Sunday, June 7, 2009

I'm not an active driver any more.

It has been two months since I drove the buggy. I’ve been catching up on webmastering, my arthritis is back under control, I got back the 20 pounds I had lost, and now get good sleep every night. I’m dancing Cajun at Tip’s on Sunday again. And I frequently take my out-of-town guests on rides using other drivers! Contact me if you're interested...

I won’t be working full time on the buggies any more. Those six months were like going to a foreign land, only I got to come home and crash every evening. I made friends with some fine mules and fascinating drivers, artists, mimes and street performers, bums, street characters and guests. I learned to give punchy sound-bite type tours in 30-40 minutes instead of 2 hours. The quick buggy tours of 1/2 or 1 hour let my guests see much more than they could in my two-hour walking tour. It’s enough time to give some great details about the Quarter and St. Louis cemetery, New Orleans history -- past, present, and future, our culture, architecture and cuisine. It’s especially good for people who are in a hurry, the physically impaired, or folks with little ones that would be bored on the long walking tour but are thrilled to ride the cart, especially from the shotgun seat.

My old life was good too. I am fortunate that I could put it all aside to do this great adventure. I met my goal: I know I can turn my life around on a dime. I proved that at 75 I still have plenty of starch left in me, and according to my guests, I gave a great tour. I now know I could be a good tour guide just about any interesting place in the world.

Recently, I have been taking some of my out-of-town guests on buggy rides with another driver. Every chance I get, I walk the hack stand before 10am, when most of the buggies are all lined up waiting. I love all the mules and drivers, I always will. It was a great experience... proving to myself, after 14 years, that I could enjoy working full time again and make a pretty good living doing it... if necessary. But this is mostly an avocation, I don't really need more money.

My interest in mules and donkeys has led me into some in-depth study of these wonderful critters on Wikipedia. I may post some details of my research here in later postings. Some part of me will always be a buggy driver!

Being a good mule is being willing to take take others' burdens. At some level, we have all been mules and often found the burdens satisfying.

Monday, March 23, 2009

On a sabbatical from driving Bonnie

I'm on sabbatical from full-time buggy driving. I'm thinking about ways to do this part time, because I love most all of the work, the mules, the carriages, the stable folk, the other drivers, and the guests we serve.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Fine mule, fine carriage, fine setting, great guests!

Ladies from Houston enjoy a tour

On a slow Monday morning, these ladies first enjoyed meeting Bonnie, rubbing her nose, and feeding her carrot slices. After beignets at the Cafe du Monde, they returned for a fun tour around 20 blocks of the old French Quarter. At the end, I offered to take a picture. Turned out they didn't have a camers with them... so I used mine, and sent a copy by email. I got this gracious reply:

Thanks for the ride and the picture. We thoroughly enjoyed the carriage tour and the picture was a great bonus. Thanks again.

ML (Houston)

Monday, January 5, 2009

Vacation days...

I'm taking two weeks off, from Monday Jan 5 through Sunday Jan 18. Sort of like going out to pasture, like the mules.

One of my goals is to walk my usual routes, and get details of sites I mention, but have not seen up close. The Steamboat Natchez, Emeril's NOLA Restaurant, the Supreme Court building, the Insectarium, Pat O'Brians, Johnny White's bar, the bar at Pete Fountain's old place, and McDonogh 15, for starters. Will take pictures.

I need to buy some clothes and gear. I'd like to put on 10 or 20 pounds, so I'll eat real good.

I dress much better, now that I have turned over the messy bathing, grooming, and harnessing chores to the fine mule skinner Randolph.

Monday, December 29, 2008

I get a good review!

This came in today’s email:

Dear Mr. Dawes,

Spoke to [name deleted] this afternoon and she gave me your cell # - no answer, but will try again. We spoke yesterday near the cathedral. As you may have recognized late yesterday as you passed on Dumaine, I often observe carriages and the degree of help and information the host provides. You are at the top for courtesy, knowledge and informative chatter that I see from our gallery and on the street.

Been coming here almost 40 years and never a carriage ride. You give me incentive to finally take a real French Quarter tour. Will be in touch.

[name deleted]
This man waved down my buggy when we were paused at the Cabildo (for two minutes on the Louisiana Purchase) and asked for a business card. He then told my guests that they have the best guide in the Quarter, and he wants to take the whole tour. I said thank you, I’d be happy to give him a tour, and we moved on. The guests laughed and asked if I paid the guy!

So, it looks like I have a potential passenger! But tour guides yell stuff like this at each other all the time.

I'm blessed with a bellowing baritone voice that can control a crowd, and I deliver my lines to all in earshot, whenever I can get away with it. Sometimes it earns me a fare.

Here's a line I feel free to shout across the street when things are slow in the morning:

Hey, y'all come over here and get a fascinating buggy ride! All our mules are strong and good looking, and all our guides are above average!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Mules in my family history.

Public works are in the news today: Obama Pledges Public Works on a Vast Scale. My dad was in the CCC, as a commisioned officer and company commander. He knew how to plow with mules and drive a wagon.

Mules have touched my family history several times.

In 1903, my grandmother Momma Kay became a 16-year-old single mother when a mule kicked her first husband Adolphus Cecil in the head. Three years later she married Harvey McKay and bore 12 children, of which my mother Addie was the oldest.

During the last great depression, Dad was living on a farm in Cajun country. He could rent his mule team out for more money than a man could earn... and fed his wife and three kids.

When I was a teen in the late 1940’s, my dad bought a depression-era project farm in Cajun country. We had a saddle horse and powerful plow mule, Sarah. We used her to snake discarded cross ties from the railrod right-of-way for recycling as fence posts. She seemed capable of pulling any weight, as long as she was pulling in the direction of the barn. We kids rode her bareback, very slowly. Dad rented her out for $5 a day to stretch telephone and telegraph wires. It was apparently faster than using a manual block and tackle.

My dad bought home a little donkey, a Mexican burro. We also had goats, pigs, a dairy cow, and 10 to 20 head of beef, along with chickens, ducks, guinea fowl, dogs and cats. 'Hey Burro' was a stoic and gentle creature, at least with children. But all the livestock... horses, the mule, even the huge Brangus bull accepted her as queen of the yard. At a feed bucket or trough, she would trot up and flick a hoof at the noses or near the eyes of the competition. They would blink and back up few yards to wait their turn.