Confessions of a Cayce Doctor
Some trails are happy ones.
Others are blue.
It’s the way you ride the trail that counts.
Here’s a happy one to you.
Happy trails to you,
Until we meet again
Happy trails to you,
Keep smilin’ until then.
Roy Rogers and Dale Evans
§ When I stood in from of the Lavina School assembly, I got a whole lot of questions I might have expected. “How many pairs of shoes did you use?” “Where did you sleep?” “What did you eat?” “How heavy was your backpack?” “What happened to Leo?” “Did you walk back from New York?” “Can I go with you next time?” They weren’t hard to handle.
I also got one from Dano Friendson which went on the order of, “What was the most important learning of your trip?” That was one I wasn’t ready for and I had to beg off saying that I would need time to consider his thoughtful query.
I have had many years to ponder the trip. Moments from the excursion pop up from time to time without my even pointing in that direction. Then for an instant, I feel like I am back there. I think, “It wasn’t so tough. A great experience. Maybe I should do something similar again. More to learn, I suspect.”
Even with many remembrances and reflections, I can’t point to any one single lesson from the trip, but maybe I can set down a few worth mentioning. First, I have recognized the Cross Country Walk as one of the two most meaningful things I have done in my life. One was caring for my father for five weeks while he was dying. The other was doing the five-month trek. I might insert that my brothers and I received small inheritances on my father’s passing. I used some of mine to cover the cost of the Walk from Lavina, Montana, to the Statue of Liberty. So, I owe my father – and mother – for another chapter in my life.
Second, the Walk made it clear to me that people make a difference. They were the most important factors in the trip. You have read some of their stories. Good and gracious and generous people are everywhere, ready to lend a hand or some applause along my way – and yours.
Third, if I can do something out of the ordinary, so can you. You won’t regret it. If you can imagine it, you can do it. Carrying yourself a few steps or miles down the road can touch others in unimagined ways.
Fourth, it is a small world. Of course, I knew that before I started on the journey. But, numerous amazing, unexpected “coincidences” occurred during my cross country passage. They also happen in our routine lives more often than we realize. Those moments should remind us that even in the midst of seeming turmoil and challenge, rhyme and reason really reign supreme.
Fifth, not knowing what the next mile or day would bring was ultimately quite okay. You and I too often think we must have everything planned and lined up. I learn and re-learn that if we do our parts, the Creative Forces will take care of the rest.
Sixth, I must take my hat or cap off again and again to all the people who came before us to settle this land. The explorers and scouts, frontiersmen and women, the pioneers and settlers. And those before them, our Indian brothers and sisters. We always build and walk in the shadow of those who came before. (You and I have been some of those pioneers and pathfinders in previous lives.) Every mile I covered would have been impossible – or nearly so – without many, many earlier movers and shakers. America is indeed a great country and an awesome land. Despite its present challenges, we must uphold the faith and do our parts to keep the light burning and the path open.
Seventh, Nature is awesome, incredibly powerful and constantly changing. Living in our climate-controlled and comfortable boxes (houses and vehicles), we all too easily lose touch with the the elements of nature which undergird our existence. It is well worth the effort to pay more attention to Mother Nature. Without the Creative Forces and Nature, we have nothing and are nothing. What a gift to be alive, to breathe, to absorb the wonders of all the worlds in and around us. The Spirit is always on the lookout for us, maybe we should return the favor every chance we get. §
My adventuring took a hiatus of ten years. I had no idea of doing a repeat performance and hardly ventured anywhere for a decade after that eventful passage. The 2002 Walk came together in the midst my life and community. It was there to do. And, I did it. With much help along the way. The village and state in which I lived helped enormously to foster my brainstorm.
I was reminiscing and writing about that wonderful excursion. In the midst of my ponderings, I received an invitation – actually spoken as a challenge – to have another adventure. The challenge was to take another trip to California, of all places. And to visit a new woman friend I had made via the internet. Beyond that, Tracy lived in the Sierras within a few miles of Diane and Susan. I might have known better, but the lure was still there for a woman, for California, and for the West. Try, try again.
The invitator supposed that I would drive out and stay for a few days. But, my thought to drive only lasted a few days. I had covered that territory time and again by car or pickup. Walking soon seemed to be the way to go. There would be no duplicating my 2002 adventure because I was starting out solo with the intention to walk from Harlowton, MT, to Reno, NV, more or less. It was mostly much different country than Montana to New York City. The preparations were kind of hurry-up and I had no plans to make visitations on the way.
