Sunday, August 1, 2021

Four Article Excerpts About Black Trail Rides (Creole Trail Rides) In The United States

Edited by Azizi Powell

This pancocojams post presents four online article excerpts about Black trail rides in the United States.

The content of this post is presented for historical and socio-cultural purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to all those who are quoted in this post.
Click for the closely related pancocojams post entitled 
Three YouTube Videos Of Black (Folks) Trail Rides In The Southern United States".

The term "Black Trail Rides" refers to horse and motor bike trail riding gatherings in the United States that are organized and mostly attended by Black Americans. 

Black Trail Ride gatherings/events are mostly located in the Southern region of the United States. 
In Louisiana and Texas, these Black trail riding gatherings/events are called "Creole Trail Rides".

The food that is served and the music that is played and danced at these gatherings are from African American culture.

Black Trail Rides are a continuation of and an evolution of the historical Black Cowboys and Cowgirls in the United States, a history and lifestyles that are largely unknown by most Americans.   

These excerpts are given in no particular order and are numbered for referencing purposes only.

These article excerpts are reprinted without their photographs.


In Texas and Louisiana, a potent mix of zydeco, hip-hop and horses keeps an often overlooked tradition alive

by Joel Balsam in Calvert, Texas, with pictures by Stephanie Foden, September 21, 2018
"Pickup trucks started pouring into the tiny town of Calvert, smack in the middle of Texas’s four metropoles. Some pulled wagons with horses peeking out of the metal bars. Others dragged flatbed trolleys stacked with speakers, a barbecue and a portable toilet.

Inside the vehicles, urbanites from Dallas and Houston slipped off their baseball caps and threw on their cowboy hats, swapping their shoes or flip-flops for cowboy boots.

The occasion was a Creole trail ride, a country party that features a procession, zydeco music, dancing and feasting that runs every weekend through spring and fall in Louisiana and east Texas. Trail rides date back decades, but if you’ve never heard of one before, you aren’t entirely at fault – there are centuries of revisionist history to blame for that.


Who do you think of when you think of a cowboy? A gun-slinging John Wayne type? Some historians believe that well before Hollywood distorted our view of what a cowboy looks like, French-speaking slaves from Africa – later clumped in with the cultural mishmash known as Creoles – rode horses in Louisiana.

Some even say the term “cowboy” derives from slave owners commanding to “go tend to the cow, boy,” though Andrew Sluyter, a history professor at Louisiana State University and the author of Black Ranching Frontiers, said there’s no hard evidence for that theory.

“Enslaved cowboys, vachères, in French, of African origin herded the cattle on the first French ranches established in south-west Louisiana, in the valley of Bayou Teche near Lafayette in the early 1760s, before the Acadians/Cajuns arrived,” Sluyter said. “Unlike their French masters, the Africans had long experienced herding cattle in the Sahel zone of west Africa.”

Prohibited from joining white-only rodeos, freed slaves and landowning Creoles practiced their own cowboy culture. At some point in the last half-century – no one can be sure – that culture started to take the form of trail rides. As oil work popped up in Texas, Creoles from Louisiana moved west, bringing their culture, and trail rides, along with them

In the past decade, trail rides have surged in popularity, thanks in part to how hip-hop has infused with the washboard and accordion rhythms of zydeco. What were once a traditional country gatherings have transformed into huge festivals with attendees numbering in the thousands, often attracting city-dwellers far detached from their Creole roots.a


As trail rides have grown in popularity there has been controversy.

In 2010, St Landry Parish in Louisiana moved to ban the Step-N-Strut trail ride, an event so big it’s referred to as the Creole Woodstock. The town council said it was responding to complaints about the mess left after the ride – but the ban was accused of being discriminatory. Why ban trail rides when Cajun Mardi Gras – which attracts crowds as numerous and rowdy – is permitted?

The town eventually decided to regulate the number of attendees for trail rides and Mardi Gras, which was seen as a victory.


Wearing a cowboy hat with a hole in the top exposing his smooth bald head, Calvert native Robert Brown, 46, said trail rides are very different from when he first started going as a toddler. Back then, there weren’t as many people. “Why? Because it wasn’t as popular,” he said. “Now everybody wants to be a cowboy.”

As an MC rapped in front of a boisterous crowd late into the night, Brown admitted he prefers the zydeco country line dancing of his youth, but he’s OK with younger people throwing their music into the mix. “We’ve made black trail rides our own. It’s the way we do,” he said. “Even though I don’t like a lot of this stuff, it’s still taking the legacy on.”

When asked about whether he’s faced any discrimination being a black cowboy in Texas, Brown said people are mostly surprised. “They feel like black people aren’t supposed to be cowboys – it’s a white thing,” he said.

