Wagon train hits the dusty trail; group harnesses horse power for 71-mile trek in state

Posted: June 23, 2018 at 4:30 a.m.

Wagons and horses of the Harrison Roundup Club pass through downtown Harrison on Friday morning on their way to Springdale.

HARRISON -- Nine wagons and about 60 horseback riders left Harrison on Friday morning on a six-day, 71-mile trip to Springdale.

The wagon train has been a Harrison tradition since 1977.

Every year, it leaves Harrison and arrives in Springdale just before the beginning of the Rodeo of the Ozarks' opening-day parade, which is scheduled for 3 p.m. Wednesday. Then the wagon train joins in the parade.

Pam Underdown of Alpena said she remembers years ago when 41 wagons and 300 horseback riders participated in the wagon train.

But fewer children seem to be interested in making the long trip and camping for five nights along the back roads.

"There's not much cell service where we're going," said Underdown, whose husband, Kenny Underdown, is the wagon master this year.

Andie Byrd, 14, of Harrison, said she's not worried about the dearth of Internet on the trail.

"I actually don't have my phone with me," she said. "I would lose it if I did."

John Henry Shaddox started the event after participating in a wagon train in 1976 to mark the United States bicentennial.

Harrison's wagon train was called the John Henry Shaddox Wagon Train for 40 years. But Shaddox died in 1991, and this year, with the Shaddox family no longer participating, the name was changed to the Harrison Roundup Club Annual Wagon Train.

Shorty Ozier of Harrison said the roundup club was already a sponsor of the event. Ozier, 88, said he rode a horse in the wagon train for 30 years but stopped last year because of back problems.

Ozier said the wagon train would pick up another wagon or two when it stops to camp at Carrollton on Friday night and more horseback riders, too. Some participants like to skip the first day, when there is more commotion to spook horses and more pavement underfoot.

Freddie Sumrow of Quitman, Texas, said he made the seven-hour drive to Harrison to ride in the wagon train. After first hearing about the event from a farrier, he's been riding in the wagon train for a dozen years now.

"I love it," he said. "It's just a blast."

Sumrow frequently brings children from Texas to ride in the wagon train. One year, he took seven teenage girls.

"I won't do that again," he said.

While some kids seem too tethered to the Internet to ride in the wagon train, Underdown said her grandson isn't one of them.

Dalton Lair, 9, of Osage, said he's been riding in the wagon train since he was 5 years old.

Dalton was camped with family at the Harrison Roundup Club Arena on Thursday night.

"My favorite thing about it is riding and watching everybody come in," he said.

Kenny Underdown of Alpena gets horses ready Friday morning to pull his wagon 71 miles from Harrison to Springdale. Underdown is wagon master for the H...

Underdown and his granddaughter, Raegan Lair, are in the lead wagon waiting for the Harrison Roundup Club Annual Wagon Train to begin Friday morning.

Metro on 06/23/2018