By Vern Hee – Special to the Pahrump Valley Times
The man with the donkey — the one seen by hundreds traveling by foot along highways in three states — did it.
Howard West’s epic journey to save his ranch will end in success.
Last fall, West, a 62 year old author, left the Tonopah ranch he calls home on foot. Several pairs of shoes later and more than 800 miles, he can finally start his way back home.
In October, West set out with nothing but a covered wagon pulled by his burro Blue Pegasus and his dog, Ezekiel, on a book tour to save his home.
The Wagon had a sign on its side, and in big letters, “Quicksilver Book Tour” called out to the curious. His goal was $4,000 to pay back a book publishing loan in which he used his ranch as security. If he did not pay his loan back by the end of March, he would have to forfeit his ranch. West said walking his tour was the best way to draw attention to his cause.
West came through Pahrump in the dead of winter in December and then headed west to Shoshone, through Baker and Barstow and then south toward the Salton Sea. His goal at the time was to walk to the Grand Canyon or even Phoenix to sell as many books as possible. Howard was in Salton Sea in late January and then in Blythe, Calif. in mid-February heading toward Quartzsite, Ariz. By then he had been on the road for four months. At that time, he had made only $1,500.
On Feb. 10 he wrote, “About 700 miles and Blue and I are on our third set of shoes and Zeke is still happy to be BARE FOOT.” On Feb 13, he crossed the Colorado River into Arizona. By early March, West had found an anonymous donor through the article published in the Pahrump Valley Times in December. The donor was from Las Vegas and said he was willing to cover any gap West had at the end of the tour.
So West went north to Parker, Ariz. and closed the gap to just $1,500, which meant he had raised $2,500. After a book fair in Parker, West then headed for Havasu.
Once in Havasu, that is where his fortunes changed even more. The local paper, the Today’s New Herald, published a story on him. Townsfolk showed up in droves at the London Bridge Shopping Center Swap Meet, where West was selling books last weekend.
West described the frenzy this way, “I sold $3,000 worth of books at the book fair, which is about three cases and then … the town said they would rebuild the front end of my wagon and replace all the tires. Also, this couple came up that had bought some books on Saturday spending about $100 . . . and then on Sunday I met them again, it was serendipity. They found me on the highway and told me they wanted to help me and donated $2,000 more to my cause.”
West said he never gave up, and the friends he made along the way were numerous and unforgettable. He even made friends with the local police everywhere he went. In each town, he always came upon the police who stopped him either to ask him what he was doing or to get him for slowing traffic.
“The cops always stop me and then I would have to show them the law that allows me to be on the highway … it’s under a slow moving vehicle in most states. They let me go and I had them take a picture with Blue the burro. So I have several pictures of police officers standing next to a good looking fat ass.”
The only real problems he had on his long journey was being kicked out of campgrounds for not having a self contained camper. He said, “On the whole, I was never the least bit apprehensive about anything on this trip. I never really had any problems with getting from point A to point B with livestock. It is just second nature to me.”
As West winds up his book tour, his most likely route will take him along Highway 93 once he gets into Nevada. West said the one thing he longs for most is just peace and quiet.
“The first thing I am going to do when I get back is just watch Blue graze in his meadow.”
You can follow West’s journey home via Twitter at HowardWest@ lockedgates.