EDITOR’S NOTE: Last summer, American Farriers Journal posted an article about Tennessee farrier Rodger Howell, who is traveling the country with his horse-drawn wagon after doctors told him in 2013 that he had just a few months to live. Now, 2 years after that dire prognosis, Howell continues his journey. The following is an update on the Vietnam veteran and his adventures.
Motorists in Cabarrus County, N.C., probably were surprised to see a horse-drawn stagecoach pass through Thursday.
It’s Rodger Howell’s way of making the most of his life.
“I didn’t want to die on the front porch,” he says from the side of Branchview Drive in Concord, on his way to Niagara Falls with his 5-year-old border collie, Banjo, and two horses, Sonny and Dancer.
Howell, 64, is originally from Michigan and is a certified farrier and horse trainer in Erin, Tenn., where he is the former chief of police.
He served in Vietnam, where he was exposed to Agent Orange. Two years ago, doctors told him he was dying. Plagued by heart and kidney problems, he was given about 5 weeks to live.
He headed back to Michigan with a horse and buggy to see his grandchildren.
“I just wanted to go out in my style,” he says.
Howell kept on kicking, though, so he started traveling the country in his buggy. He picked up a second horse and traveled thousands of miles, visiting states from the Great Lakes to the Deep South.
Last year, a trip from his home in Tennessee to Niagara Falls took him through Monroe, where he was met with tragedy. A tractor-trailer hit his buggy in October, destroying it and most of his belongings. His horses survived relatively unscathed, but Howell was severely injured and couldn’t continue his journey for six months.
The community raised money, and Howell was able to buy a new stagecoach with interior lodging and solar power.
April 20 marked the grand restart of his adventure. He plans to ride down state roads for about 11 weeks until he reaches Niagara, “but I don’t have no time frame.”
After that, Howell says he plans to keep going “till the day I die.”
He says the road has made him healthier and happier.
“I feel better than I have in 12 years,” Howell says. “The people I’m meeting, they keep the trip going.”