Monday, May 27, 2019

~ Cowboy Legends ~

Anniversaries are special and the 50th Bishop Mule Days are no different.

Jim Harvey, 83 years young

My good friend Jim Harvey surprised me when he said, “I’ve attended 49 of the 50 Annual Bishop Mule Days, and this one will be special.” His words immediately grabbed my attention. Without a lot of fanfare, he continues “It will be my 83rd birthday.” In his younger days, Jim was considered the "best all-around cowboy" in the Sierra.

Jim worked at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks for many years leading pack trips into the backcountry. A real working cowboy. Later in his career, his experience and hard work put him in charge of the stock at the Ash Mountain Corrals.

Jim taught me everything I know about horses and mules. I loved going into the backcountry with him and hearing his stories about the “good old days.” Before I knew it, we were living those days. Jim is part of the security team at the Bishop Mule Days and being a good friend, he gets me into the arena where the action happens.

Today, we are both retired and getting ready to watch the only “non-motorized” parade in Bishop. There are thousands of people lining both sides of the street, many wearing cowboy and cowgirl hats. 

Happy 83rd birthday Jim Harvey (aka number one cowboy Sequoia/Kings ever knew)

This lawman from Tombstone, Arizona intends to keep the piece

The parade eventually leads us to the Fairgrounds for the competitions among the packers who spent most of their days working in the backcountry of the Eastern Sierra alongside Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks and Yosemite National Park.

There is a new generation of packers. One, in particular, is carrying on the Sequoia packers’ traditions. Like Jim, he continued to teach me more about horses and mules. Twenty-some years ago, he was a young cowboy working as a packer for Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. 

Today, Nick Knutson is the lead packer for the parks and one of the top competitors at the Annual Bishop Mule Days.

Nick Knutson, the number "one cowboy" at the 2019 Bishop Mule Days

I think I’ve made the last 14 years at the Annual Bishop Mule Days. I’m here to support the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks Packers.

I’m honored this year when Nick said, “Bob, here’s your Official Approved Attendee ticket. This wrist band will allow you to hang out with the packers where the action happens.” Sitting in the stands is great, but being behind the scenes with all the horses, mules, cowboys, and cowgirls is awesome, dust and all. “Thanks, Nick.”

Thanks, Nick, I'm now official

Bishop Mule Days 2019

Well, right off the bat at the individual competitions, Nick places first.  A cowboy in his element. This event is considered difficult, requiring considerable skill to load mules, tie appropriate rope knots, and race around the track without losing the load. I’m so proud of him.

Then, a short time later the team competitions are next. Team Sequoia/Kings Canyon takes second place. Back-to-back wins!

Nick Knutson wins first place for the individual competition at the 2019 Bishop Mule Days

Team Sequoia/Kings Canyon National Parks places 2nd at the 2019 Bishop Mule Days

Here are a few pictures from the parade, competitions, and a few along the way on my iron horse.

In a few days, I’ll join another team for the first ever Four Corners Tour by Blue Rim Tours. I hope to keep the warm feeling I experienced at the Bishop Mule Days while touring through New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, and Arizona on our iron ponies.

This Cowboy proudly leads his string into the arena

USFS Cowgirl

Clowning around

The Rock Creek Packers are always ready for action

Camped last night at Taboose Creek, snow is falling in the distance

My view from Taboose Creek Camp

Team Sequoia/Kings Canyon are ready for the next event

Teamwork pays off

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