Within a matter of a few weeks I got into shape and 1 September 2012 got On the Road Again. And then in the next three summers from Montana to Nebraska, Montana to Kansas, and Arizona to Montana. I had different missions in mind for each trip. But looking back over my shoulder at a distance, I see there were patterns in the mix of the four expeditions.
First, while each trip had wonders, my plans seemed always to be thwarted in one way or another. Life has its own plans as we have seen repeatedly in this memoir. Second, while exploring and traversing the West, I found myself drawn to many significant encounters with Mormons – members of the Latter Days Saints Church.
I have had the very good fortune to be treated as friend and neighbor by complete strangers on many occasions during my five cross-country walks. Episodes of kindness and generosity have come from the hands of a variety of folks. I am sure there is some commonality behind them all, but I have only gotten a few glimpses. Former hitchhikers, sometimes backpackers, occasional trekkers, and just plain friendly humans seem to make up a good share of the people who have helped me down the road. I also have noticed recurring threads in my latter years of walking and have decided to call it the Mormon Trails. I seem more and more to have run into and be helped along the way by Mormons, often called Latter Day Saints.
The numbers of Mormons in the West are substantial compared to two percent for the whole country. Utah is 67 percent Mormon, Idaho is 26 percent, and Wyoming 12. Regardless, I found them everywhere. Or, they found me from Arizona to Nebraska. And, they did me many good deeds unasked of which I will recount several.
While sharing Mormon stories I have to proffer another favorite moment from early in the 2012 journey. I was several days on the road walking the highway along Madison River in southwestern Montana. I was making good time on my trek. The highway had a wide shoulder, the sky was clear, the weather was warm and the countryside was gorgeous. I took deep breaths, did a few skipping steps and then slowed to make a couple 360-degree turns and take in the panorama of nature – divided though it was by an asphalt highway. It was one of those days when the wonder of IT ALL and my being IN THE MIDDLE OF IT just hit me. I yelled and hooted, “Yehaaaa! Ain't it grand! Go God! You do great work.” Would that I could keep that sense and thought all the time.
For the previous few days, I had been cogitating on my Walk and my friend Fannie the Flag more than usual. While having her as my logo and traveling companion for many years, her meaning continued to change and expand a little here and a little there – maybe as I did.
The T-shirts I wore had the One Star covered with a heart embossed on it. On the back were printed the words: One Nation Under God – God Is Love – Love One Another. But, I felt I needed an even briefer and less churchy line to share when asked about the Flag and my Walk.
Considering that question, it was easy to come to the One Star standing for UNITY. But, I was asking myself, “What exactly does the Heart signify – in one word?” It didn't take too very long for the answer to arise. Ask, seek, knock.
I was experiencing that glorious day down Highway 287 as the Flag and I neared the border with Idaho. Traffic was modest, truck and car. Rare was it to see a motorcycle except on one weekend a few days past. Bicycles and pedestrians were next to non-existent.
But, ah, there in the distance was a bicyclist, a loner coming toward me in my lane, on my shoulder. For a moment, I thought should I cede the lane or wait and see what happens? Well, then, “It is easier for me to navigate than the cyclist.” So, I began to walk on the gravel as the biker got closer.
Before too long, we met. The whole encounter lasted but a couple minutes. My eyes told me, “I am looking at a lone young woman on her bicycle, wearing a colorful scarf around her headgear and blue gloves that look like they were made for kitchen work not outdoor endeavors. She also has company of a little dog in the front wire basket. It all reminds me of Dorothy and Toto in the Wizard of Oz.”
We exchanged greetings. I told her a bit about my expedition and I got back that my new friend was driving with her canine companion from Glenwood Springs, Colorado, to Seattle, Washington. She was going to visit friends, then turn around and return to Colorado where she worked as a bus driver.
I was more than a bit surprised to see a woman and her dog driving hundreds of miles on her bicycle across Montana. My own expedition seemed almost tame in some ways. I said something to that effect. But, the young woman responded, “Oh, walking is really a much purer sort of thing to do. I admire you.”
To top off our short conversation, I took a single photo of the woman and her dog. I also got their names. The woman is called Amity and her dog is named Runaway.
