Take one dash of the past, add a horsewoman's taste for adventure, and stir gently into downtown Corsicana. The
result: Belina Hawkins in a two-wheeled cart, driving her Belgian draft horse Josie.
Motorists may see them stopping in the drive-through lane at the bank, or at Olson Feed when Hawkins goes to pay her
bill. The two are out often on sunny days as Hawkins tries to ease the giant horse into the sights and sounds of traffic,
a visual anachronism with the horse pulling the ancient cart as cars whiz by and Hawkins answers her cell phone.
"I try to drive him every day that I'm off work," says Hawkins, who is a flight attendant with American Airlines when
she's not driving horses. But you can find her with equines three or four days a week, riding behind an Oakridge cart,
a vehicle with two big wheels, crafted of oak by the Amish. "I spend a lot of time in Ohio with Amish friends," says
Hawkins. She also purchased Josie, his half-brother Eli, and their mother, Jane, from the Amish, who often use draft
horses to work their farms.
"Three years ago, about the mare and she had Josie at her side and was pregnant when I bought her. I got a three-for-one
package." Hawkins has used the mare, Jane, in her business, Star Buck Carriage Service. Both Josie and Eli will
graduate to that service once they are traffic-safe.
Last summer, Hawkins sent the two brothers to a form of camp in Beeville to get them trained in working on an Amish farm.
They worked for a month at a time, during different periods. She calls her in-town traffic training "finishing" them.
"I use my mare to haul brush and things like that down to my pasture," says Hawkins, who owns a farm on the outskirts
of Corsicana. (The mare) was raised on a farm in Indiana. She doesn't like being around people as much."
Josie, however, is a "big farm boy" for whom every sight is a new one. He is her favorite horse and aside from
her 13-year-old daughter Hannah, she says that horses are her life. "Most people have hobbies or something they have
to spend money on," she says with a laugh.
Hawkins often drives Josie down busy Beaton Street, and parks the cart while she walks around Merchant's Antique Mall.
This is to get Josie used to standing. She encourages children to walk up to him, and in November and early December
prepared him for his debut in these Festival of Lights Parade. He pulled a white "Cinderella carriage" that she rents
out for weddings and other events. She also ordered a team harness so that she could drive Josie and Eli together down
Jane, the mare, weighs about 2200 pounds and Josie is 1500 pounds and still growing. He will grow to roughly the
same size as his mother, Hawkins says. Medieval writers called the draft horses "great horses." Hawkins calls
them the gentle giants of the horse world.
"As a kid I had a horse," says Hawkins, who grew up in Oklahoma and spent summers in Corsicana while visiting cousins
and aunts. She moved here in 1997 after landing a while in Washington, DC. She would spend all of her time working
on her farm if she could. "I am a country girl at heart," she says, and adds that she works on the farm from "sunup
to sundown" when she's not flying. In addition to the three Belgians, she has two horses that she and Hannah ride during
local rodeo play days and in other events.
She will train Josie around town until he is "bombproof -- when I won't get a reaction out of him for anything."
He recently stayed calm when a fire truck rushed down the street, sirens roaring, she says. "He didn't do anything.
But if there's a mattress on the side of the road, or a trash can, he gets nervous. Downtown, he's fine with cars."
One of the few problems Hawkins has had in her unusual hobby is finding a farrier to shoe Josie. She located a
man who is willing to take on the task with Hawkins' participation. Shoeing the big horses takes about two hours and
a strong back, because the horse leans into the person working on his feet. The shoes also require special welds on
the bottom with abrasive metal that grabs onto the asphalt.
Hawkins wants to add to her collection of wheels a "people mover," which she describes as a Surrey-type vehicle with
bench seats. This would enable her to give rides to groups of people.
The horsewoman drives a Toyota Rav when not driving a horse, and lives on Third Street, in the carriage district.
"I actually have a carriage house out back that I keep my carriage in," she says.
The horses stay on her five-acre farm. In addition to her daughter Hannah, the family includes her mother Bennaz
Hawkins, who helps decorate the carriage, and takes care of Hannah and the horses when her daughter is off flying.