Friday, 13 November 2015

The Man from Talyllychau

Sunday September 27th
I was now headed for a pre-arranged stay at the River Valley Horse Camp owned and run by the enterprising Steve and Carolyn Kokjohn.  This is a very popular and well-run equestrian holiday centre by the Des Moines river just south of Farmington.  It is also on the site of the former 'infidel colony' of Salubria founded by Abner Kneeland.   Apart from horse trails on its own 600 acres, the horse camp backs onto the 9,000 Shimek State Forest . The facilities are fantastic with hook-ups for RVs scattered among the trees and ponds on the complex.
To the left of the photo below are the office and lodge, which is decorated western style and provides a great venue for social occasions.  I stayed in the air-conditioned one room cabin on the far right which had rocking chairs on the porch outside.  Simple but well equipped, it had the added advantage of being right beside the shower block (in the middle)  which had mood lighting and piped music!
You can also see a little one bed cabin left foreground and part of the bunk house which has been converted from the old Salubria school house.  An old silo has also been ingeniously converted into accommodation. 
Directly opposite my cabin were two of the four covered blocks of stabling.....
 Lady had her choice of pens, and the hay was kindly donated by Sandy Wassenhove who was taking part in a weekend ranch competition - one of the many events held at the centre, which has its own arena.  The whole campground has been carefully thought out, with added touches such as a wash stall for horses and fire pits for camp fires.
Besides this busy centre the Kokjohns run a large trail riding concern in Colorado with the help of one of their daughters, and breed a substantial number of working quarter horses.  Whew!
I had delayed my stay at Woodland View partly to make sure I arrived at River Valley after the hectic weekend period.  As this was my halfway point I had hoped to have a day off here, but Carolyn persuaded me to stay on a couple more days, and when I worked out I had a bit of time to spare, I was only too glad to do so.  And what an enjoyable few days I had.
I soon became a regular member of the Bridge Café  'breakfast club' in Farmington , where they make blueberry pancakes to die for.  The first day I met up with local resident Ann Burns to give an interview for the local rag.  Also there was farmer Kenny Thomas of pure Welsh descent - we worked out his ancestors probably came from the Llangurig area in mid Wales. But he also imparted the information that there was a Welsh cemetery about an hour's drive north, and Ann kindly volunteered to drive me there. Kenny gives Ann directions in the Bridge Café...
 and before long I was tramping round the Cambrian cemetery near Cotter, Iowa.  At least 95% of the tombstones displayed Welsh names, and they were all there - Hughes, Edwards, Jones, Johns, Price, Humphreys, Davis, Griffith, Howell, Owens, Tudor, Williams, Peters, Pugh, Evans, Rees, Morris, not to mention Thomas and Lewis.  Standing there in the green landscape as the rain inevitably began to fall one could almost imagine one was back home!  There were even some inscriptions in Welsh....
...if a bit difficult to decipher.
 The grave of David Knowles, the first pastor of the Welsh Congregational Church, who delivered the first Welsh sermon west of the Mississippi in 1845...
 More poignant for me was finding the grave of the Reverend Richard Hughes, who was born in Talyllychau (also known as Talley), Carmarthenshire, only four miles as the crow flies from where I live in Wales...
......a local boy a long way from home.   His wife Sarah Rees was from Llandybie.

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