Almost immediately, I knew that Fannie the Flag and Walkabouts henceforth would carry the title of Amity and Unity. Some months after my Walk, I tracked Amity Ludders down via Facebook and shared a few emails. She is indeed a Real Walker having covered the Pacific Crest Trail, Continental Divide, Pyrenean High Route, Corsica’s GR20, and walked Britain end to end. In 2012, she found herself with “bicycle feelings in her legs.” So, she gave in to the urge. Thus, we met and I was bestowed her name for half of my marching slogan. Thank you, Amity.
Not long afterward my encounter with Amity, I walked along the 39-mile-long Main Street [also called Highway 20] of Island Park, Idaho. On the eve of my 64th birthday, I parted from the road into the tall, tall pine trees to find a resting spot. The modest traffic was just an occasional drone in the distance as I leaned my pack against a tree and pulled out my sleeping bag. In a few minutes, I was set to rest under the trees and the stars. It was relatively quiet, dark and comfortable as I concluded another year as Robert McNary or planet Earth.
The morning came and I took care of my personal business a few yards from my “campsite” sitting over an old log. Turning back toward the road, I heard a rumble and thought maybe there was some construction work going on back at the highway. Not so. Before I knew it, I recognized company. Two looming black figures stood within a few yards from me. They stopped and stared at me, as I did them. Then, the two moose rushed right past.
While they didn't wish me happy birthday, their presence honored the occasion and my year. I was similarly gifted as I stopped two days later at Oles in Sugar City located five miles north of Rexburg. I decided to celebrate my birthday with a regular meal at the not-so-busy cafe. The patrons at the next table turned out to be Richard Woodland, Mayor of Rexburg, and his wife Laurie. We took up conversation. They invited me to ride with them to Rexburg after the meal. To that point, I had only taken two rides of less than a mile each on that year's journey. So, I had to adjust my thinking.
I gave in and was glad I did. Mrs. Woodland did the driving and gave me a tour of Rexburg, home of Brigham Young University – Idaho. Laurie was once basketball coach there. The school became a four year university about 10 years ago. But without intercollegiate athletics. Although having lots and lots of ball teams for anyone interested. That sounded like a good idea.
The Woodlands took me to the Super 8; I was ready for a break after 5 or 6 nights jumping the fence and sleeping near the highway. The Mayor took out his credit card, paid for the room, and invited me to visit City Hall next day. After a short time there including photos, he sent me to the Rexburg Standard where reporter Joseph Law did a long interview. Then, Joseph walked me to Broulims Grocery and on to the edge of town. Mr. Law and I had a good visit and took parting photos of each other.
The Mormons were certainly not the only people who did me good deeds here and there. But, there were just so many of them. While passing toward western Idaho, I was invited through a friend to spend time at the Center for Peace in Buhl, Idaho. Meryl Ann Butler, my media person for 2012, let out the word to friends that I was Walking through the Rockies and might like to meet people along the way. Kathy Ruyts in Buhl, ID, emailed MAB that she would be happy to host me at the 8th Street Center for Peace.
Before long, Kathy and I were on the phone comparing notes and talking about my visit to the Center for Peace. She told me that the Center once had been a small Presbyterian Church. Kathy remodeled and lived on the second floor. I imagined it to be a quaint wood-framed country church which might need some attention from time to time. During one phone call, I told her I would be glad to help with any odd tasks that needed to be done in her little building. Well, was I surprised when I appeared in front of the Center.
I checked in with Kathy every few days and called a couple times as I approached Twin Falls on the last Thursday of September. I was invited to share in the Community Supper on Friday and still had a day’s walk to get to Buhl. So, Kathy sent her good friend Aaron Witherspoon out to pick me up on the eastern edge of Twin Falls in late afternoon.
Earlier in the day, I had lost my ball cap (which was a backup for a straw hat which was disintegrating and retired by Idaho Falls) when I stopped to cool my feet off in an irrigation ditch along the way. I was addicted to that process by then. It really helped keep me going. But on that occasion when I got up from watering my feet and returned to the highway, a gust of wind came up, knocked my flag to the ground and blew my ball cap into the ditch and rolled “gently down the stream.” So, I used my flag during the day at times to shade my head from the sun. But, that didn’t work very well.
