Polly Portrait

"Mule Polly" by animal painter Julia Carpenter (acrylic on board)
“Mule Polly” by animal painter Julia Carpenter (acrylic on board)

Recently, mule had her portrait painted by animal artist Julia Carpenter – aka The Bestiaryst. Julia did a great job capturing Polly’s expression, especially her eyes. It’s like Polly is saying, “hey, haven’t I pulled this wagon far enough? Wouldn’t this be a good time for a bite of grain?”

For some of Julia’s thoughts behind the painting, check out her article “An Awfully Good, One of a Kind, Un-proud Mule” at her site ConsideringAnimals.com

Thanks Julia!

Mule Polly looks at the camera in Laka Alma, Saskatchewan.
The photo that served as the basis of Polly’s portrait. The structure in the back ground is a grain elevator. No wonder Polly looks so enthusiastic.  (Lake Alma, Saskatchewan)


The Last Wagon Journal Entry

Bernie's Optimus Ranger 8R stove in the Texas desert.
The last night on the road. The flame in the foreground is the Optimus Ranger 8R gasoline stove. I used the the ancient, $35 stove, to cook almost all my meals on the entire Canada to Mexico journey.  The tripod used to to film the Lost Sea Expedition is next to water jug I used to carry water in to the desert. Look closely behind the wagon and you can spot a bale of alfalfa hay. The water jug and hay make an appearance later that night in my journal. (Sierra Blanca, Texas)

March 9 marks the anniversary of my last day on my wagon voyage across America – the journey that became the Lost Sea Expedition series.

Most nights in my wagon, I wrote in my journal. Tonight, reading back over those entries here in my cabin in Western North Carolina, those notes seems like a missive from another era. Continue reading “The Last Wagon Journal Entry”

After Snowflake, all horses were easy

Bernie bucks his pony Snowflake
My first pony Snowflake. I taught her to buck just in time for the 1974 Christmas postcard. Not a smart move for a kid who struggled to stay on. This is a card I created for the community art site BeastField.com. Wilkes County, NC (Karen Cantor photo)

My friend Julia started the community art project BeastField.com. The gig is simple. Folks send in a photo of a beloved dead pet and a 6 word description.

I submitted Snowflake, the pony who still makes me duck every time I see a low peach branch. Continue reading “After Snowflake, all horses were easy”

Time Lapse Cattle Guard Crossing

Time lapse of mule Polly and I crossing a cattle guard in the New Mexican desert. The cattle guard is made of railroad ties spaced about 9″ apart. That means Polly’s hooves would have fallen between gaps – the reason I had to unhook her and lead her around.  For a while there, she had me pulling the wagon a spell on our voyage across America. Smart mule!

Skip’s Honey Map

One of the main reasons it took 14 months to travel across my mule Polly is that I relied on word of mouth –  not technology – to find my way from Canada to Mexico.

Bernie and Polly take a break on the road
Bernie: “Which way is it to Mexico, Polly?” Polly: “Just keep walking……” Outside Beach, ND

I didn’t have a smartphone, GPS, wifi connection, digital maps or sat phone. Instead, I wanted to interact with people. That’s how I ended up on the receiving end of a sketch map and the giving end of three jars of honey.

Continue reading “Skip’s Honey Map”

Christmas Eve and the Animals are Talking

One the stables mule Polly slept in on her wagon voyage across America. It belonged to Ed Minor who lived in the Sandhills of Nebraska.
One the stables mule Polly slept in on her wagon voyage across America. It belonged to Ed Minor who lived in the Sandhills of Nebraska.  It reminds me of a Christmas Eve story from my youth.

I grew up on a horse farm in North Carolina. Every Christmas Eve, my brother and I would stand on the back porch, after dark, and cock our ears toward the horse barn.

The barn was within earshot of the house.  On a quiet night, you could hear the horses munching hay and moving quietly in their stalls. But that’s not what we were listing for.

Continue reading “Christmas Eve and the Animals are Talking”