But that makes him want to celebrate his culture, and trail rides, all the more. “The reasons we honor being a black cowboy is because of all the struggles we went through. Not just a black cowboy, to be a cowboy. To be respected.”


Creole trail rides highlight black cowboy history

JOEL BALSAM, 25 January 2021
On any given weekend in towns across Louisiana and Texas, hooves click-clack on pavement and wagons blast infectious zydeco rhythms. Holding the horse's reins in one hand, and a cold beer in the other, is a long line of cowboys. Not the John Wayne-type typically seen in Hollywood westerns, but African American men and women, celebrating their culture on a Creole trail ride.


Creole trail ride history

No one knows exactly when trail rides first began, but they have surged in popularity in the last decade as urbanites skip the clubs in favor of these wildly fun parties in the dusty countryside. The first trail rides were organized by black Creoles – descendants of Africans and the French or Spanish colonizers who settled the area before it was part of the US – who were excluded from white cowboy culture.

t’s thought that West Africans enslaved by the French in the Lafayette area of Louisiana in the 1760s were among the original American cowboys – horse-riding cattle herders – then known as vachères, a Creole term from the French for cow. Some historians say as many as one in four cowboys in early America were black. Yet the image of an African American riding on horseback has largely been omitted from popular culture, save for a few movies like Django Unchained and Blazing Saddles, or songs like Bob Marley's “Buffalo Soldier,” an ode to the all-black 10th Cavalry Regiment of the United States Army.

Traditionally, trail rides included only members of the local community – family, friends and members of cowboy associations – but Paul Scott, the coordinator of Step-N-Strut, a three-day trail ride commonly known as the Creole Woodstock, said when outsiders come, regulars fall all over themselves trying to welcome them. …


Yee-haw, zydeco style

After a few hours riding along the trail, the fun is far from over. A campsite is set up, where southern soul, country and zydeco (Creole music that typically features the accordion, fiddle and washboard) will begin to play as horses are given some much-needed rest. Hip-hop has also made its way into the trail riding world, albeit with some controversy – some object to it being untraditional and say it makes people too rowdy. Despite the pushback, a pulsing, unique blend of hip-hop and zydeco music is one of the main reasons for the recent increase in the popularity of trail rides.


How to find a trail ride

While the majority of trail rides are held in Louisiana and East Texas, you'll also find some in Oklahoma, Mississippi, Georgia and North Carolina. The best way to find one is by visiting the Zydeco Events website. Otherwise, find one on Facebook by searching the phrase “trail ride” and the place you're looking to go.

Two of the biggest are Step-N-Strut, which attracts as many as 3000 people over three days in November, and Four Horsemen, which can see as many 7000 people. But you don't need to go to the biggest trail rides to have a great time. “Some of them might not be super super big, but all of them are super, super fun,” Scott says.”

This article was originally published in October 2018 and updated in January 2021.”

From  Through a Historic Trail Ride, Black Cowboys and Cowgirls Take Ownership of Their Role in History

The annual journey to the Houston Rodeo offers a corrective to the reductionist narrative that pop culture has long perpetuated

By Cat Cardenas, March 2020
"One overcast December morning at the 7W Youth Riding Club stables, in Tomball, Myrtis Dightman Jr. peers out from the brim of his black cowboy hat. “Mr. Myrtis,” as he’s known around the ranch, watches a group of children, most of them under ten years old, brushing bits of straw from their horses’ chestnut-colored coats. Among them is two-year-old Wynter Wilkins. Wearing a pink cowboy hat, she excitedly blurts out her horse’s name: “Summer!” Her grandfather, Larry Wilkins, scoops her up and places her in the saddle. Four members of the riding club—Major Wilson and tween siblings Javian, Jammarian, and Jayden Henderson, who have been riding horses since they were Wynter’s age—look on as they prepare to saddle up.


As the trail boss of the Prairie View Trail Ride Association, named for the historically black university, Dightman Jr. has made it his mission to ensure that future generations of black children appreciate the patience and labor that go into being a cowboy. Since its founding, in 1957, the association—composed of seven local trail groups, including the 7W Youth club—has helmed Texas’s oldest African American trail ride, an annual 88-mile procession running from Hempstead to Houston. Along with several other trail rides, it signals the beginning of the annual Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.

The Houston Rodeo, which takes place this year from March 3 to 22, held its first trail ride in 1952 and included only 4 men on horseback. The following year, 80 people signed up to participate in the first Salt Grass Trail Ride, the route still known as “the granddaddy of ’em all,” which traces a path from Brenham to Houston. Other groups from across the state began riding to the rodeo. These days, more than 3,000 riders from twelve separate trail riding groups cover over 1,300 miles en route to Houston. Last year, the PVTRA’s caravan of roughly 250 included riders on horses, plus mules and wagons.

