The Houston E. Mull Memorial Cattle Drive/'The epitome of everything good in rural America'
The plan was for radio personality Trent Loos, his "pink" mule and a U.S. flag, that had recently been flown over the American embassy in Iraq, to lead the 55 Longhorn steers and over 300 riders into the corral north of Malta Bend, during the Fourth Annual Houston E. Mull Memorial FFA Scholarship Cattle Drive -- but "Sonny" had another idea.
Dawn Gorrell, 13, was riding Sonny -- the horse that had belonged to her cousin, Houston.
"He was really anxious," she said.
"As soon as we came across the bridge (south of Malta Bend) Sonny was just really wanting to run and he kept getting past Trent," said Brenda Mull, Houston's mother. "I kept telling Dawn to hold him back."
"Finally though, I said, you know what, it's Houston's horse -- let him go."
Sonny and Dawn then raced the final 1/2 mile through the bean stubble field north of the railroad tracks, leading the way for the large group of riders and wagons.
Following behind Sonny was the largest crowd yet in the drive -- coming from as far away as California, New York, Pennsylvania and Mississippi.
The cattle were driven from the Mull farm, six miles through cornstalks and bean fields before traveling through the streets of Malta Bend. They crossed Highway 65 at the four-way stoplight before stopping for lunch just north of the railroad tracks.
"It was quite a sight," said Brenda, on the view of Malta Bend's main street packed with riders, cattle, wagons and spectators.
On the way back, the group took the same route, but left the steers behind for a faster ride.
Overall, with the warm sunshine, Brenda and Robin Mull said the day was perfect.
"It couldn't have been more perfect. The weather was perfect, it just was fantastic," said Brenda.
"I think it was just the epitome of everything good in rural America," said Loos. "I think that it was a flawless weekend, other than the two people who got hurt."
Two women were transported by ambulance from the farm after falling from their horses, one before the drive started and one at the end of the drive. It was announced later that evening that both were expected to be fine.
Following the cattle drive, approximately 600-700 people gathered at the Mull farm for a steak fry and auction. Among the auction items were the U.S. flag that Loos carried throughout the two-day extended drive and Saturday's drive.
The flag, which was donated by Captain Daniel Swanson of the Missouri Valley College ROTC program, was sold for $2,000 to John Rector Motors.
During the auction it was announced that Swanson, who is on his second tour of duty in Iraq, would give the buyer the choice of getting the flag Loos carried or the flag that was flown over the embassy on Saturday, Nov. 3.
Other auction items included several quilts, wall hangings, paintings, two Longhorn steers and a puppy.
Although they are still paying expenses, the Mulls said they believe the event will have netted approximately $20,000 for the scholarship fund this year. The event also raised approximately $3,300 for the Fitzgibbon Hospital Community Cancer Center, as one of the steers, half the proceeds of the flag, and some auction items went towards the center.
During the week, Loos also offered people a chance to take a picture on his mule, which was painted pink for breast cancer awareness. That money was also donated to the Cancer Center Campaign.
The first cattle drive in 2004 took place just four months after Houston died in a vehicle accident. Since that time, they have given out more than $20,000 in scholarships to area students interested in agriculture, because it was Houston's dream to farm like his father and grandfathers. Last year, 18 graduating seniors from Marshall, Malta Bend, Slater, Sweet Springs and Santa Fe high schools and three college students received $13,000 in scholarships.
The Mulls said they are just "blown away" by the support the community has given them through the years.
"There are so many to thank. Where do we start? We just want to thank everybody," said Robin.
A video of the cattle drive can be seen at www.facesofag.com and The Marshall Democrat-News will also have a photo gallery at http://www.marshallnews.com/gallery/2007cattledrive/.