Wanderer's travels inspire admiration
By Ken Esten Cooke —
“Because he had no place he could stay in without getting tired of it and because there was nowhere to go but everywhere, keep rolling under the stars….” – Jack Kerouac
Like a lot of 20-year-olds, I was taken with Jack Kerouac’s “On The Road” when I read it in college. It’s an ebullient ode to experiencing life to the fullest, and I sought to spread my wings and see parts of this place we call Planet Earth.
Fortunately, I was able to join some other wayward minstrels and do that for a while. There is no education like travel, and it was good for this small-town boy to get out and put some mileage under my boots.
Last week, I received two calls to the newspaper office about a man on horseback with pack mule in tow, a rarity these days. I set out after work to find him and when I saw the steed and the ass hitched in front of the Java Ranch coffee shop, I figured I had zeroed in on him. Sure enough, there he sat in the window with a cool drink and an iPad, catching up with friends via a Wi-Fi connection.
Bryan Brant was the traveler, and his story inspires a similar want as I had in my 20s. Brant is traveling from Quebec, Canada to Del Rio, Texas via horseback. His reasons for going are his own, but shucking convention seems to be his driving force.
Brant came back from the U.S. Army’s Desert Storm operation with experience as a frontline combat medic. He was later diagnosed with Gulf War Syndrome, and suffered symptoms similar to Multiple Sclerosis. Nearly infirm, he was told he’d never get better and put on a steady diet of multiple drugs, none of which seemed to help.
“After a while, I just got fed up and threw the drugs in the toilet,” he said. “I started using natural medicines and doing yoga to treat my condition.”
And it seems to have worked. The “cure-in-a-pill bottle” we all seem to accept blindly wasn’t good enough for Brant. So he got better, regained some flexibility and began dreaming of the road.
The Newton, Kansas native also has Mohawk tribe Native American blood, and he began to dream of traveling, following the steps of his ancestors. Brant also found that horses were good therapy for his body and spirit. A Native American elder told him if he undertook his journey, a new universe would open up and he would be on a new path. Within a month, he came into some money and made the commitment to begin.
The same elder gave him a blessing for his journey, but told him to remember “It’s all about the horses.” His care for his equine companions is always foremost in his thoughts.
“I believe there is healing in my interaction with horses,” Brant said while his Quarter Horse “Abbey Road” was petted and used as a prop for selfies with people passing on the sidewalk. His pack mule is named Sergeant Major Jack Houdini, though many have told Brant the mule should be promoted to Captain. His Australian Shepherd dog “Pepper” also is along for the trip for protection and companionship.
He left in June 2012 — yep, 2012 — and his journey has taken him to New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, Arkansas and Ohio. Water is his biggest challenge, he said, and he must carefully plan where there is much distance between towns. That’s why he chose Del Rio, and not Brownsville. Still, he plans to head west to El Paso after he reaches the Rio Grande.
He bunks by the side of the road many nights, yet his easy smile and kind demeanor help him make friends, some of whom invite him to bunk in home or barn. His tanned face shows the miles. No doubt his trip, traveling like they did in the 1800s, will be talked about for generations.
I told Brant that Luckenbach was just about five miles away and that iconic place seemed to pique his interest, as Waylon and Willie’s 1970s hangout always does. The nightly pickers’ circle might be just the ticket for him.
Family and my job that I love keep Kerouac-like thoughts at bay now. Still, my brain percolates when I read or hear about people’s worldly travels. Great journeys inspire the best in ourselves. At around 10 to 15 miles per day, Brant’s multi-year trek has no doubt inspired countless others.
God speed, Bryan Brant. I can’t wait to read his book.
“Not all those who wander are lost.” – J.R.R. Tolkien