Aaron appeared on the highway in his red car. He “recognized” me with little trouble. I crossed the highway and we said Hello. As soon as I sat in his vehicle, he said, “You’re part of the family, now. If there is anything you need, you let me know.”
I immediately noticed that he had a good looking ball cap – dark blue with red lettering. So, I told him the lost cap story and he said, “No problem, man. Take one of those in the back window. It’s yours.”
And, it was. I got a Ted Williams baseball cap, I wore it the last miles of the 2012 Walk, and still have it. You might think that the cap was monogrammed for Ted Williams, one of the greatest baseball players of all times. But, it was really named for a horse named after the Boston Red Sox slugger. Aaron is from Tennessee and had been a horse trainer for most of his life. He trained Tennessee Walkers. His “Ted Williams” and the other caps were named for famous Tennessee Walkers.
In any case, I was gifted two or three or four times when I met Aaron. To become Family and get a new cap named after a famous Tennessee Walker named after the famous baseball player. And, I got a ride into Buhl saving me a day of walking.
Before long, we cruised the 16 miles to Buhl and the Center for Peace and met Kathy Ruyts. Kathy was all smiles and welcomed me with a hug and a half gallon of apple cider. What a treat!
Thursday night the Center was open for guitar lessons which I sat in on. But, not until after Kathy settled me in at the guest house next to the Center. I unpacked a little – which doesn’t take much with a backpack, took a shower and changed into “dress-up” clothes.
Then, I went back to the Center to meet the half dozen guitar students. Leah is their teacher and her husband Aaron is one of the students – a novice. He told me “I will be up to speed by the time you get back.” Kathy sent me off with her close friend Chuck Grey Wolf for dinner. We had a lowkey, friendly time at the Subway. I slowly got to know more about Chuck as the few days went on. Returning to the Center, Chuck and I joined Aaron as the backup choir for a group guitar piece. I don’t remember the song, but it was a fun and touching moment. That night, I had a cushy bed at the guesthouse. It was so soft I couldn’t sleep. I rolled out my sleeping bag the next night and slept on the living room floor.
Kathy and Aaron and Leah
Friday was Community Dinner night. In between preparations, Kathy gave me a tour of the grand building which had been a small church until Ms. Ruyts took charge. She took the roof off the structure, added another story, and expanded the building into the Eighth Street Art Center. Within a few years, the beautiful and imposing edifice morphed into the Center for Peace.
Talk about imagination. Kathy put her ideas and resources into manifestation. The Center has become an Interfaith sanctuary, gathering place and gallery space for ceremonies, parties, educational events, music events, and art exhibits. The Center adds a warm, friendly, focus of goodwill to the Community of Buhl.
Kathy and Trudee Jackson and Marty Wilson worked all day to get a meal together for about 50 people. Donations accepted. When most had eaten, a bluegrass music group called the Buhl Jammers appeared and played for an hour or so to the delight of the largely gray-haired audience. After the music and the dust settle a bit, Kathy corralled ten or so people and invited me to share about my project. I got out Fannie the Flag and told a bit about my Walks and my ideas of people helping each other more, befriending all, and relying less on government. The response was quite positive, but I was preaching to the choir.
In the next few days, I peeked in on Mr. Grey Wolf’s drum-making workshop. Saturday was full moon day, so Kathy drove Chuck and me outside the city that evening to watch the moon rise. Sunday, Kathy drove us to the Thousand Springs Annual Festival of the Arts. Thousand Springs is a beautiful spot on the edge of the Idaho desert with water running, rising and falling all around the large park. We listened to some music and rubbed elbows with people from various locales.
For a final Idaho treat on Monday, Kathy drove me out to Miracle Hot Springs where we soaked for a while. Another great spot.
It was time to get back on the road on Tuesday. I said my thankyous to Kathy, but hardly enough for her many kindnesses and the opportunity to see Community developing in small town Idaho.
Chuck Grey Wolf did the honors of driving me back to the East and putting me on Highway 93 heading to Nevada. I got my gear out of the back of his van. Then, Chuck said, “I don’t have much to give you for the road. But, I want you to take this, my favorite shirt, with you.”
His favorite shirt was a Red White and Blue Mickey Mouse sweatshirt. My first thought was, “Oy. I am already overloaded.” Second was, “Such a kind thing for him to do.”
