The big sky and expanse of prairie look different when viewed from the seat of a covered wagon.
When driving a team of horses and traveling at an average speed of 4 miles per hour it becomes easier to enjoy the surrounding nature, according to George Parsons, one of the organizers of a wagon train that is making its way from Liberal, Mo. to Fort Scott.
“When you’re seeing things at 4 miles per hour, you get to see more,” he said.
“This is all part of Echoes of the Trail in Fort Scott,” Parsons said, adding that the group of wagon drivers would be eschewing pavement as much as possible in favor of roads that more closely resembled the prairie.
Parsons and Patrick Goodknight led a team with a total of 6 wagons and 14 horses from Liberal to the Shiloh Cemetery, on through Arcadia and ended the day in Cato, where they camped before beginning the trip from Cato to Fort Scott this morning.
The group’s gatherings may seem laid back and informal, but they require a tremendous amount of planning and effort ahead in order to run smoothly.
“George kind of starts getting them together,” Goodknight said, adding that he then sends a letter in the mail to those who are asked to come along.“It’s by invite only,” Goodknight said, adding that greenhorns don’t get to take on a two-day trail ride as their first trip in a wagon.
Goodknight said the group, in a way, is formed of kindred spirits.
“Every one of us on this deal were born out of season,” he said, adding that the ages of the men on the trail ranged from early 40s to mid-70s, but that all would have been better suited for pioneer life.
Goodknight said he took an interest in horses and wagons early in life.
“I’ve been messing with them for 30 years,” he said. “I bought a team from a guy and then George bought a team.”
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From there, the group started getting together on occasion to take trips by wagon.
“I try to pick out the trails and he does the organizing,” Parsons said of the arrangement. “It’s a lot of work to have this much fun.”
That sentiment was echoed by others in the group, who compared it to the work that goes into a camping trip, but more so.
Still, memories are made along the trail, and Parsons said one part of Thursday’s drive that was special was a visit to the Liberal cemetery.
“Several of us went to the cemetery in Liberal to Ronnie Talbot’s grave,” Parsons said, adding that Talbot was the mayor of Liberal and owned a team of mules. The group wasn’t able to have the team take Talbot to his grave at the time of his death, but did spend time paying respects before hitting the trail.
“I imagine we’ll do some guitar picking around a campfire tonight,” Parsons said during a rest stop at the Shiloh cemetery shortly before heading to Arcadia for lunch.
“We’re having a good time,” he added. “It’s good weather.”