Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Retirement is Fun!

Life at Wranglers introduces new faces
by Bob Ammons

HOWARD and BELLE TRAVIS and their mule team
Brenda and I have almost completed our first full season as Camp Host at Wranglers Horse Camp in Land Between the Lakes in Western Kentucky. This is my first full year in retirement and I could not think of a better place to spend it. Our job at Wranglers is in the camp's General Store. This means we get to meet and chat with most everyone that comes here to camp and ride. The camp got off to a slow start this year with three storms that swept thru in March and April . The camp was closed for three weeks while the forest service personnel cleared the trails and campground. Four of the rental cabins were damaged, as well. This was a budget buster for the camp but the manager and assistant manager did a fantastic job of getting everything up and running in record time.
The best part of being in camp all year was the wonderful people we have met, not to mention all the outstanding mules and horses we have seen, and the lifelong friends we have made.
I know that our mules, Molly Shakespear and Libby, have enjoyed it as much as we have since they have a 15 acre pasture to run on while we are working.
There is not room in this magazine to tell you about all the wonderful mules and people we have met, but two of the old timers stand out.
Mr. Howard Travis is a fixture here at Wranglers. He has been coming here since 1977, long before it was managed by the US Forest Service. at that time he rode horses and says the campground was just an open field with one well for water for the stock. In 1984 Travis made the switch to a team of mules and a wagon.
In 1947 he went to work as a coal miner for the Wickliffe Coal Company near his home town of Browder, Ky. During his early years in the mine, small mules were used for hauling the coal out of the mine. They pulled trolley cars loaded with coal and each miner was assigned a mule that worked their same schedule.
Over the years Travis has been driving his team on the wagon trails here at Wranglers and keeping the trails clean for all of us to enjoy. Travis along with his wife Belle empty the trash cans in the more remote areas and pick up debris along the trails. After a few years of doing this the Travis’ were given a permanent site at camp. They go out almost daily to make their rounds. Travis is a real asset to the campground and has many stories of the mule teams he has had over the years. If you get a chance to camp and ride at Wranglers Horse Camp, look him up, you will enjoy your visit with him and will defiantly come away with some great advice on life and mules.
Doyle and Carolyn Suiter of Woodlawn, Tenn., have been camping and riding in LBL since 1971, shortly after Doyle finished his four year hitch in the US Air Force. Doyle and Carolyn started camping here with their young family riding horses, and as their kids grew up and started their own lives Doyle and Carolyn made the switch to mule teams.

DOYLE and CAROLYN SUITER and their mule team at Wranglers Horse Camp
Doyle buys and trains four to five teams each year. Starting in January and February, Doyle will hit the mule auctions looking for this years teams to train. He starts his mules on his farm pulling a ground slide. Once he has a good handle on them he and Carolyn will head to Wranglers Campground with a team and finish them out on the many wagon trails that make up part of the trail system. Doyle and Carolyn will stay here 21 days at a time several times a year with one of their teams. By the end of their stay they have a team that has a lot of miles on them and have pretty much seen it all.
Doyle figures he has bought, trained and sold at least 70 teams over the last 20-25 years and is thinking of settling down with just one team to camp with and drive. Carolyn just rolls her eyes when Doyle says this, and says, “No way Doyle will stop buying training and selling teams.”
I asked Doyle if the economy had hurt the price of mule teams. His answer was, “A good team of mules will still bring a good price...You get what you pay for."
We hope to see you here sometime! Merry Christmas and  Happy New Year from the Ammons. See you all in 2012 with an update on Starr Doe. --Safe & Happy Trails, Bob, Brenda, Molly Shakespear, Libby, and now Starr Doe

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