My role as a traveling artist took me every winter to a luxury RV resort built out of what was once a dude ranch. Oak hammock shaded campsites lined with tropical flora gave the motorhomes a sense of being in Eden. Hayrides, musicians in the restaurants, airplane fly-ins, added to the boating, fishing and horseback trail rides available every day. The complex was lush with plenty of flowerbeds and the Wild West saloon with a Saturday night rodeo provided flavor for this magical place. Things were hopping.
River Ranch hosted rallies of all types. Because of the hotel, lodge and airport here, fly-ins of aircraft occurred almost every weekend. Beechcraft, Cessna, amphibious aircraft, kit planes and others convened for these gatherings.
Motorhomes rolled in and out constantly during the three-month winter season. The developers This provided me with an endless supply of new customers. During the day, I ran my business and provided all sorts of custom painted options for motorhomes and their owners at this resort. The creation of airbrushed murals of wildlife, patriotic scenes and whimsical art of all types were the most popular. Here I had found a demand for what I love to do.
While making my rounds at River Ranch, I remained diligent about noticing what was going on around me. I made it a point to wave at everyone I saw. When I noticed someone provide more than a friendly response to my gesture, I knew they might have a request I could accomplish with paint.
A couple from Indiana often called out to me to stop by as I motored through their area of the campground. Terry and Doris were here to escape the cold and weren’t necessarily interested in a mural for their class C motorhome but they were friendly, curious and wanted to know more about the interesting person in the VW bus who kept busy all the time all over this place.
When I stopped, they invited me to sit down under their awning and simply sit. Their beaming friendliness demonstrated sincere regard and appreciation for what I was doing. Although they never commissioned a mural from me, their campsite became a regular stop, especially late in the day when we would visit around their campfire. The appearance of their humble motorhome, camping equipment and Terry’s bass boat reflected good care. They loved being here. Terry was here for the fishing. I even went with him on a boat ride or two.
Terry invited me to come see them in Indiana during the summer. Destinations with projects took priority at that time. A year went by and I never did stop to see them. The next winter while we all sat around the campfire at River Ranch, I heard the invitation again.
The next year my busy summer schedule yielded an opportunity that took me close to them. When I did stop at their rural home near Muncie, I found a small horse farm in a stand of hickory trees with their excavation business quartered behind their lovely Bedford Stone home. They had a place waiting for me to park my rig back near the horse barn. When evening came, due to the abundance of sticks under the trees, we had a campfire. This is when I became familiar with their connection to the community.
Terry and Doris operated an excavation company made up of several dump trucks and flatbed trailers needed to move the specialized equipment around using a crew of a men. While I surveyed his operation, I learned the names of the machines that did the work – excavators, back hoes, pans, dozers and a loader. Often times on a Saturday morning, Terry would be in front of his shop washing a dump truck. This demonstrated affection and pride for his equipment. This regard was also evident in all he did and influenced the men who worked for him.
While raising two boys, he became connected to the 4-H community and promoted good horsemanship with all the kids. Still quite active with horses, Terry and Doris made regular trips to a state park with two horses to ride the trails and dry camp in an area with no electricity. While there they enjoyed a campfire, remote nights and skies filled with stars.
I have a fond memory of a time spent with my friend Terry during a horseback ride on his trail riding horses, just the two of us. His property shared a common border with a neighbor, the cartoonist who created the character, Garfield. His neighbor had hundreds of acres and loved wildflowers. We found vast pastures seeded with wildflowers and on one outing, we approached a vast spread of vibrant blossoms that created a sea of yellow about as high as the barrels of our horses.
As we rode through this sea, all that was above the vast spread of color were the heads of our horses and us from the waist up. The expression on my face radiated the wonder of this sight. My friend Terry beamed, also quite pleased with this wonder of nature. Even today, I still think about this special experience Terry shared with me. I see his radiant smile imprinted in my mind as I recall our fun afternoon in this vibrant setting.
Terry was fascinated with my mural creation service. Terry told me I could bring two motorhomes at a time to his place. When I received a request from a couple from Virginia or North Carolina, I had them meet me in Muncie to get the work done. Terry and Doris were sincerely interested in everyone they met and hosted a campfire while they enjoyed my guests at their place.
The time spent at the home of Terry and Doris became an annual respite that resembled going home. My advance planning began to include Muncie because I was welcome to bring motorhomes to their place two at a time. Because I spent weeks at their place, I expanded my involvement in the community. I found out about Toastmasters, the club that promotes good communications and leadership. I found a small group that gathered each week at a cafeteria in the local mall.
By watching the efforts of the members with public speaking and encouraging each other, I began to accumulate a desire to develop my ability with communication. Because of the rigorous pace of travel to rallies, projects or visits to one of the RV plants, it was quite difficult to be a regular attending member. Since Muncie became a regular stop, the members allowed me to participate whenever I was in town. Thanks to them, I gave my Ice Breaker and a few other brief speeches in the midst of this hectic schedule.
A creative mind is creative in all areas. Immersed in the lifestyle I admired as a youth, I combined music, art and later, classic circus horse training. Later, mural making became my primary focus and vocation. Writing and speech making utilized the same creative mindset that produced the endless stream of custom painted masterpieces that appeared on the backs of motorhomes.