- Associated Press - Thursday, February 12, 2015

LA VERNIA, Texas (AP) - When the sound truck for the Old Chisholm Trail Ride started blaring out “Cattle Call” by Eddie Arnold this week, even the horses tethered in the fog knew what it meant: Another day of riding was about to begin.

“It’s the traditional wake-up call on the ride. They played it at 7 a.m. and it was pretty loud,” said Melanie Walpoe, 60, whose first trail ride came nearly five decades ago.

“It’s the glue that holds the family together. Both my daughters are here, as well as my grandchildren,” she added as she groomed and saddled her mount.

All around the city park, other riders were tending to their horses, packing up their gear and preparing to move the RVs 15 miles up U.S. 87 to the next campground. They planned to arrive in San Antonio on Thursday.

The Old Chisholm is one of 11 mounted processions slowly making their way toward Bexar County, with most expected to arrive at some point this week. On Friday night, about 750 riders are expected to celebrate with an “End of Trail” barbecue hosted by the San Antonio Livestock Exposition.

“I’ve talked to all but one of the trail bosses and everything has been good so far. The weather has been perfect for a change,” said TW. Wheat, chairman of the trail ride committee.

Of the nearly 100 Chisholm riders who left Cuero on Saturday, job commitments and school had claimed all but two dozen by Wednesday morning. The ranks also had been thinned by various minor accidents.

“We had about seven people fall off their horses in the first two days. We’ve got another man laid up in the trailer here with a broken leg. He slipped out here last night,” Richard Barnett, a petrochemical plant operator in real life, said as he cleaned mud from the hooves of his quarterhorse Piper.

For trail boss Michael Breiten , 33, of La Vernia, who made his first ride when he was 6 months old, the only real worry is the traffic on U.S. 87, even with police escorts.

“The road we come up has a bunch of oil field traffic, and oil field trucks don’t like to slow down. We always worry about a horse getting loose and jumping out into the middle of the road,” he told the San Antonio Express-News (https://bit.ly/1vGTx00 ).

“When you have horses that don’t know each other all bunched together, they are real territorial, and can get frisky. Once I get off my horse at my final destination, I’m relaxed,” he said.

The Breitens go back a long way with the Chisholm ride and are well-represented these days across three generations.

“It’s a family tradition. My daughter and father ride with us, and my mother goes in a vehicle. She is what we call the camp boss. She gets everything lined up and the trailers all organized when we get to camp,” he said.

While outsiders may have a hard time understanding the attraction of meandering along for days in the saddle under a hot sun or in freezing weather, those who grew up with horses and other livestock understand what it’s all about.

“To most people, it’s a tradition. Some of the kids I grew up with on the ride are still here today. And they have young ones. We have a shared interest in horses and trail rides, and during this week we kind of relive the old past,” he said.

“It’s just a way to remember how the Old West was, not all electronics and cars. You actually had to ride horses to go somewhere, live off the land and make means with what you could afford,” he said.

For Kash Martin, 8, the honorary mascot for this year’s ride, the best part came Wednesday. As mascot, he was near the front on Bandit when the riders paraded past some 1,400 kids and teachers waiting in front of the local elementary and middle schools, among them his classmates.

“I was glad. They were yelling my name and waving at me,” he said.

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Information from: San Antonio Express-News, https://www.mysanantonio.com


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