Rural Missouri - May 2019 - 10
Ride organizers, from left,
David Allen, George Cox,
Wanda Blattel and Herb
Blattel show off David's
mules, Sadie and Sassie.
Mule riders hitch up to help Special Olympics
by Lonny Thiele | firstname.lastname@example.org
ow does a wagon ride in the middle of nowhere draw so many notable muleskinners? A few of those attending included the owner of last
year's Missouri State Fair Grand Champion Mule, an Arkansas man
who drove his mule team 428 miles across Arkansas and was featured
in the TV series "Arkansas Outdoors," a muleskinner who has driven mules
at the Cheyenne Frontier Days for the past 13 years and
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bia Mule Days, a well-known mule trainer who graced the
front page of the April issue of Mules and More magazine
and a plantation owner who has held
annual mule and horse plow days for
The answer of course has to do
with money, lots of it.
But it's not prize money they come
for. It's the more than $55,000 that
has been raised for Special Olympics of
Southeast Missouri over the years.
The ninth annual three-day Special
Olympics Ride was held last year at River
Valley Campground. The park is located
along the Castor River in a remote wooded area of western Bollinger County, 15
miles west of Marble Hill. More than
200 people attended one or more of
the events associated with the wagon
ride. There were 19 wagons and 25
horse and mule riders last year.
This year's event - set for May 15
to 18 - looks to be even bigger than
past rides. A mule jump competition on Saturday has been added
with no entry fees and $1,000 in
"Special Olympics is totally
funded by donations," says Penny Williams, development director for Southeast Area Special
Olympics in Cape Girardeau.
"What they (wagon riders) do
is incredible for four days
raising $9,000 to $19,000.
No one else across the state
does anything like this."
RURAL MISSOURI | MAY 2019
Mule and horse wagons and riders headed out daily between 8:30 and 9 a.m.
after a hearty breakfast and returned after lunch anywhere from 1:30 to 3 p.m.
Those taking part are a who's who of the mule world.
Dale Moreland of Dexter was there with his sorrel mule team, Tom and
Jerry. Tom won the Horse Mule Class at the Missouri State Fair the past three
years and last year was the overall Grand Champion of the Halter class. "It was
Ken Felts of Viola, Arkansas drove 150 miles to attend his second ride. In
2014, Ken - a retired employee of Ozark Border Electric Cooperative - and
two other muleskinners once spent 20 days driving their wagons across Arkansas. Ken has two mule teams. He drove his tall team - grullo johns - at the
past year's ride, Chief at 16 hands and Amos at 16.5 hands.
Ken likes to keep his mules busy. "I didn't have any other rides at home and
I know this one is for a good cause," he says.
Jerry Stroup of Lowndes has pulled a mule wagon during Cheyenne Frontier
Days for the past 13 years, which includes their parade, cattle drive and Grand
Entry. He raises mules and horses. "I just sold a pair of mules that went to
Bryce Canyon," he says.
Brock Milam, who was on the front page of Mules and More, led the trail
rides. And Jim Barks of Barks Plantation in Glen Allen was one of the 20 or so
mule men who drove a mule wagon on the daily rides.
Neighbors Wanda Blattel and George Cox of Advance teamed up in 2010 and
and help prepare the scrumptious breakfasts and dinners for the rides. "We
raised a little over $23,000 last year and expect to go over $100,000 this year.
Ours is the second biggest fundraiser in Missouri," George says.
Rides are not without their mishaps. Brock, who lives in Benton, says it
rained most of their ride Thursday. The team and riders got disoriented in the
heavy rain and turned into the woods. "It rained like the dickens," he says. "We
limped our way back. We were on ground we had never been on before."
The big draw on Saturday is country music played by the Logan Creek Band
of Ellington, who donated their time and will again perform at the ride. Saturday's Boston butts dinner was followed by a dance attended by more than 100.
According to George, last year's ride generated more than $15,000, with
$6,700 coming from an auction, which will again be held on Friday, May 17. All
the money is donated to Southeast Area Special Olympics in Cape Girardeau.
The money is used for transportation costs, uniforms, meals and a bowling
tournament. "We serve 1,100 athletes in the Southeast Area," Penny says.
It's a lot of fun for a good cause. "2019 will be our 10th anniversary. Everyone should come," George adds. "They will love the food and what we put on
during the week."
The Special Olympics Ride is May 15-18 at River Valley Campground near
Grassy. For more information, visit the park's Facebook page, call the park at
573-495-2581 or George Cox at 573-979-4986 for wagon information and Brock
Milam at 573-979-1120 for trail riding information.
Rural Missouri - May 2019
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - May 2019
Rural Missouri - May 2019 - Intro
Rural Missouri - May 2019 - Cover1
Rural Missouri - May 2019 - Cover2
Rural Missouri - May 2019 - Contents
Rural Missouri - May 2019 - 4
Rural Missouri - May 2019 - 5
Rural Missouri - May 2019 - 6
Rural Missouri - May 2019 - 7
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Rural Missouri - May 2019 - Cover3
Rural Missouri - May 2019 - Cover4