I accepted and was glad I did before the last few days of the trek were over. It got down to 25 degrees in the Nevada desert and the extra layer of “mouse fur” came in handy. On return to Montana, I sent a little package to Chuck in thanks for his gift. Thanks to google, I discovered that Chuck was a “favorite” extra on the old Northern Exposure TV series.
Another heartwarming moment on the trail occurred in the latter days of my 2012 adventure just short of Jackpot, Nevada. I had a memorable stop in the tiny berg of Rogerson, Idaho, just a few miles from the border after a night sleeping on the desert. I made it early in the morning to the only commercial spot in town hoping for more than a convenience store and found store and cafe operated by Anita Robinson. She had seen me on the road previously. We took up a friendly conversation while she made me eggs, hashbrowns, toast and milk. Which she gifted to me.
Anita felt like a kindred spirit. A Mormon, mother of two daughters, and devoted to her religion. We talked freely and I could easily tell that she was a real light in her tiny business, little community and LDS church in Jackpot.
Repeatedly seeing menu items in the likes of Helen’s Breakfast Special, I began to wonder about Helen, who had worked at the store for over 50 years. Inevitably, a little old lady appeared in the attached shop and I had to introduce myself. “You must be Helen. My mother’s name was Helen. I am just passing through but wanted to say Hello. I’m Robert.”
Helen immediately told me, “My son’s name is Robert.”
Before my departure, I had to introduce Anita to Fannie the Flag. Then, she had to remark that she was proud of my adventurous spirit. Which set her telling me briefly about the Captain Moroni before I parted for the last miles to Nevada. Moroni was a military commander in Mormon history best known for raising a “title of liberty.”
By the time od my 2013 Walk,
I was imagining an excursion to Arizona. Then thinking extra water might be in order for some of the long and dry distances between towns, I came up with the idea to push a buggy across the countryside. Friends bought me a three-wheel baby buggy which was easy to push and had room to carry a reasonable amount of gear. I didn't need to wear my backpack. On a test run thirty miles to the east and back, the vehicle did a great job. We covered territory with greater ease and more quickly than backpacking.
However on my first day on the road West, I had a flat tire after two miles. Trying to get it back to use with my repair kit was unsuccessful. The hand pump just didn’t do the job. Friends in town took a long time to get the simple flat fixed. Which event told me to buy solid tires. Along the way, I also decided the frame of my baby buggy was not all that strong and a mechanism to hold my flag would be advantageous.
Before long, I was pointed to local Mormons. Someone mentioned the Mormon handcarts of the mid 19th century and thought they would have some interest and ideas. So, I looked up the local LDS stake president who was quite accommodating. He was well aware of the story, but sent me to a nearby Hutterite colony to get the buggy strengthened. A number of significant changes were done. But, a custom-made device would better have fit the bill to make my rugged journey.
Still, I was in much better shape than those who pushed handcarts from Iowa to Utah in the years from 1856 to 1860. The story goes that over 3000 Mormon pioneers from Britain and Scandinavia were keen to go to in Salt Lake City. But lacking finances and horse or ox carts, they collected into ten handcart companies. The carts where likened to large wheelbarrows with five-foot wheels which could be pushed or pulled and carried up to 250 pounds of goods.
It was surely terribly grueling for those folks to push or pull ungainly carts through harsh territory, rutted roads and constantly changing weather. Two of the ten handcart companies in 1856 got late starts and caught in the winter far short of Utah. Nearly 300 lost their lives trying to reach the Promised Land.
My problems when on the road were piddling in comparison. But, I still had to deal with them. Fortunate for me, they usually resolved themselves with help from strangers who became friends – or were they friends I just hadn’t met yet? One happened outside of Colstrip when the front wheel bracket suddenly felt off my buggy when I took a break in front of the Rosebud Power Plant. I put my right thumb out and held the wheel in my other hand for all to see. The second vehicle passing towards town stopped.
Eighty-year-old Annie Purdon didn’t pull over. She just put on the brakes, stepped out of her van and invited me to ride to town with her. We quickly got the rig settled in the back of hers. I was a bit worried about her parking in the middle of the highway. Annie thought nothing of it. She then drove me to her favorite tire shop looking for assistance, but the only regular mechanic there and in town was on a towing run. We considered options in the middle of which Annie took me to the local supermarket for me to get some cold liquid refreshment. While in line, I asked around, “Does anyone know a welder in this town?”
