Spreading the message via covered wagon

Published 7:18 am Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Well, they just might have everything at Wal-Mart. That includes a customer who drives his four mules into town and parks them, his two covered wagons and a small trailer in the megastore’s lot, just to go in and grab the essentials.

Randy Boehmer, originally of Arizona, has been touring the U.S. in his handbuilt wagon led by Belgian draft mules (Frank, Bessie, Dick and Jack), with his border collie (Shep), and his rat terrier (Proverb) by his side since April 2008. Tuesday, around 3 p.m., he was passing through Minnesota and made a stop at the Austin Wal-Mart, prompting customers to do a double-take while passing by at a snail’s pace in their cars. Some Wal-Mart employees even stepped outside to snap photos of the mules with their camera phones.

Boehmer’s covered wagons are plastered with proverbs and other Christian messages, like “JESUS SAVES, ASK HIM” in bold red and black lettering. The former taxidermist said he is traveling the country not for vacation, but rather for a crusade — to spread the message of the Bible.

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He first had the idea to travel the country in such a way from Lee Young, a man he met in Arizona in 1990 who was then doing the same.

“I was interested by the possibility of such a simple life at that time, but it took me 17 years to do it,” he said. After his mother’s death in 1991, Boehmer said he and his brother cleaned out his parents’ garage and what the family didn’t want was taken to the dump. It was then that he learned he did not want to live a material life, and it was seven years later when his wife Lois passed away that he was inspired.

“I wanted to know this God that she knew,” he said.

And so, he would combine the two passions in his journey.

To prepare, Boehmer spent two years in Bible school and seven months in Arizona learning to shoe horses. He then went to Indiana to build his covered wagons.

Minnesota is the 12th state he has trotted through in his 16 months on the road. He said he does not have an itinerary other than “to travel with few possessions and spread the word of God.” He also said, “I plan to do this until the day I die.

“I stop at Wal-Mart stores whenever I have a chance to refuel with food and whatnot,” he said.

Sometimes he goes three months between stops, but he said he cannot last more than six weeks without settling on a gas station to pick up “overpriced” necessities.

Even with reasonable prices, how can he afford this lifestyle? “God provides,” is all Boehmer explained. Before making his way to Minnesota, he spent five weeks staying with Amish people in Iowa, resting and fixing up the wagon. “People have always recieved me well, and offered generosity to me and the mules,” he said.

As for his dogs, Shep is more than happy watching the cars go by all day between stops. Proverb is content with their lifestyle too, he said.

Boehmer was in a hurry to leave Austin Tuesday afternoon. He said he needed to find a nice ditch to pull over in. Then, he will head west to South Dakota before turning south for the winter.

“I am just going to keep on keeping on … saying ‘God bless you’ everywhere I go.”