History buffs got a taste of cowboy life with Telling Tales tour

VERO BEACH– Hilde and Mark Tripson reside in the former homestead of Mark’s notable grandparents, Waldo and Elsebeth Sexton.  Bursting with the area’s rich history, the magnificent property was the ideal setting for the Bunkhouse Breakfast portion of this season’s final Telling Tales tour to benefit the Indian River Historical Society, where Hilde currently serves as board president.

The Telling Tales tours have been immensely popular, starting this season with the Brookside Cemetery in Fellsmere, one of the oldest in Indian River County.  Next it was on to Jungle Trail, the seven-mile stretch of the first road on the barrier island, built mostly by hand in the 1930s, and Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge, established in 1906 by President Theodore Roosevelt as the country’s first Wildlife Refuge. 

An Old Front Porch Tour featured stories of old Florida at the Hallstrom House, part of a farmstead established in 1909 along Old Dixie Highway. History buffs then traveled to Sebastian for a tour of the Kitching Switch, a replica of a shed used along the Trans-Florida Railroad between Sebastian and Fellsmere.

Saturday’s double feature began with a cowboy style breakfast in the large outdoor kitchen pavilion and covered patio, each lined with long dining tables.  Hilde’s green thumb was evidenced everywhere, from the fertile tropical landscape to spring floral arrangements from Waldo’s Garden floral shop which dotted the magnificent tables.

“I call that one little man,” said Mark Tripson pointing to one of the mahogany tables.  “It’s a smaller version of the one at McKee. Two of them were used as the dining tables for the Dodgers in the old days.”

For those in the market for a large, unique table, Tripson is selling a couple he hand-crafted with “sinker cypress.”

“Thirty percent of the trees would sink when they floated them down the river to the lumber yards,” he explained.  “If they go below a certain depth, the wood is preserved.”

Guests chowed down on a scrumptious breakfast that included a cheesy egg casserole, cowboy beans, grits, assorted pastries, and biscuits topped with sausage and gravy that everyone agreed was the best they had ever eaten.

Hilde Tripson told the group that in May the Historical Society will kick off a capital campaign to build a pavilion on the historic Hallstrom House property, which will allow them to hold more functions there.

A history buff herself, Ruth Hallstrom bequeathed the lovely family home to the Historical Society, which has been diligently cataloging its contents since taking possession of the property in 2000.

“Ruth left us $700,000 to maintain the house and I want to match what she left,” said Tripson. “She left the entire house intact; there’s 100 years of history. Obviously I love history; everyone who is here loves history.”

The group was then delightfully entertained by poet Doyle Rigdon, a sixth generation Floridian, and a fifth generation working cowboy.  With his soft southern drawl, Rigdon is a master at story-telling, seamlessly weaving his humorous cowboy tales into witty poems that kept the audience laughing.

After breakfast, everyone caravanned over to the Treasure Hammock Ranch to see the cow pens and historic barn, built in 1943 by Waldo Sexton, and still in use today. Waldo’s grandson Sean Sexton, poet, artist and cattleman, spoke about the history of the ranch, which comprises approximately 600 acres.

“Florida’s number one industry is agriculture; it’s a $6 billion industry,” said Sexton.  “It’s a wonderful place to raise cattle; Florida is number 12 in the United States in beef production. We need to tell our lawmakers to pay attention to agriculture.  At the bottom of culture is agriculture.”  {igallery 359}


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