2011-03-17

Wagonmaster & cowboy artist find Bandera good fit

By Carolyn B. Edwards BCC

Ron “Dakotah” McGilvery and Teri Freeman escaped Montana for warmer climes and ended up managing Jeanie Parker’s Cadillac Ranch on Upper Mason Creek Road off Highway 173 North. Parker runs a Noah’s Ark of rescued animals of various denominations along with a carriage service and driving school (carriage and wagon driving, that is!), among other unique business services.
Dakotah and Freeman met Parker through “a friend of a friend of a friend,” and the match seems perfect.
After driving a wagon and team across the United States for 26 years, Dakotah just recently decided that it was time to call it quits. “I’ve been going four miles per hour in an 80 mile per hour world for a long time,” he said. Freeman operated The Rusty Cowboy, a store in Ennis, Montana, that offered a scatter-shot inventory of everything from eggs to antiques in order to glean a dollar from a tourist’s pocket.
“We decided that nine months of winter is just too long,” said Freeman.
The couple met in Ennis two years ago. He was driving his wagon down the road and needed a place to camp. She had nine acres and offered him the use of it. From that first meeting, what appears to be a warm and happy relationship has evolved.
Dakotah has met a lot of nice people on his journeys that began with his “Maiden Voyage” from Sisters, Oregon “when my third wife ran off with the bus driver.” He says there is something about a wagon and horses that draws people in. “It’s magical.”
He and his team crossed the Great Salt Lake Desert hauling enough alfalfa for the trip and 50 gallons of water. People questioned his sanity. However, when he and his horses finished off the water, he tacked a sign on the empty barrel on the back of his wagon. “Need water,” it said. “I had people stopping all along the route, little kids emptying their water bottles, a man in an RV asking how much I needed. It was amazing,” he said.
Sometimes in his travels, he met law enforcement officers who just wanted him out of town as quickly as possible. One night, at about 2 am, his wagon lit up with lights from outside. A voice called out, “Is anybody in there?” Dakotah stepped outside and looked up to the top of the roadside ditch where he had camped for the night. “There stood the biggest sheriff I had ever seen, hands on his hips, looking pretty threatening.” Expecting to be told to pack up and move on, Dakotah walked up the slope and introduced himself. “This is the coolest thing I ever saw!” the sheriff said. The wagonmaster invited him in and they talked for over an hour.
For over two and a half decades Dakotah and his teams traveled 20 miles a day, putting in five hours every day. In the winter, if the weather turned bad, he sometimes stayed in one place for a week or so. He usually camped by the roadside, putting up an electric fence to keep the horses in. When he first started this adventure, he worked in the summers, but eventually went full time. “I never missed a meal,” he said with a grin.
He got his first and only ticket in California where the traffic officer told him that “no equestrians are allowed on the interstate.” Dakotah looked around for equestrians (people who ride horses), “but I decided I’d better not explain what the word meant to the officer.”
The couple arrived in Bandera County with a motor home, a pick-up and horse trailer, four horses and two chickens, Annie Oakley and Calamity Jane.
They jumped right in with the work at Cadillac Ranch. On one bitterly cold morning last month, Parker and Freeman spotted a baby goat flat on top of a bale of hay. “I grabbed him up and Jeanie told me to start massaging his legs,” said Freeman. “We finally got him warmed up and moving around.” Freeman planned to put the little fellow back with his mom when Dakotah gave her the news, “You’re the mom.” A long round of feedings every two hours introduced Freeman to goat kid motherhood. The mostly white kid now travels with the couple on a leash, sporting a blue bandanna. He’s called Blanco Billy Dagoatah.
If you enjoyed the recent Cowboy Mardi Gras parade in Bandera, you saw Dakotah and Freeman pulling the Frontier Times Museum directors. They will soon be offering carriage rides around Bandera and are getting the hay wagon ready to handle larger groups. Freeman, an accomplished cowboy artist, has her works on display for sale at the 11th Street Mercantile. Check out their websites at www.rondakotah.com and www.rustycowboy.com or email them at rustycowboys@gmail.com. To make arrangements for pony parties, carriage rides or driving lessons, call 830-328-0985.
With a motto of “keeping the Old West alive,” Dakotah and Freeman should find a happy campground in the Cowboy Capital of the World.
“We’ve met so many friendly people here,” they said. “We hope to stay for a long time.”

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