, well, normal, when I could be towing a gaff-rigged sailboat through North Carolina’s Sailing Capital. So we hitched Polly to the boat and off we went for a spin around the village.

Sound sorta whacky?

Yeah, in 2012, two grown men pulling a boat with a mule seems out of sync with the times. Boats are pulled with trucks and if you don’t care how folks look at you, you might get by with a Honda.

But a mule?

Not so much. Not anymore.

As Keith and I towed Webster around the village, feeling a tad guilty of Polly’s load, it dawned on us that maybe we weren’t entirely crazy. Call it justification. But it made the whole thing seem less ridiculous when we considered that a boat probably hadn’t been towed through Oriental in over century.

But it probably had been done. Think about it. A hundred years ago, Oriental, like many coastal communities, lived off fishing. The nets would have been hauled by hand, not net winders. The boats would have been powered by sail instead of engines. And when those boats had to be moved on land, they would have been pulled by a horse or mule.

In fact, those boats would have looked a lot like the one we were pulling along Oriental’s oak lined streets. They would have been shoal draft to accommodate the area’s skinny waters. They would have sported four-sided gaff rigged sails and probably a centerboard. Just like the vessel we were towing.

Keith’s sharpie sailboat in its element. Here, “Webster” is parked on a Neuse River beach across from Oriental. Webster is a Bay Hen designed by Rueben Trane. He weighs around 900 pounds and draws under one foot of water with center boards raised. Of fiberglass construction, the hull and rig is based on early fishing vessels that would have plied East Coast waters – including those off Oriental – a century ago.

So gradually, the idea of taking a leisurely stroll with a boat hitched to a mule didn’t seem so crazy.

Then a lady asked us, “why are you towing a boat with a mule?” And suddenly it all seemed wacky again. Could be 100 years before another sharpie’s hauled through the Sailing Capital behind a mule….

Here are a few photos of our afternoon jaunt around Oriental. Up next. Polly and I take a week long tour of Pamlico County. In the wagon. For more on Oriental, drop by TownDock.net.

Down at the Oriental Town Dock. Behind Polly, the steel trawler “Lady Deborah”. I think I’d need a bigger team to haul that vessel.
A young admirer
While picking up compost at a local business, Polly and I encountered Megan Maclean. We couldn’t fail to notice Megan’s nautical tattoo. I think Polly enjoyed the closer look…
…or maybe it was just getting scratched.
Skipper Ralph. While taking our trailer sailing tour of Oriental, we ran across buddy Ralph. In a flash he was aboard and behind the tiller.
Land yacht pit stop. Here, the boat trailer takes on air in front of Oriental’s Cartwright House. Jack the pilot car dog is leading local traffic around the obstruction.
Posted Monday March 26, 2012 by Bernie
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April 12, 2012 Author Program
March 12, 2012

Don’t make me take my welding mask off. Just kidding. It’d be great to see you.

I’m putting down the welder and harness for a few hours on April 12th to attend an author meet and greet program. A chance for writers, readers and those who do both to rub noses. It’s being hosted by the Caldwell County Public Library in Lenoir, NC. Love to see you if you’re in the neighborhood. We can talk mule travel, wagon construction, publishing or that three-wheeled contraption you’re welding up in your garage. You know, the one with the crazy wheel that has a flat spot.

Here are the details.

April 12, 2012
Author “Meet and Greet”
6p until
Caldwell County Public Library
120 Hospital Avenue
Lenoir, NC 28645
Caldwell County Public Library

Map Note: the map shows the Caldwell County Public Library location.

Posted Monday March 12, 2012 by Bernie
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Wagon Construction Week 3
March 12, 2012

Last week I showed you a few photos of how my new wagon is progressing. The pressure’s on now to get this sucker finished. My goal is to haul it up to the Canadian Maritimes while spring’s still in the air. There, hauled by mule Polly, I want to interview folks about things seafaring and cod.

Here are a few photos Week 3 of wagon construction. Yep, this was the week I hitched mule Polly to the wagon. I’ve been working on this project just under a month (that’s a month of working days, not counting days off for family matters and weeding the winter garden.) Not bad considering I budgeted daily pipe smoking sessions to admire progress. A man needs to celebrate life’s daily victories you know. For maximum contemplation value and political incorrectness, nothing beats a Dr Grabow Grand Duke. Add a cup of cowboy coffee and, though you may erase a few years of your life, you can cancel your 10a appointment with your life coach. Just sayin…

Before: this is what my wagon looked like barely a month earlier. Yep, little more than a bolt together trailer from Northern Tool. Cost: around 250 clams.
After: Here, Polly meets the new wagon. Note the wild look in both our eyes. Mine comes from too many late nights shoving sticks of wood through the jointer, the machine that makes a straight bottom face on lumber. Yeah, I sprouted a beard along the way. Her shocked look comes from realizing that all those months of pasture leisure may be coming to an end. Nothing excites a mule’s memory of working days like a set of cold steel shafts sliding down her sides…. (Kenny Tyndall Photo)
Side view: here is how my wagon looks from the side. The two-wheeled contraption at the front is the forecart. It’s where I sit to drive the wagon. Note the chimney sticking through the wagon wall. It’s connected to the wood stove I built specially for this wagon. Man, this stove is a ripper, the subject of a future post. To think it started out with a scrap of paper and a rooster….(Kenny Tyndall Photo)
Some folks rely mechanical engineers to approve their plans. I had to settle for a rooster. Here, Ronald Hudson’s rooster (I built the stove at Ronald’s farm) reviews my stove plans. Shortly after this photo was snapped, he “signed” my plans with a muddy print. Then he roostered off in search of hens to impregnate.
The completed stove. Here it’s perched on a cinder block waiting installation. These days, it enjoys pride of place in my wagon. Serving as a heat shield, to prevent if from scorching the wall, is a 92-cent cookie sheet. On cold mornings, I can light it from my bed. Ah, luxury!

Hope all’s well with you and you’re tackling some dandy projects of your own. Special thanks to Kenny Tyndall for the great pics. Sorry I ran over your dog pal.

(Map Note: this map shows where I took my first wagon shake down tour. Look closely and you can see the Carolina Horse Park’s race track, home of the Stoneybrook Steeplechase.)

Posted Monday March 12, 2012 by Bernie
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