Annie and JoAnn
Immediately, JoAnn Kofford spoke up from another checkout line. “I do. What do you need?” Within minutes, the buggy was transferred to JoAnn’s SUV. She then drove us to Josh Clark's CTA Performance in Colstrip's industrial park. Josh was out, but his helpers assured me that they could fix the problem.
We left the Buggy and JoAnn drove us to her home. There I met her husband, Dale Kison, and two granddaughters, Chalon and Deja. I was made entirely at home, like family, and joined the four for chicken fried steak dinner.
Life in Colstrip revolves around coal mining and coal-fired power generation. Dale works for power company. JoAnn used to. Around dinner, JoAnn and Dale and I talked about Colstrip and coal and power. Later on, JoAnn and I discussed life and philosophy as well as her Mormon heritage. Eventually, I got a tour of the Kofford-Kison property and several gardens.
Before the evening was out, Mr. Clark appeared to repair the fuel pump on Dale's truck. He had already welded the Buggy back into working order dropped it off. “No charge.” I have been wondering about that ever since. (JoAnn told me weeks later that Josh is also a Mormon.)
In any case, my Colstrip benefactors took kind and generous care of me. I slept comfortably in the house's storeroom. JoAnn supplied me with goodies and a map to find my way out of town and Dale got me started in the morning as he went off to his shift as operator at one of Colstrip's power plants.
Thanks to a mishap, breakdown, and problem on the road, I got to know some Colstrippers, spend an evening with family, and make a friendship. JoAnn and I have traded a number of emails over recent days. Thanks once again.
From Colstrip, I was off to Lame Deer. That stretch was relatively uneventful. I met many friendly people there, especially at Dull Knife College. Around six o’clock that evening, I approached Ashland with rainclouds building on the north. I thought nonchalantly to myself, “When it starts to rain, I will have time to get my poncho on.”
Well, I was overly optimistic. As soon as the first drops began to fall, hail followed immediately. A lot of hail and even more wind. I barely got the poncho unfolded from its pouch. The wind was BIG. It very nearly tore the poncho out of my hands. With supreme effort, I got it over my body. I couldn't manage to get my head into the cap part of the poncho. But, maybe that was for the best. The hail was pounding down. I decided to sit myself on top of the Buggy. The welding job held, thanks to Mr. Clark.
I sat there with the wind and rain and hail having their way with me for what seemed like a long time. It would have been totally unnerving had I not remembered, “Hailstorms pass quickly.”
And, that one did. The whole episode was only ten minutes with the hard part lasting half that long.
I was soaked to the bone. But, the sun slowly returned to assist the wind in drying me out. I marched the last few miles into Ashland. I hadn’t a clue what to do with my wet and bedraggled self. A convenience mart appeared and I headed toward it. I parked my rig and moved to the front door. A young woman, filling her SUV with gas station, addressed me saying, “Were you in that storm?”
“I sure I was.” Then, Koyatu Jorden took charge and decided she would make room for me and my rig in the back of her vehicle. She was heading for Riddle on the other side of Broadus to her second job of the week working as a flagger on a road construction project. We traded stories as she barreled down the road, making calls and texting much of the while. She was a multi-tasker, to be sure. Koya cranked up the heater to help me dry out.
By the time we reached Broadus, we had become friends. Koya insisted on taking me to the local motel office. But, all three plus campgrounds were full up. Against resistance, she eventually dropped me at the local park. She did insist on leaving me with a blanket which came in handy.
Interestingly, Koya – also called Tutu – filled me in during our excursion on some of the details of her Mormon background. I told her about my reading of the Book of Mormon the previous winter spurred by my several interactions with LDS people on my 2012 Walk to Nevada. Interestingly, the end of this trip in Nebraska found me being befriended in different ways by Seventh Day Adventists.
my travels criss-crossed the literal and historical Mormon (and Oregon) Trails in Wyoming and Nebraska. Early on, I was befriended by a Mormon helper. For a time, I had found myself stuck in the heat of the day in a ghost town named Moneta. The highway map suggests it being a regular spot in the road. That although only one house exists there. One family, a couple, who live at that one house in “town” eventually appeared and kept me out of the sun during the day. But by 5:00, I was heading east with a few hours of sunlight to spare.