The group, which also does trail rides year-round, began gearing up for this year’s rodeo in early November, beginning with wagon inspections. The unwieldy wood-framed vehicles that carry the cowboys’ gear for the journey are susceptible to termites and wood rot, and repairs must often be handled by specialists. In the weeks leading up to the rodeo, the 7W Youth Riding Club meets more frequently, and participants start to “leg up” (cowboy talk for “warm up”) their horses in preparation for “the big ride.”

On Sunday, February 23, the cowboys will roll out from Hempstead toward their first stop on the six-day journey to the rodeo: Prairie View A&M University. This first leg—between thirteen and fifteen miles—is intentionally short; that way, the riders can confirm everything is in shape for the rest of the journey. Over the next few days, they’ll visit local schools (many kids in the PVTRA get permission to take off school that week), teaching students about the group’s history. In the event’s 63 years, traditions like a joint chili cookoff with Prairie View A&M and a dance contest with members of the Community of Faith Church, on the north side of Houston, have become an important part of the trail ride.”…

"Houston Music’s Latest Subgenre: Trail-riding Rap"
Houston rap is now world-famous, but the city’s less-famous trail rides have birthed a new style.

By John Nova Lomax, November 2017
“Country rap,” as the genre is referred to on the trail ride, was a natural product of musical evolution, but while Houston rap is now world-famous, trail rides that celebrate African American cowboy culture have remained something of a local secret. Texas trail rides begin with a Friday evening campout featuring a DJ or a band, then continue into Saturday with the ride itself: a long caravan of horseback riders and decorated party wagons, each with a DJ aboard, blasting a mix of zydeco, blues, hip-hop, and a sprinkling of honky-tonk. (Some of the party wagons are pulled by big ol’ pickup trucks, but in the traditional rides, more of the wagons are wood-wheeled and pulled by mule teams.) After the ride, another show on Saturday night features zydeco, Southern soul, or, in Baldenna’s case, country rap: songs, like “Need Me a Cowgirl,” “Trailride in My City,” and “Party Wagon Rock,” that could come only from Houston.

The wooded backstreets leading to Bruno’s Triangle 7 Arena one rainy Saturday night last spring were resonant with croaking toads in the ditches and fragrant with smoking barbecue, so isolated from urban life that I almost forgot I was only eleven miles northeast of Houston’s skyscrapers. On any given weekend, all around Houston and deep into South Louisiana, fans have sought the beloved, decades-old traditions of a zydeco trail ride. But after I followed the thump of deep bass into a wood-paneled lodge, where revelers were congregating around indoor picnic tables, the modern era became evident. On a threadbare stage, all alone save for a DJ, stood Baldenna Tha King, the 33-year-old inventor and current standard-bearer of Houston music’s latest subgenre: trail-riding rap.

I arrive just in time for one of his hits, “Saddle Up.”

Saddle up, and move ’em out,

I’m headed to the trail ride and it’s about to go down.

Camp out tonight, and we leave about three,

If you’re lookin’ for me, homey, you know where I’ll be.


Zydeco continues to thrive because it absorbs newer styles—Clifton Chenier brought in blues and rock and roll; Buckwheat Zydeco and Beau Jocque added soul and funk—all while retaining its own syncopated accordion and rubboard essence. (Counter to the modern narrative of Texas urbanization, the horse-culture themes underpinning the genre keep getting stronger.)

Hip-hop was zydeco’s next challenge: it would have to absorb rap or become increasingly irrelevant. In the mid-nineties, Houston-based artists like J. Paul Jr. began tinkering with this fusion; later, some artists rapped about standard topics over zydeco music. But Baldenna is the first to rap almost exclusively about zydeco subject matter—even, sometimes, with no backing zydeco track. Like Ritchie Valens, the pioneer of Chicano rock, Baldenna is doing something unique: arranging the structures of hip-hop and zydeco to create something new.


…Every generation since Clifton Chenier has seen its lamenting traditionalists. In the eighties, Chenier purists accused Buckwheat Zydeco of heresy; Buckwheat’s fans accused Beau Jocque of the same in the nineties. Baldenna has a lot of respect for the music’s Louisiana roots. But he is proud that Houston leads modern zydeco. “Not saying [traditionalists will] be content with their genre not being in the same lane, but in Houston, we’re always trying to do something different in everything we do,” he said. “We always lookin’ to take it up a notch.”"...

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