A former workaholic from Quebec is pursuing his childhood dream of becoming a cowboy, with a trip out West by wagon train.
Pierre Cloutier pulled into Trail Monday night to meet with horse enthusiasts at the Colander. The Back Country Horsemen Club treated him to a meal, gave him eight bales of hay for his horses and $200 to help him along his travels.
Tuesday morning he was off to the Trail Horsemen's Grounds for the night before heading towards more hospitality at the Oasis community hall today and then pointing his four Belgians to Castlegar.
“I had kind of a dead end in Quebec,” he told the Trail Times Tuesday. “I leave a separation there, and a broken heart and I was kind of a workaholic, so I decided to drop everything and sell everything.”
His horses have pulled him and two wagons, one a chuck wagon full of his gear and the other a covered wagon for his horses' supplies, about 4,800 kilometres to date.
Cloutier and his dog ride up front, traveling about 15 kilometres a day and stopping at towns in between. He estimated he's met about 75 people a day in the eight months he's been on the road.
“It's a guy like you who make a difference,” he said to Clay Johnson, a Columbia Gardens resident who donated two bags of horse feed en route Tuesday. Ross Spur's Rene Girolami tags along and directs traffic while Cloutier give his horses some water and a short rest on the side of the road.
The Francophone left his home in the beginning of November with intentions of heading west to the Okanagan. But now he's waiting for fate to decide where he'll take on his next ambition – starting a country western band and going on tour.
“I decided to cross Canada like the old people did 200 years ago, move out West to find their gold,” he said. “To me, it's my gold, a new world, and new life.”
The self-proclaimed “show cowboy” can't believe the generosity he has received along the way. The winter wasn't as hard as he'd imagined because Canadians opened their doors to him and provided shelter for his animals.
He had planned to stop at stores and fill up on supplies when needed, but so far he's gotten by quite well on donations from kind people.
The 41-year-old sports leather chaps, gifted from Alberta, and two knife holsters, one engraved with “Lord of Stars,” an English translation for a nickname he received as a kid with a longing to travel under the stars.
“I didn't have the dream of crossing Canada as a kid, but I had a dream to be a cowboy,” he said.
Growing up in Quebec, Cloutier only knew of the farms with tractors and only dreamt of a real western experience, which further presented itself in the TV show “Little House on the Prairie.”
“I wasn't watching the stories; I was watching the details of the wagons, the horses,” he said. “I always had a fascination for cowboy style and cowboy things.”
He got his first horse at 12 years old and has been horsing around since then. He built his first wagon in 1985 and has dedicated time throughout the years to perfecting it all while keeping it authentic looking.
Cloutier has maintained his focus on the way by following three rules: don't be scared to work hard for what you want, believe in what you're doing and break the rules.
In his past life, Cloutier worked as a truck driver, pulling 20-hour days at times, and shared his gift for gab as an auctioneer.
He said he's found his element and intends to ride out to his next success.
“If you're following people you're going to have the same result,” he said. “If you want something different, you have to do something different and this is what I'm doing.”
West is best for Cloutier, who still has yet to meet a bear in his life and keeps a couple knives nearby should the opportunity to shake a bear's paw go wrong.