Men pass through Boutte on peace
Getting fired from a job can be a traumatic experience for almost anybody.
For 52-year-old Patrick Spencer, it sent such a jolt through his being that he had to do something extraordinary just so that he could restore his faith in the human race. So Spencer started walking, heading south along the coast in his quest to leave his footprint on the fabric of our great nation. He had been walking for 167 straight days when he made his way through Boutte.
“I was a square peg trying to fit into a round hole in Chicago,” Spencer says of his decision to start his great walk. “I was working at a restaurant and I was fired for no reason, even though a lot of my co-workers actually deserved to be let go. That’s how my life was going and one day I just got the itch to start walking.”
This isn’t the first time that Spencer has decided to cross a great plane of land using nothing but his two feet, but it will be his longest. Spencer previously walked across Spain in 1999 and walked through California to Oregon a couple of years later.
“I find a lot of peace out on the road,” Spencer said. “You meet all kinds of people, from homeless people, to the middle class to the wealthy. I have found kindness in each and every one of them.”
Spencer began his trek from San Diego and left without any money whatsoever. Instead, he planned to rely on the kindness of strangers during what he calls his “walk for peace.”
That has worked out well for him so far, and even led to his chance meeting with his current walking companion, Kevin Hartz, a 34-year-old man from Texas. The two met at the Salvation Army in Beaumont and talked for three days. The stories Spencer told Hartz mesmerized the younger man, and he soon decided to join the peace walk.
“He was telling me where he walked from and why he was doing it and it was just so interesting,” Hartz said. “It wasn’t hard for me to decide to join him.”
Spencer says he has had people walk with him before, though they usually just follow for 15 or 20 miles before turning off to blaze their own path. Hartz, however, has been with him for a month now and shows no signs of leaving.
“We have four or five months left before we reach our goal of Washington, D.C.,” Hartz said. “I’m going to be there at the end.”
The two men have had little trouble finding that great southern hospitality during their trek. They say that they almost always find a place to stay at churches along the way and can count on families to give them a warm place to stay and even warmer meals.
“I would say that 98 out of the 100 people we have met have been wonderful and they really want to help,” Spencer said. “It takes a lot of courage to keep strangers in your home, especially if you have a family, so it has restored our hope in people.
“We go on faith, ask for shelter, and everything else, like food, seems to fall into place.”
In fact, the two men talk with a unique fondness about an airline pilot they met, who not only put them up for a couple of days, but plans to walk with them for the last week of their journey and fly them to Spain free of charge when they complete it.
But the journey hasn’t been entirely without problems, especially for Spencer. When he was going through Arizona, he came face-to-face with a Mountain Lion. He says the lion kept pawing at the ground and forced him to raise his walking stick, which is signed by everyone that he comes into contact with.
“He eventually walked away a little bit and I sent out an SOS to God,” Spencer said. “I didn’t even have to put out my thumb; people just stopped to help me.”
But that wasn’t the end of Spencer’s worries. A couple of days later, he was bitten by a brown recluse. Then there was the time he had to walk through the Apache Indian Reservation.
“Everyone was telling me that I was crazy to walk through their reservation, but I had to stay with them and they treated me with so much kindness,” Spencer said. “It took me two days to walk through and they told me that they had never seen a white man do that.”
But those flirtations with death, and the severe weather storm the two had to travel through in Raceland, have not been enough to take anything away from their trip. Spencer has just been blown away by the people he has met and he is writing those people back as often as he can to give him updates on his trip. So far, he has written hundreds of letters.
“We have met a lot of great people and everyone has a story,” Spencer said. “It’s just been phenomenal.”
While everyone may have a story, it’s almost a sure bet that they don’t have one like these two peace walkers.
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