Woody disputes the merits of the journey at the entrance to my tipi. Did he think he was going to have to sleep inside my cone shaped home? As crazy as it sounds, some folks thought just that. “How,” they asked, “do you get that horse in to your tent at night.” At which I’d explain Woody wasn’t a horse and, well, you can see how much it takes to explain away life on the road with a tipi.

In the days leading up to my trip folks asked, “so, how far are you going?”. I searched inside for a satisfying answer but could do no better than, “oh, I’m thinking of maybe going across North Carolina.”

Yes, I’d ridden out of Oriental with a cup of Bean coffee in my hand. But two miles out of town, safely out of sight from all those that sent me off, I was walking. I hadn’t counted on how hard my cavalry saddle would be.

In Ben Casey’s front yard, just as I was extolling the wisdom and knot-savyness of mules, Woody tied himself up in a tangle so knife-worthy it hurt. Me. Oh Woody was fine. But it sure pained the sailor in me. I hate to cut a new rope.

On the occasion, Woody had been grazing on the Casey’s waterside front lawn, content to watch dolphins and the occasional eighteen wheeler pass between tugs of clover. It was St. Patrick’s Day after all. The long rope that Woody was straining toward the closest patch of shamrock seemed to be holding him in check so I set about pitching my tent.

The usual tent noises were interrupted by a chocking sound and when I looked Woody-ward, there he was leaning up against a long leaf pine tree with his hind leg bound behind his over-sized ear. The gurgling sounds came from just below the ears.

I jumped for my sheathed knife to slash the rope and just as the guilt of parting new nylon hit me, Woody relaxed and I was able to slip the rope off his hind hoof. He’s good that way. Just when all looks lost, he relaxes and pulls off the stunt. Then, just for good measure, he tangled his front feet and managed to almost pry off his front shoes. When all was free again, I stood him up on the highway and pounded the clenches back down with my Leatherman.

St. Patrick’s cabbage and corned beef with the Casey’s was interrupted by my constant departure “just to check Woody” or “just seeing how the old bugger’s doing”. Life on the road with a mule can get snarled so quickly and today we had our first brush. All is well though and tomorrow we take on the Minnessott ferry. (to be continued)

Tonight I’m concerned for Woody. He’s touchy along his withers and he didn’t finish his feed. When I peeled off the vintage McClellan saddle and ran my hand down his back, he pinned his ears and gave me that “Pal, don’t” in the way that sparse words convey danger.

Earlier, when I pitched camp along the South bank of the Neuse, Tom and his daughter Rachel rode to visit and when they departed Woody churned back and forth on his tether with intervals of full bore charges to the end. Then the rope comes up tight and his head goes between his knees and grunts and goes at it anew.

The good news is he’s stayed unknotted so I think he’s learned his lesson. Woody also has two loose front shoes.

It’s getting dark, and just above in the night, jets, reduced to roaring by with their red and green dragon eyes, aren’t helping my stomach ache. I ate my biscuits before they were fully cooked on my wood stove. There’s just a general discontent in the air as now Woody’s broken out in a cold sweat.

We DID make 6 miles though and we DID cross the Neuse on the Minessott ferry so we are making progress…