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Participants along for the ride




ALONG THE BUTTERFIELD TRAIL -- Scott Schertz left Winona early Saturday morning en route to Russell Springs.

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ALONG THE BUTTERFIELD TRAIL -- Scott Schertz left Winona early Saturday morning en route to Russell Springs.

He got there shortly before noon, with a bit of time to get ready for the start of the Butterfield Trail Association's 48th annual trail ride.

It takes a while to make the 12 miles from Winona to Russell Springs when you're powered by three mules.

"I drove them down this morning," he said during a break along the 10-mile trail ride.

He made it back to Russell Springs at approximately 5 p.m.

"They're pretty good mules," Schertz said of the pair of 7-year-olds on the outside and a 15-year-old leading the way in the middle. "I haven't been on them since Christmas because it was so cold then."

That all changed this weekend with a good workout for the mules.

Schertz was among dozens of riders heading out on the trail, by some estimates a slightly smaller group of riders than in past years. That might be a result of worries about the health of their horses.

Conditions were relatively ideal, although mostly sunny condition and high humidity from a spotty rain in the area made it feel warmer than it was.

As a result, riders spent extra time resting -- much of it in the shade -- as the group reached the turning point, ready to head back to Russell Springs.

Taryn and Troy Faulkender, Oakley, were among them, seeking refuge under a tree on the father-daughter ride.

John Nodine, Leoti, was able to stay in the shade provided by his Belgian draft horse-drawn wagon for much of the ride.

Nodine said he had four teams of horses and a team of mules.

His team of mares -- 12 and 13 years old -- stood patiently as he hooked up all the leather harnesses before the ride.

"I haven't been here for a few years," Nodine said.

Weighing in at approximately 1,900 pounds each, he said his team isn't the biggest.

"But they are a good average size," he said.

He hooks up the horses when he can, even if it's just to keep them in shape.

"We had them hooked up the other day to an old manure spreader," he said.

They didn't hardly bat an eye at the clatter of metal as the spreader worked.

"They're smart," Nodine said.

Sean Copeland, also from Leoti, didn't use his mule to pull anything. It was for riding.

"I'm a retired Army chaplain," he said from his braying mount.

He's a newcomer to the Leoti area, arriving only about three weeks ago.

"My country," he said. "Serve it. Defend it. Now I'm seeing it. And this is the way to do it."

Jack's Son, his 10-year-old mule, didn't like being separate from the horse Copeland's wife, Marilyn, was riding.

"It's nice to be able to see the world," he said of his time in the military. "Nice to be here, too."