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Breaking a dry spell

Posted Wednesday, May 27, 2009, at 6:58 AM

Just when I think I'll never have another interesting idea to write about - along comes a bear....or a cougar...or a man driving a team of mules along Highway 25.

Yeah, you got it! I'm sitting in my tiny office in Advance, typing away on the Memorial Day news, when the city maintenance director calls me and says, "Madeline, if you want a good story, come out to Highway 25! There's a guy with a team of mules going by!"

I grab my camera, lock up the office and head out in my Jeep, toot sweet. And there he is, almost to the Advance city limits sign. I fight the traffic (no kidding - one time when there's traffic - and today's it!)-- pull over on a side street, yank out the camera and chase him down the highway like an idiot, trying to get a picture.

He stops the team and yells out the window - "Do you know where there's a newspaper between here and Jackson?"

"Yeah -- I'm it!" I shout back. I guess he figured that a little backwater place like Advance couldn't possibly have a newspaper.

Hey, we not only have a newspaper, I tell him - We have 15-20 churches in a town of 1244, so I qualify to do a story on a man driving a wagon with a sign that shouts, "JESUS SAVES - JUST ASK!"

It's a little anti-climactic to write what he told me, as it was basically just the same thing he told Noreen (I later found out), but he said it in a lot nicer terms than he did to her.

Maybe he'd had a bad day when she caught up with him at Bloomfield. I notice that she left out the word "cantankerous" in her story, but that's how she described him to me.

"Cantankerous" did NOT fit the man I interviewed on the side of Highway 25 with cars and 18-wheelers whizzing by. The man I talked to was a charmer-and-a-half.

If you haven't read Noreen's account, you need to, because I'll try not to repeat what she told in her story. When I write it up for the NSC, I'll include all the details, of course.

This is no will 'o the wisp for this man: He planned it for years before he took off. "There's way more to it than saying, 'Giddy up," he told me. And, I'll tell you, folks - those are REALLY big mules! The photo does not do them justice!

Being a border collie person, I noticed the dog first, of course. His name is "Shep," and he's murder on snakes. They've killed 20 rattlers on their trip, so Shep comes in very handy for a man who camps out in ditches at night. Randy Boehmer (that's his name) carries an electric fence, so he can, in effect, tether the mules out to pasture on "grass which no animal has ever eaten before."

His other dog - "Proverb" - is a rat terrier and is death to rats, having killed a very big rat that got into the feeding wagon. Boehmer says the rat was Proverb's "first trophy from the East."

I couldn't write fast enough to list all the states they've traveled since they left Bedford, Indiana a year ago April 1, but a partial list is Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, Forida, Mississippi...and that's where I lost track. He's from Arizona, but at least two of his mules (Frank and Jessie) are from Indiana.

You can read all his background in Noreen's story, but he says that he's "spreading the Word of God and the Testimony of Jesus Christ," and he asked me if this was part of the Bible Belt. I said it most assuredly was.

"People in the small towns of the Bible Belt are the nicest people!" Boehmer says.

I found myself wishing we could just find a nice shady place with water and grass for the mules, where I could sit and listen to him for a "spell." What stories he must be able to tell - What sights he's seen on this trip around America, leaving all his worldly possessions behind and living close to God.

There I am in my office, thinking this dry spell in my writing will last forever, when along comes a modern-day prophet, crying out in the wilderness...

Yep, you never know...

From the lush green hills of Tillman, Missouri, this is your roving rural reporter Madeline, thanking God for his many blessings, and praying a safe journey for all travelers.

Showing comments in chronological order
[Show most recent comments first]

A friend told me last night that the wagon & team were camped out at Hilltop (25 & 91 junction, halfway between Aquilla and Advance) all during the 100-Mile Yard Sale. I don't blame him - I sure wouldn't want to be on 25 with a team of mules during that period!

That must be why it took him so long to get from Bloomfield to Advance.

-- Posted by goat lady on Wed, May 27, 2009, at 7:40 AM

Oh, my gosh - I just happened to think that he has to cross the Mississippi, and I can't remember what that bridge at Chester is like! I hope it's wide enough to give him room to cross safely!

-- Posted by goat lady on Wed, May 27, 2009, at 7:42 AM

This reminds me of the scene in Forest Gump where all the people followed Gump as he jogged around the country, thinking that he would lead them to find the meaning of life, etc. Seems like it would be a busy job cleaning up after the mules!!

-- Posted by FJGuy on Fri, May 29, 2009, at 9:55 PM

I love that scene in Forrest Gump!! It really makes a point, doesn't it? People will jump on the band wagon and follow someone who seems to have a clear, compelling purpose in life -- even if that purpose just turns out to be having a good time and seeing the sights.

...I wonder where he is by now...???

-- Posted by goat lady on Sat, May 30, 2009, at 7:58 AM

One thing that makes Forrest Gump endearing is he was a good hearted person who didn't seek or pretend to be leading anyone anywhere -- his "followers" projected onto him their image of what they wanted him to be. They would have had a better chance of finding an enriching path in life if they had emulated FG's example of "following his own drummer", rather than trying to find someone to be their leader.

GL, if you check with MD she might let you in on the "secret" that there are many "Forrest Gumps" in Alaska.

-- Posted by FJGuy on Sat, May 30, 2009, at 7:54 PM

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Madeline DeJournett
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Madeline (Giles) DeJournett is the Advance writer for the North Stoddard Countian. A retired high school English/history teacher, she spent 32 years teaching in 5 schools in Missouri and Alaska. These days, she lives quietly with a menagerie of wild and domestic animals on 52 secluded acres in the remote Tillman hills south of Advance. She graduated from Dexter High School in 1960 and Southeast Missouri State in 1964. She can be contacted at advancensc@sbcglobal.net.
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