Before long, a man with a small child in the back seat of his car stopped and invited me to ride to Casper. I was glad to accept as we were really a long way from nowhere. The Good Samaritan turned out to be a Mormon podiatrist who worked and lived up the road. Dr. Marshall evangelized me a bit during the road trip, but didn't push too hard. He dropped me off in front of a McDonald's and tried to put money in my pocket. But, I refused and thanked him for his preceding generosity. I sent him a copy of one of my books later on.
As for 2015, I should begin by telling that I lived most of the previous year in Snowflake, Arizona. That residence was not planned out. I had intended to live in Show Low, but ... Snowflake is a Mormon pioneer town named for two men responsible for starting the small community now composed of 5,000 people (10,000 counting adjoining Taylor). Mr. Snow and Mr. Flake put their heads and names together in 1876 to found Snowflake. It really could be called “Noflakes.” because the snow is pretty sparse there even though the elevation is around 5500 feet.
On the other hand, there are lots of Mormons named Flake in the town. I met five of them during my stay, including a brother to US Senator, Jeff Flake. I didn't meet any Snows. In any case, I spent most of the year in real Mormon country. The Mormons were all around, but I mostly encountered them in the grocery store near the RV Park where I stayed. I had been settled for six months before I got a knock on the door from two female Mormon missionaries. The moment was a little surprising since I was unaware that young women could be missionaries and had to wonder why a Mormon pioneer town with a dozen Mormon wards might need missionaries. I had already encountered a number of Jehovah Witnesses and Seventh Day Adventists in the Trailer Park. Both of those sets of people were keen to interest me in their ways.
I made but three good and potentially lasting friends in Snowflake. One was Jeff Hunt whom I met at the supermarket working one of his three jobs there. Jeff is descended from pioneer stock and invited me to his family picnic after the annual Pioneer Day Parade. Mr. Hunt did a large share of the cooking that day which featured chili and homemade bread. Jeff also did the honors in making 13 gallons of ice cream.
A few days after I had set a route and a starting date for the 2015 Walk to the Northland and my spontaneous campaign of Pooh for President. Jeff told me that he would look for us on his upcoming family trip through Salt Lake City into Idaho. We kept in touch for a few days via text messages. When it happened that the family car was overheating and their trip was canceled, Jeff sent me a message wishing me luck on my travels. He also said that he would pray that some of his Mormon kin would help us out along the road.
I tucked that notion in the back of my mind and continued on through Navajo Land. Passing fairly quickly through Utah, I had Montpelier, Idaho in my sites when a reddish late-model car made a U-turn on the highway and pulled up behind us. A woman approaching my age got out and asked about our project and destination.
Before long, Pooh and I were ensconced in the backseat of the Mitchells’ car. They were heading home to Boise and were quite interested to find out that we had started our journey in Snowflake, Arizona. Carol Mitchell grew up in Snowflake, was born of Mormon stock, and knew the Hunt family quite well. How do you like those apples?
Well, the Mitchells drove us 40+ miles to Montpelier and headed onward for the rest of their journey home. So, did Jeff Hunt’s prayer materialize? Or, how did that episode come about?
I had a couple other “Mormon experiences” on this recent trip in Idaho. Climbing a hill one morning in Potato Country, I was greeted by a group of young men up an incline on my side of the road. As I carried my flag, they were standing at attention and saluting. Also taking a few moments away from weeding a huge potato patch. Well, I couldn't let that moment pass. So, I stopped. Climbed up to where they were standing with eyes wide open. We had a short conversation and I took photos. I didn't ask, but knew quite surely that the boys were Mormons. A day or two later in Chubbuck, I was sitting outside an ice cream shop having a treat. Some littler people appeared and asked about our adventure. They had seen us walking the road earlier in the day. I had another conversation and photo op. On the last full day on the road, Tracy and his daughter Raquel stopped to visit. Shortly thereafter, I got a motorcycle ride for the last mile or so into Rigby Idaho.
Some time after the last Walk, two different Mormon acquaintances suggested that because I have this affinity for Mormons, I should become one. Both times, my immediate response was “not in this lifetime.” But those comments and other thoughts have given me pause ... And brought me to the conclusion that I must indeed have a long-standing connection with Mormon brothers and sisters from another lifetime. At this point, I imagine traveling across the American continent with the Mormons in the 19th century. The dawning of that conclusion has helped to coalesce other ideas into a larger scheme of things.