Horseman rides into Geneva Tuesday
Leslie Fender told those sitting around listening to him at the Highline Restaurant that he had left Dublin, Texas on April 2 and had ridden a total of 3,800 miles when he strode into southern Adams County with his pair of horses on Tuesday.
Fender had come from Detroit to Fort Wayne, where he was forced to stay overnight because there was a squabble as to whether or not his horses would be allowed in the city, down U.S. 27 through Decatur and Berne. He eventually wound up at the Highline for a hot lunch, due to the steady rain that had set into the area.
“These people around here are really nice,” said Fender. “They are treating me so good.”
Dick Clutter, president of the Geneva Chamber of Commerce, presented Fender with the key to the cabin at Affolder Park, and cooks at the Highline Restaurant promised to deliver supper to the surprise guest as part of his stay at the cabin.
Weather permitting, Fender was planning on leaving this morning for his continued trek to Alabama where he is going to work for a couple of years and eventually plan a trip from Alabama to California and Oregon.
“I’ve been playing this one by ear, just going as I go,” said Fender, who said that he first dreamed of a horseback trip across the country when he was 10-years old. “That one I am going to have spend more time planning and organizing.”
As news of Fender’s arrival spread through the community, residents and young people came out to greet him. A group of students from South Adams High School who were on work day assignments visited Fender briefly at the Affolder Cabin and were fascinated by his tales of his travels as they met his horses, Cherokee and Angel.
The game plan for the horses, said Fender, is to ride one horse for a couple of days and then switch to the other. The one he had ridden then strolls behind Fender and relaxes from its burden the previous couple of days.
Fender’s trip took him from Texas across the southern states to Florida, then north to Michigan, especially the Royal Oak area on the northern suburbs of Detroit, where he had once lived. After departing from Detroit, he meandered south, eventually through the Adams County area en route to Alabama, where he has plans of managing a restaurant for a couple of years.
“That’s what I really do; I’m a restaurant manager, I managed one for 10 years once,” said Fender.
Fender, who is 54-years old, considers himself to be quite fortunate. When he was 42, he had a major stroke, underwent special surgery and regained the use of his side and arm. The last few years, he spent “doctoring his mother” until she was well enough for him to travel.
“I bought Angel and Cherokee two and a half years ago,” said Fender. “I spent a lot of time training Angel to ride for this trip. I rode her between 25 and 30 miles a day to break her in. Cherokee also broke into the routine for this trip.
“It took me 32 days to get out of Texas,” said Fender. “If people offer me a place to stay or something to eat, I take it. People especially help when the nights are cold.”
When he is on his own, he pitches his tent around 5 p.m. and looks for a good “mom and pop place” to eat supper. He noted that he loves to eat in the small restaurants along the way, although he occasionally eats out of convenience stores. He usually gets up around 5 a.m., to prepare for his journey for that day.
Fender said that he doesn’t know what it is, but Angel, a quarter horse, and Cherokee, actually an equestrian Cherokee horse, have had a positive effect on his health. He noted that he has to have periodic checkups to verify his health and keep track of his “numbers.”
“I haven’t had to take any pills for two months,” said Fender. “When I last saw the doctor, he said, ‘I don’t know what you are doing, but whatever it is, keep it up; you are in excellent health.
“I enjoy riding every day,” commented Fender. “I love everything about this, the beautiful country, the people. I haven’t been to a place in this country that isn’t beautiful. It’s a wonderful experience. Not everyone is fortunate enough to live out a dream from when they were 10-years old.”
Fender said that he is keeping a detailed journal about his trip, writing about every place that he visits, which he hopes to convert into a book some time.
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