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Man on horse-drawn carriage rolls through Kershaw County

Posted: October 17, 2014 2:29 p.m.
Updated: October 20, 2014 1:00 a.m.
Gary Phillips/C-I

Rodger Howell, of Erin, Tenn., pulls the horse-drawn carriage he’s ridden since Aug. 5, 2013, to the side of U.S. 1 in Lugoff near Longtown Road on Oct. 10. Howell, a Vietnam veteran who suffers from effects of Agent Orange, said he’s traveling not to promote a cause, but so he doesn’t “die on the porch.”

 

Kershaw County motorists along U.S. 1 saw an unusual sight Oct. 10: a horse-drawn wagon rolling down the highway. Rodger Howell of Erin, Tenn., stopped for a conversation and said he, his two-horse team and dog have traveled much of the eastern United States, making friends all along the way.

Howell is a Vietnam veteran and said he has health issues related to Agent Orange, an herbicide chemical used in Vietnam to clear thick jungle overgrowth. He said he’s not traveling to promote a cause, but for a simple, personal reason.

“I don’t want to die on the porch,” Howell said. “We’re all going to die and if you’re not living right you’re going to get what you deserve. I left home August 5 of last year. I went from Tennessee to Michigan, then through Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, back through Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, north Florida and back up this way. Now I’m headed to Niagara Falls -- that’s as far as you can get in New York.”

Howell’s horses are 14 and 15 years old and he said they love to pull the wagon. He carries several bales of hay, 300 pounds of feed and 30 gallons of water to care for the animals.

“I always fill the water back up when I get to a gas station. I never go empty because I never know how far it might be to the next one, where the next stop is,” Howell said. “They go about 6 to 8 miles an hour. I’ve camped in Walmart parking lots, behind churches, behind gas stations, people’s front yards, in the middle of the projects.”

A former law enforcement officer who served for 24 years, Howell said when he started his journey he had a bad attitude towards people, but that quickly changed.

“I’ve met thousands and thousands of good people. I’ve met eight people I could do without on this whole trip. I hated people when I started this trip. If anybody came up to me on the first couple of days of my trip I’d say ‘what do you want?’” Howell said. “It got to where I didn’t think society was going to pull through, but I’ve stayed with Muslims, Amish, Menonites, Jehovah’s Witnesses. I’ve stayed with just about every nationality you can think of and this country is a great place. It’s got a lot of good people. You take the initial differences between us and five minutes with a horse and a dog, we’re all the same. My joke is that everybody wants to pet the horses or the dog, but nobody wants to pet the owner.”

Howell said his plans that day were to stop and re-shoe the horses and buy a new cell phone at a Camden store, as he checks in daily with the Veterans Administration, or at least they expect him to.

“The VA says I’m supposed to call them every day. I ain’t called them in three weeks,” Howell said with a laugh.

In a tragic turn of events, Charlotte TV station WBTV reported Thursday on its website Howell’s wagon was rear-ended by a tractor-trailer truck and destroyed in Monroe, N.C., just north of the North Carolina state line. The report said Howell and the animals were unhurt. Howell was taken to a Monroe hospital for an examination and released.

 

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