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January 15, 2004 Issue

Marianne Du Toit saddles up Comanche before heading out Friday morning from the stables of Garvin Usry north of Wrens where the horses stayed as guests overnight.







Looking for adventure

By Parish Howard

Tom Lee, a horse trainer and owner of Valley Hill Farm of Matthews, was on his way back from getting a haircut last Thursday when he saw a woman on horseback at the intersection of U.S. Highway One and Highway 296.

"She looked lost," he said. And being a horse-person himself, he decided to stop and see if there was anything he could do.


"He asked me if I was running away from home," Marianne Du Toit grinned and said in her South African accent. "I told him 'No, I am trying to get there.'"

She told him her story, or at least a part of it, and there by the road, Mr. Lee and Jefferson County became a part of her adventure.

It began 18 months ago, in June of 2002, when she and two horse's began their 10,000 mile solo journey in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

"I've always wanted to have a real adventure," she said Friday morning as she threw the saddle on her horses back, tightened the girth and checked her saddle bags at a corral just north of Wrens. "I wanted to do it on horseback. I've traveled through Europe and it's too tame. Africa, my home, is too dangerous. But Latin America, I thought was just right, somewhere in the middle."

She saw the route as civilized enough to be able to arrange for ragged busses to drop food for her horses in mud villages on Bolivia's altiplano, a barren, rocky land high in the Andes mountains, but a route wild and uncivilized enough to keep it interesting.

The route has taken her through third world countries, over mountains, through jungles and wastelands, frigid nights and sweltering days. It has also led her into the lives of a number of people she'll never forget.

"When you travel this speed, on horseback, you really get to see everything," she said. "It's difficult and lonely and frustrating at times, but it's worth it."

But the trip has not been only about adventure and the thrill of fulfilling a challenge some felt was beyond her.

Ms. Du Toit's journey, the TATA (Travels Across The Americas) Challenge is also about raising money to build a riding school for disabled children in Ireland, where she has lived for the last several years.

Along the way she has met a number of people who have helped her set up accounts to receive donations.

Du Toit began in Argentina, traveled into Bolivia, through Brazil into Venezuela. From there she flew her horses over Panama to Costa Rica where she resumed her journey on horseback. From there she traveled through Nicaragua, Honduras and El Salvadore to Guatemala.

Her miles through Bolivia were some of the most physically and emotionally challenging, she said. Her trail took her high into the Andes mountains where the altitude, sparse vegetation and steep climbs were hard on both her and her horses.

"We all got quite thin," she said.

She even lost two horses along the way. One suffered severely with anemia in Brazil and another with piroplasmosis, a tick borne disease he picked up in South America, had to be put down in Guatemala.

All along the way she has had to reevaluate her plans, searching for the best way to get from one place to another. At the Peruvian border she had to decide whether to let her horses wait the 15 days of mandatory quarantine without adequate facilites or try to sneak across the border illegally around Lake Titicaca. In the end she decided to change her route all together and try her luck in Brazil.

Only twice did she have to leave horseback to fly her animals from one spot to another.

She also ran into resistance on the Mexican border.

"My plan was to go from Guatemala into Mexico, go up to Texas, on to St. Louis and to New York from there," she said. "But the Mexican officials never really understood what it was I was trying to do."

Her mother was happy to hear she was having to bypass Mexico.

Ms. Du Toit resumed her journey in the states in Dothan, Ala. on Dec. 8.

Last week she came north from Wrightsville on Highway 221, passed through Bartow, then Louisville before meeting Lee.

"She asked if I knew anywhere in Wrens she could put her horses up for the night," he said. "I told her I didn't, but I would find her a place. I drove on ahead and stopped and spoke to Mr. Garvin Usry and he let her put her horses up in his place (on Highway 17). You know, horse people help horse people."

Lee also set up a stay with his daughter Brooke who works at Stonewall Farms in Harlem Friday night. Mr. Lee said that he was arranging with friends to help look out for her along the way for pretty much the rest of her trip.

Du Toit said that she has met a lot of great people.

"Everywhere I go people want to help," she said. "I thought it was going to be OK in Georgia, but I never expected it to be like this."

People have helped her with food and a place to stay, warm showers and in setting up arrangements for further down the road.

She hopes to arrive in New York and end her near two-year journey by the end of March.

Du Toit is writing a book about her experience. She has kept journals and written in them everyday of her trip. Her family and friends, including the many she has made along the way, can keep up with her online. When she gets a chance, she sends emails or faxes to a friend who updates her website. She hasn't had a chance to send any new information since Guatemala.

Can look it up at tatachallenge.com.

Donations can be sent to Tata Challenge, Bank of Camilla, P.O.Box 111, Camilla, Ga. 31730-0111, or anyone interested in her adventure is encouraged to write her at tatachallenge@yahoo.co.uk

After Du Toit had clopped off, her sunstreaked hair, big smile and the smell of large, comfortable animals drifting off down the road, Lee stood there for a while leaning on the back of his truck.

