Deadly diagnosis leads Vietnam vet to ride horses across country (Video)

Rodger Howell

For those of you on Facebook, you can find Rodger Howell’s Facebook page here: ~ HfH

Rodger Howell

Rodger Howell

What would you do if a doctor said you have five weeks to live?

A Vietnam veteran received that news and he decided to quit his job to go on a cross country trip by horse and carriage.

Rodger Howell passed through East Alabama on Memorial Day and that’s where News Leader Nine caught up with him.

“When I first started out, it was self-pity on my part. I just wanted to escape society, but I ended up running right into it. And I found out society isn’t all that bad,” said Howell.

WSMV Channel 4

So far, he has ridden through eight states in nine months. Starting in Tennessee, he made a stop in Michigan, and his next destination is Tallahassee Florida. From there he plans to head back north to Niagara Falls. The only companions on the trip are his dog, Banjo, and his two horses Sunny and Dancer who pull the wagon.

“[The horse] swam at Lake Michigan, so I want him to swim in the Gulf of Mexico.”

Doctors originally predicted Howell had a very short time to live, but after the first leg of his trip, they changed their outlook dramatically, saying they don’t need to see him again for another year. Howell credits his new stress-free lifestyle for improving his health.

“I figure I’ll do it until the end of my life or until I get tired of it.”

Most of the space in his carriage is devoted to storing feed for the horses. When it’s time for a meal, he’ll tie them off outside a fast food restaurant alongside the rest of the cars.

“I’ll pull it in the parking lot, go inside and eat my meal, come out and give [the dog] two hamburgers, and [the horses] usually drink water while we’re there.”

Howell said he’s often approached by children who want to pet the horse and by adults who want to hear his story. Today, one of those people was Mrs. White of Salem, who called her husband after she met Howell outside a store in town.

“He said he’s looking for a place to camp out tonight and I was just wondering if you cared if he came to the house and camped out in the back. I said no, shoot no, bring him on. I love it. A Vietnam vet too, just like me. He’s not a vagabond, he’s not bumming, he’s just out enjoying the last years of his life,” said Jerry White.

Howell suffers from a heart condition that he traces back to a chemical to which he was exposed during his service in Vietnam. Agent Orange is an herbicide that was sprayed on forests to kill trees, eliminating obstacles and removing places for the enemy to hide. The chemical has been linked to a number of debilitating diseases. Originally from Michigan, Howell says he’s not bitter about receiving these side effects.

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AUTHOR: Amber Barnes
  • My husband Jack might have the same thing wrong with his heart and takes the only pill that keeps him alive. He pays hundreds of dollars a month and since he is one of the few that has to take it. Many can take a genaric one but their problem might not be from agent orange like it is with Jack. A fear is the pill might go away. That might be a pill that might be able to save lives with agent orange heart problems.

    So glad you have horses and took off with them. We have them too and not much better!

    Nancy Nolf. Washington Stste

    May 30, 2014
  • julie herstad

    i would like to receive news from your site
    i really enjoyed the story of the vietnam vet who rode across the U.S.!

    June 3, 2014
    • Posted by Habitat for Horses


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      June 3, 2014