Of late the words “bucket list” have become popular as a term for the wish list of things to do most of us probably won’t get around to in any real way in our lifetimes, particularly in the years after we retire.
One man is making sure he takes an item off his bucket list and he is doing it in a big and very personal way. Tom Cashman, who is retiring shortly from being farm manager of Robert Manfuso’s Chanceland Farm in West Friendship, MD is going to take a trip he has been planning for several years.
“Right after the yearling sales,” he says, referring to the yearling Thoroughbred sales at Timonium, MD, “I’m going to retire. My wife and I are packing up our home, mules and dogs to move up to a little three-acre place pretty much halfway between Gettysburg and Chambersburg in Pennsylvania. Right after that my wife will be staying on there and I will be making my trip to Tennessee and back.”
The trip to Tennessee is something that is at the top of his list of things to do. It is a combination of “paying it back”, “paying it forward” and it involves riding his mules the 912 miles from the Howard County Farm Museum across from the Howard County Fairgrounds in West Friendship, MD to St. Jude’s Research Center in Memphis, TN. He is leaving from the Equestrian Center because he likes being at the Harrison Mule Days, which is in itself a three-day tribute from Sept. 29 to Oct. 1 to two Carroll County men who were long time admirers of mules themselves.
This trip is a tribute, too. It is called Erin’s Ride, named after Tom Cashman’s granddaughter who was diagnosed with a rare and particularly invasive form of cancer. She was a patient of St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital and as Tom says, “I witnessed the tremendous hardships that all of these families go through every day.” He also witnessed the amazing generosity of St. Jude’s program.
“It wasn’t just for the patient or the parents,” Cashman says. “My wife and I went down as grandparents and we never paid a penny for room or food the whole time that we were there. It was amazing and I can’t say enough about the good people at St. Jude’s.”
Sadly, Erin Nicole Myers lost her battle with cancer at the age of 14. But she loved riding her grandfather’s two mules, Homer and Hector, with him on the farm at Chanceland. So in her honor, Tom Cashman is going to ride those mules on that 912-mile trek to Memphis in an attempt to raise money to give to St. Jude’s Research Center so that maybe, in some good future, no other child will die of cancer.
He has his route planned, leaving the the Farm Museum in West Friendship and traveling on down through Virginia following Route 11.
“A lot of that mileage will be through Shenandoah National Park so it should be pretty this time of year,” Cashman says. “I’m going to hit Tennessee in Bristol, where one side of their main streets is in Virginia and the other side is in Tennessee. That ought to be interesting too, but after that I’m still looking at some 400 miles to Memphis.”
His wife will be holding down the small farm in Pennsylvania and his daughter and son-in-law will be driving the truck and trailer for the mule that isn’t being used that day on the trip. He has the names of farms where they can put up for the night all the way to the border of Tennessee and he has the name of a man in Tennessee who can get him more farms to overnight in down there. He figures to ride four hours and haul for a couple of more hours each day so the trip is manageable. But he knows that even when he is riding, he won’t be alone.
“Erin will be right there with me,” Tom Cashman says with absolute certainty in his voice. “She loved riding those mules and I know that she will be right there in the saddle with me all the way.”
If anyone reading wants to help Tom Cashman raise money for the St. Jude’s Research Center they can go to www.gofundme.com/Erinsride and make a donation in her honor or they can call Cashman himself at 443-277-7978 to ask questions or offer some help along his trip.