"You know, part of me wishes I could saddle up and get out there with her," he said. "But we have things we have to do. To be young and be able to go on an adventure like that, hmm. That's girl's something, tough, brave. Yeah, she sure is something. But I guess I've had my own adventures. You have to take them while you can."

Phoney bills passed in Wrens

One man is in custody after traveling from California to teach his techniques

By Ben Nelms
Staff Writer

Two counterfeit bills from holiday bank deposits by a local merchant were discovered Jan. 7 at First State Bank in Wrens. Police Chief David Hannah said the two bogus bills might have come from more than one source.

One of the bills, a $50, was passed and was detected by bank personnel after a deposit was made.

The other, a counterfeit $20 bill, was passed at the Hilltop Package Store in south Richmond County.

Like the other bogus bill, the fake $20 was spotted by bank personnel after being deposited.

Hannah said the counterfeit $20 bill was the easier of the two to spot, apparently due to the inferior quality of the printer paper used.

The $50 bill, he said, required much closer inspection and was one of the better jobs of counterfeiting he had seen.

Due to the distinctive difference in the two bills, Hannah advised that the bills might be the work of more than one counterfeiter. His supposition turned out to be correct.

Days later Hannah was informed by the Secret Service office in Augusta that an unnamed California man allegedly involved in the counterfeiting of the phoney $50 bill had recently been arrested and was being held in Columbia County jail.

The man was reportedly in the area instructing an undisclosed number of other people in the manufacture of similar counterfeited money, said Hannah.

Glascock seeks to extend one percent sales tax

By Ben Nelms
Staff Writer

Less than anticipated revenues from a one-percent sales tax for renovation of the courthouse in Gibson prompted a vote by Glascock County commissioners last week to extend the tax when the collection periods ends next year.

Commissioners said they would have the measure included on the ballot in the November election.

The motion and unanimous vote to extend the current one-percent Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) came after commissioners reviewed revenue records of the five-year collection period that began in April 2000.

Revenues since that date have generated $511,749.03. With the collection period set to expire in March 2005 and with nearly four-fifths of the collection period over, commissioners said the total revenue expected to be collected would not be sufficient to cover the cost of the renovation project, anticipated to be as much as $1 million.

When proposed by the commission in early 1999 and voted in by county residents later that year as a referendum item, commissioners hoped the tax would generate close to the $900,000 collected previously by the Glascock County Board of Education, said Chairman Thomas Chalker. The less than anticipated revenues require that the commission include the proposed extension on the ballot in order to raise enough revenue to complete the project, he said.

Commissioners, along with county attorney Sammy Fowler, will meet in coming months to solidify the terminology for the referendum, the maximum amount of revenue targeted for collection during the five-year collection period and the items to be included.

Aside from revenues for the completion of the courthouse, another item targeted for the one-percent extension are funds to construct a county library. Library board members present at the Jan. 6 commission meeting indicated the need for a 3,000-3,500 square-foot facility to meet the county's current and future needs. Commissioners said the referendum could include such a provision.

Glascock mourns death of school board member

By Ben Nelms
Staff Writer

Glascock County residents lost a respected member of their community Monday with the untimely death of school board Chairman Danny Milburn that resulted from a massive heart attack.

Milburn, age 46, was beginning the second year of his second term on the Glascock County Board of Education. He served as board chairman since February 2003. Serving alongside Milburn on the school board was vice-chairman Gail Berry, who said Milburn's absence will be a loss not easily overcome in the community he called home.

"The Board of Education has lost a needed and valued member and Glascock County has lost a notable citizen," said Berry. "It was my privilege to have known and served with Danny. He was a true civic leader and served as an example to all. The many years Danny devoted to community service will be long remembered by the people of Glascock County."

Glascock County is comprised of small communities that total less the 2,600 people. In a place where most people know each other, the knowledge of every passing comes quickly and those that occur unexpectedly carry with them an extra burden, a heightened loss.

"The Glascock County community was shocked and saddened to learn of the death of Mr. Danny Milburn," said school Superintendent Jim Holton. "Mr. Milburn served as Chairman of the Glascock County Board of Education for the past year and has been a member of the board for just over five years. He worked tirelessly to improve our education system. He encouraged excellence in academics, extra-curricular activities and athletics. His leadership, his positive attitude and his friendship will be missed by the Glascock community and the school system."

Comments Tuesday by Glascock County Consolidated School Principal Sally Garrett undoubtedly reflected the sentiments and the emotions of the faculty, staff and students in her charge. Milburn's absence is their loss, too.

"I, as well as everyone in this school, was saddened to learn of the untimely death of Mr. Danny Milburn. He gave much of his time to help make our school system a wonderful place to learn and work," said Garrett. "He always had a smile and was kind and generous to everyone. He will be greatly missed."

Danny Milburn is survived by his wife Debbie and their children Daniel and Matt Milburn and step-children John Albright and Angel Pippens.


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