John Wayne road through town
By Robin Scott
Anyone near Gebo’s and the Co-Op last Friday, April 3rd, may have felt they had stepped into the past and right into a John Wayne movie. A John Wayne western flick where John Wayne tamed the Wild West. But the time was the present, and it was John Wayne riding horseback along side his packhorse and his best friend, Sheila, a Blue Heeler he’s had for three years.
John Wayne is John Wayne Hayes who left his hometown of Hudson, Michigan, last October 2nd for the journey of a lifetime. John, a 55-year-old longtime employee for Bob Evan’s Corporation, the parent corporation for Owens Sausage, quit his job after his youngest child graduated from high school and left for college. He packed a few belongings atop Harley, a 24-year-old Appaloosa horse, gathered his trusted dog, Sheila, and saddled Misty, a 3-year old Appaloosa horse, and hit the trail headed toward Santa Fe.
Every boy’s dream is to someday grow up and become a cowboy. John Wayne Hayes decided one day to make that dream come true. He stated, “This is something I’ve wanted to do for years.” He originally planned to meander toward Santa Fe in four months. He endured a few bouts with bad weather that altered his scheduled arrival time in New Mexico, but the delay only strengthened his love for the open plains. He stated, “I thought I’d ride to New Mexico and then live there. I have family there. But I have enjoyed this so much, I may just keep traveling.”
John made it to Texas just in time for the blizzard that crippled Dalhart and the Texas Panhandle during the last weekend in March. John stated, “I was in Borger when the blizzard hit. A family there was kind enough to give me and my horses and the dog and pup a place to stay and food to eat.” John mentioned “dog and pup” because while he was traveling through Arkansas he rescued a Red Heeler puppy that he fondly named Rudy. He commented, “Someone cut his tail off and left him.” Rudy is no trouble for John Wayne though and no respectable cowboy would leave a hurt animal out in the elements to die. John fashioned a pouch for Rudy next to him on Misty, and Rudy rides along in style.
As John traverses the country with what appears to be a matching set of horses and dogs, he has met many people who can’t help but to flag him down and engage him in conversation. He noted, “Everyone has been very nice to me and has stopped me and asked about what I’m doing.” While in Borger, John visited the elementary school’s second graders. The vision of a real life cowboy on a horse with a puppy riding shotgun provided quite a treat for the wide-eyed 7 and 8-year-olds.
The amazing 1,900-mile trek has created a bit of a following for John Wayne Hayes. He’s been in the news on both television and in written publications. His daughter, Ashley, keeps up with where he’s at by blogging with people who have met her dad and then looked him up on the Internet. Photographs of John, Misty, Harley and Sheila may also be found on the Internet, and Rudy is sure to be popping up in photos soon as more journalists find fascination in one man’s journey of a lifetime. John Wayne Hayes proves that a man, a couple of horses and two dogs can live a real American dream.