The Salt Grass Trail Ride
February 21st -28th 2004
The Salt Grass Trail Ride is the original and the oldest of several trail rides that promote the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo . The trail ride was started in 1953 by Pat Flaherty, Reese Lockett, E.H. Marks, and John Warnasch. It originally began in Brenham and ended at the Rodeo Parade in downtown Houston. February 21st 2004 marked the beginning of the 53rd annual Salt Grass Trail ride from Wittenburg's Pasture in Catspring, Texas. The trail ride ends seven days later at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo parade.
I wasn't able to ride the trail all week (Texas Bob has a day job) but I was able to spend some time with the trail riders and ride one day in the Marks Family wagon, the founder's wagon and number one wagon on the trail.
Before I could go on the the trail ride I had to get some new duds. Salt Grass Trail ride rules require all trail riders to dress western "like cowboys riding to the rodeo". We decided to go to the trail campsite at the Bellville Fair grounds to meet the folks and find out where the Marks wagon was parked. It was a good thing we did. With a least 27 wagons and as many as 55 riders per wagon, stock trailers for the horses and mules, campers and RV's for the folks and an uncountable number of "porta potties", generators, chuck wagons and camp fires, well it wasn't easy to find our wagon and the folks we had to meet up with. One thing I did notice though. I was wearing my new Red Cowboy shirt, new hat and jeans etc. Well the regular trail riders were in what I would call "western work wear". That's because trail riding is work!
It takes a large number of folks to run and manage the trail ride. For every person riding a horse or in a wagon there is probably another person pulling trailers directing traffic, running the sound truck, moving and setting up the next camp site, moving and servicing the porta potties, and cooking three meals a day.
In our wagon (Marks Family #1) we had the pleasure of sharing it with 93 year old Atha Marks Dimon. Atha, as she is called by many is the daughter of Salt Grass Trail Ride founder E. H. Marks. She is intelligent, spry and dedicated to the well being of the Trail Ride. The morning we rode she said the opening prayer over the sound truck sound system and everyone had to come by and say "howdy" to Atha. She climbed up in that wagon several times a day and rode all 70 miles of the trail ride.
Things I learned at the Salt Grass Trail ride.
- Mules speed up when going up hill, horses slow down.
- Horses can get away from you.
- Any where around a trail ride, watch where you step.
- Never get in wagon that does not have a driver with the reins in hand.
- Mules are pretty smart.
- How to drive a two mule team.
- Trail riders are friendly and work together. Food taste better on the trail.
- The trail ride is fast enough to get there and slow enough to think about where your going.
- Your never too old or too young to go on a trail ride
"To stimulate, promote and encourage the love of horses, riding, good fellowship and to perpetuate the memory of the original riders of the Salt Grass Trail and to further stimulate, promote and encourage the best interest of the Houston Live stock Show and Rodeo, Inc., and of agriculture, livestock raising and marketing"
Excerpt from the Salt Grass Trail Constitution By-Laws