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A Wedding on the Dock
Adventurers marry on the town dock
March 4, 2019

mule drawn cart plowed through the standing water on Hodges Street on a recent Saturday. At the reins was a man in a tuxedo and a top hot. A small crowd in foul weather gear and carrying umbrellas waited along the rail. Bernie Harberts had arrived at the town dock to be married.

Bernie & Julia
Bernie Harberts and his brother Christian arrive in style on Hodges St.

Meanwhile, from across the street at The Bean, Julia Carpenter took in the scene. She wore a white stole over a white sweater dress. The bride had dressed for the wedding as well as the weather, which was cold and wet. She wore a pair of knee-high black rain boots over white tights.

Looking out the window, she saw a few dozen people waiting. Many had been casually invited to the wedding through a notice on TownDock.net.

Bernie & Julia
A flooded street posed no problem for Julia.

It wasn’t a typical wedding and that’s to be expected.

The Town Dock had already been a jumping off point for several of Bernie’s adventures. In 1998 he’d left to circumnavigate the world from that dock and returned 5 years later. In 2004, after spending a year back in NC, Bernie took off on another journey. This time with a mule called Woody. After 14 months of walking across the country, they ended up in San Diego, California. Bernie didn’t know it yet, but Woody would introduce him to Julia.

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Partial cast of characters clockwise from the top: Bernie Harberts, the Groom; Keith Smith, wedding officiant; Christian Harberts, brother and Best Man.
Bernie & Julia
Prepared for the weather and the event.
Bernie & Julia
Julia waits in The Bean for the wedding to start.

After many travels with Woody, Bernie decided that Woody needed to retire. (Woody was mulish, after all.) Bernie looked for a stable retirement home, one that would take Woody and his pony Maggie, who’d been acquired along the way to San Diego as an emotional support pony for Woody.The duo had been living on a North Carolina farm, but the farm had to be downsized. They had to find a new home.

So Bernie posted an ad online: “For Sale – The Mule That Walked Across America.”

Bernie & Julia
A quick change before continuing.
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Julia was given away by her brother, Nick Parker. They pass friends and family waiting on Hodges Street.

Julia answered it. She wouldn’t buy the mule and pony, but she would keep them together and make sure their years in retirement were comfortable and happy. Bernie, newly returned from a trip to Tasmania, accepted and the mule and pony were shipped to Julia’s farm in Massachusetts sight unseen.

Woody and Maggie adapted well to life on Julia’s farm at the salt marsh north of Boston. She kept in touch with Bernie, keeping him up to date on his equine friends. Bernie and Julie still hadn’t met face to face. She says she was more interested in the animals than the man.

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Bernie and Julia exchanging vows on the dock while Keith Smith (wedding officiant) and Christian (brother and best man) look on. While the couple were exchanging their vows, the Coast Guard began entering the harbor. Realizing what was happening, they backed out and left.
Bernie & Julia
Husband and wife.

Then in 2012, Bernie was on his way to Newfoundland with a new mule, Polly, for another adventure. He got in contact with Julia and asked if, on the drive north, he could stop at her place and visit his old traveling companions. Julia agreed.

It was a dark and stormy night (really) when Julia first met Bernie. She was returning from a party. Bernie was in her front yard in the driving rain. She remembers his hat and poncho, and how the headlights of her car illuminated him as he threw a cover over Polly to help shield her from the rain. At their wedding reception at the Silos, she said she knew that this was a man worth knowing, someone who would be important in her life. As with her wedding rain, the rain didn’t matter.

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Bernie and Julia climb into the mule cart, say goodbye to the crowd, and get ready to go to their reception.

For the past six years Bernie, Julia, and their herd of mules and horses have been a part of each other’s lives. It was only fitting that the mule Polly and the town dock be part of their new adventure.

And so on a rainy Saturday morning Bernie, accompanied by his brother Christian, arrived on Hodges Street in a cart pulled by Polly the mule. A knot of people stood in the rain and watched as Julia, escorted by her brother Nick Parker, left The Bean and crossed the Hodges Street. Having reached the sidewalk, the one part of Hodges Street that wasn’t flooded, Julia changed from rain boots to her wedding shoes – beige embroidered ankle-boots – and walked past well-wishers to meet Bernie on the dock.

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Boots, bouquet, and burgee; elements of a rainy day wedding in Oriental.

The couple were married by TownDock.net publisher Keith Smith, whom they’d asked to officiate. Keith was ordained online two weeks prior and wrote the service. Exchanging rings that Bernie had crafted from fence clips from their farm in Caldwell County, Julia and Bernie were married with family, friends old and new, and a mule as their witness.

Then Polly the mule carted them down Hodges Street towards a reception at the Silos, tossing a wake as she went. The rain grew heavier.

They didn’t seem to mind.

Bernie & Julia
Just married.
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Posted Monday March 4, 2019 by Allison DeWeese

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