Our first day was relatively sunny, though that was the only sunny day we would get in the whole state! We enjoyed some quiet back roads, pretty scenery of light green trees with newly budding leaves, baby calves, swollen creeks, and unexpected company. A local lady offered to follow us with flashers along her road where there were a few tight corners and blind hills, and a car-full of women had been trying to find us and followed the “road apple” trail down the road to come meet us!
We decided very quickly that Illinois grew a crop of poison ivy that rivaled Missouri’s crop of ticks! But then we discovered that the tick population was on both sides of the river and proptly groaned in dismay. I wonder how long it will take us not to be paranoid of every little tickle we feel once we are out of the worst of the ticks?! We spend a good hour everyday pulling them off the horses, Bella, and ourselves- usually counting at least 100 in total- more if we’ve skipped a day!
Our first new Illinois friend, Jerry, let the horses spend the evening in his grassy yard, while we were treated to a night in his camper in the shed. In the morning, we were nursing two saddle sores- one on Apache from a nail that had worked loose in my saddle, the other on Satchmo for an as-of-yet undetermined reason. It’s the first sore he’s had on the whole trip. Plus Bella was limping from no apparent cause. We left Jerry’s with me on Chance, Richard with extra padding that we had found for Satchmo, Apache carrying nothing, and Bella seemed to walk off whatever was bothering her. There always seems to be some challenge or another, but the Lord sees fit to allow us to keep going by taking care of it enough so we can. We really have no other explanation why we’ve had so many issues that rarely seem to stop us!
Less than a couple miles down the road, we were stopped by a sweet local reporter- a friend of Jerry’s- and a whole crowd of locals who lived where we had pulled off the road. It was a beautiful 45 minutes. We only hoped that we were able to bless that crowd of wonderful people half as much as they blessed us. They were so supportive, encouraging, and uplifting. They prayed for us, a young boy emptied his piggy bank for a donation to Hearts Up Ranch, we took pictures with everyone, and they even sent us off with a BBQ lunch. We left all smiles and with a singing heart, awed at the humble servant’s heart of these sweet people, and ready to march on to do whatever God leads us into! Later that night, Mary -the reporter -and her family brought hay out to where we stopped (at another Jerry’s place!) and helped us unpack and groom the horses. It was a very warm welcome to Illinois indeed.