Natchitoches through the eyes of a carriage driver

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Guy Tuscio relates the history and culture of Natchitoches to visitors. Tuscio took ownership of the carriage tours just before Thanksgiving.

By Hannah Richardson, lifestyleeditor@natchitochestimes.com

The “clop, clop, clop” from horse hooves on the brick-paved Front Street has always been a familiar sound in Natchitoches. Around Christmas-time, you may have seen excited visitors viewing the sights from the renowned horse carriages. Now, the Cane River Carriage Company is under the new ownership of Guy Tuscio. He came to own Cane River Carriage Company the weekend before Thanksgiving and I recently met Tuscio, learned how he came to his new position and sat down for a tour, to see Natchitoches from the eyes of a visitor.

Family Doctors

Q:Tell us a little about yourself.

A:I was born and raised in Natchez, Miss. I have a wife, Misty, and a 9-year-old little girl who loves horses. She sometimes helps me drive the carriage. I am a lieutenant at Natchez Fire Department and have been with them for 21 years. I am also a carriage driver in Natchez.

Q:When did you come here?

A:I’ve worked the carriages in Natchitoches in the past. I started doing tours in Natchitoches in 1994 during the Christmas season. My boss at the time, George Vines, had both companies so I would travel back and forth. I helped to train Amy, the previous owner. She was a great tour guide and genuinely loved the horses. When Amy got sick, she and Tommy decided they had to sell the business. After making the decision I was the first person she called. In this business you want to make sure that the horses will be in good hands. She knew I would take care of the horses and keep the carriages running in Natchitoches. I took over the company the weekend before Thanksgiving. I put everything I had into getting it started. I think I had $20 left in my pocket when I got to town. I figured that I would either get it going or have to sleep in my truck that night. Luckily everything went great. I’ve had so much help and support from everyone. Mayor Posey and his team at City Hall did an outstanding job supporting me and helping me. The ladies in the visitors center have been very welcoming and have helped me also. Gail Culpepper, Amy and Tommy Tobin have all went above and beyond to help me. Tommy even helps me as a driver when he has time off. Also my dad has been here through it all. I could not have made this work without him.

You can meet Tuscio, Gumbo and the other carriage riders and horses on Front Street until Jan. 6. Carriage riders will pick up again in the spring season.

Q:Tell us about your previous horse carriage experiences?

A:I started driving carriages as an after school job. I would get out of school and go do night tours in Natchez. Through the years I’ve spent about 10 years driving the carriage in Natchitoches and 24 years in Natchez. After George Vines passed away a few years ago, I helped his wife, Delores Vines, keep the carriage company going. I would spend all day working on carriages and doing barn work, then do tours in the evening. My average work week is about 120 hours.

Q:What part of the tour do you enjoy speaking about the most? A:My favorite part of the tour is when I get to let the horse dance. I let him trot and get a beat, then I whistle jingle bells. Q:What do tourists enjoy the most?

A:The interaction with the horses. We keep treats for the horses, so everyone loves to come by and give them a treat. Also, there is nothing like pulling up on Front Street in a horse carriage and seeing the lights.

Q:What questions are you asked the most on the tours?

A:”Where should we eat?” I alway ask what kind of food do they want. Then I tell them which restaurant has the type of food they’re looking for.

Q:Any difference on tours for adults vs. children?

A:Kids can be a lot of fun. They want to sing Christmas carols and they enjoy learning about the horses.

Q:How are the carriage horses cared for?

A:The horses are kept close by on East Fifth Street. We have a pasture and barn just past St. Mary’s. We have a rotation so that each horse gets days off.

The next time you see the carriages in town, be sure to give Tuscio, the carriage drivers and the horses a warm Natchitoches welcome. Tours are every day from 5-9 p.m. The carriages stop near the north end of Front Street.