Monday, September 29, 2008

Saturday and Sunday were busy busy.

I was ‘on the street’ 1 hour (2 tours) Friday, 4 hours Saturday (making about $200 with the tips) and 2 hours Sunday. I worked from 8 to 5 all three days.

I'm taking off today. Will work straight through to Sunday, if I can, so as not to miss a fine lunch at Sister Dottie's convent, and be fresh for Daigrepont's fais-do-do at Tips.

Buggy drivers can be any age, race, gender, educational background, or appearance. Most have been doing it for years. One company has a raft of student nurses working weekends. The drivers are helpful and kind to this new old rookie. During lulls, the artists who string up their works along the fence at the hack stand are usually talented and entertaining.

The tourists can be instructive too. Bosco and I were visited by a ‘mule whisperer’ who gave me all sorts of clues about making life better for the mule and the driver...

Imagine, I haven't held down a job for 14 years! In this weather, working outdoors every day is delightful.

No telling when I will post again. You can stimulate something by adding comments below, or emailing with edits, questions, suggestions, or well wishes.

Rookie hack driver

Sunday, September 28, 2008

This mule spent some minutes behind me on Decatur Street at Jackson Square. The bridle and the rest of the tack are as elegant as the animal.

Most of the big stables have at least one white mule. They of course must be worked routinely to be ready for special duty, like weddings. 70 years ago, I can remember seeing big grand white mule teams pulling garbage wagons... to stay in shape for their big yearly gigs, serving the floats of the kings of Mardi Gras.

The banana trees in the background tell us that the last hurricane (Gustav?) shredded the leaves and they are quickly being replaced with tall new growth just weeks after that storm.

The artwork on the fence is startling. It is growing on me. I may ask the artist to do a kind of caricature for me.

Friday, September 26, 2008

8 hours on the street, no serious mishaps, lots of waiting around, too many carriages and too few tourists. However, I did get two trips, one group of four and one single person. They seemed pleased with my banter.

Tomorrow is Saturday, it may be better. I'll try to get out there a bit earlier.

I'm still learning the ropes. There are hundreds of things to remember about mule care and driving the right paths. Fortunately, my 6 years as a walking tour guide in the Quarter made the important part easy.

The weather was great! The mule Bosco was smart and responsive. They all do their best to teach me! Red the wrangler my have my animal selected tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Going commercial Saturday and Sunday

Yesterday, I finally got my buggy driver's license:

The owner of Royal Carriages, scheduled me for my first days! Thursday and Friday, Red the wrangler will match me up with a mule. I'll get the tack and locker just vacated by a driver named Maya, who moved to another company.

This morning I drove her mule around the quarter. We had a pretty good ride. With Red's help, I finally found 'high gear'. All the mules are pleased to start the circuit at the fast trot... good to stretch a bit, I guess. When they hit the Quarter, they know to go at a slow to fast walk. One slowed to a crawl when she saw a stop sign. If you're on the typical route, the mules will turn at all the right corners. Most will automatically stop at Lafitte's bar on Bourbon. At shift's end, they know the rather circuitous route back to the stables.

So... the adventure begins. It's rather exciting!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Some time next week, I will get my city Buggy Driver License. During the week I’ll be at the beck and call of Red the wrangler at Royal Carriages. He will continue training me and will match me up to my own mule, who I will drive for 5 days, 35 hours a week, starting the Monday, 9/29. I have agreed to work for a one-month trial period.

It’s like going back to the farm for me... I love animals. I rode and worked the farm’s mule Sarah in my teens. These trained mules are intelligent, handsome, gentle creatures, and get excellent care.

It’s been 12 years since I had a full time job. My calendar is clear except for evening dance sessions: Irish sets on Tuesdays, folk dance on Thursdays, and fais-do-do on Sundays, so I’m not a candidate for the 4-11pm shift.

The Royal Carriage stables are in Marigny, and are kept very neat. 30 mules, about 15 carriages. The buggies are beautifully maintained, historically accurate replicas from 19th century models. The mules and buggies seem right at home in the neighborhoods we tour.

It's been quite an adventure already. Web mastering is so solitary, I want more face time. I really want to try this while I'm still young!