Quebec cowboy brings wagon trek through city

Weyburn residents got an up-close look at a latter-day pioneer, leaving his life in the East to bring all his worldly possessions with him in covered wagons as he seeks a new life in the West.
Pierre Cloutier, a self-described “Quebec cowboy”, drove his team of Belgian draught horses pulling a tandem of two covered wagons through Weyburn over the weekend, as he journeys from Quebec on his way to the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia along with his dog, Eska.
Approaching Weyburn, he stayed overnight at a number of local farms as he drove his wagons along Highway 13, including Marcel and Kym Van Staveren’s farm near Creelman, Jim Hallberg’s farm east of Weyburn, and Gary Erickson’s barn and Joe Rubin’s farm at Weyburn.
Taking a day off from travelling at Hallberg’s “Wey-Tall Farm” on Friday, a local welder, Colin McCutcheon, welded new steel strips onto his wagon wheels while his two Belgians, Bobby and Kelly, were able to rest in a stable.
Cloutier said he’s taking the journey now because his life put the pieces of the puzzle in place for him to make the move now; his longtime girlfriend of the last five years broke up with him, plus after spending that period driving truck for 16-plus hours a day, he quit that job two weeks before she left him.
He also worked as an auctioneer and a farrier, but decided as the time seemed right, he sold off all his farm equipment and put everything left from his life onto two wagons that he built, and he hit the road, leaving from near Montreal on Nov. 6, expecting his journey in total will last about eight months before he finally reaches his destination in B.C.’s interior.
The wagons have a few modern touches, including rear-view mirrors, flashing lights, a plastic windshield, and a solar panel.
“Quebec was my country, so I wanted something similar. I want to find a place where I can put my horses; I’ve got these guys for life, that is important for me,” said Cloutier in an interview on Friday.
His other goal is, as a songwriter, to start up a country band once he gets settled in B.C., and hopes that some of his experiences on the road will give him fodder for song material.
“That’s my second dream,” he said, noting his first dream since he first got a horse at age 12 was to be able to explore the country with it, as he is now doing. “I’ve learned that if you wait until you’ve got the right time to do everything, you’ll never do it,” he added.
With all the plans he made for his journey, Cloutier admits that many things have been working out for him that he never would have predicted, in particular the hospitality of Canadians along his journey, as people all along the way have invited him to stay overnight for a meal, and often they will help feed his horses and put them up for the night.
He initially figured that every seven days, he would have to buy hay and oats for his horses; pointing to bales in his second wagon, he said, “I still have two bales I started with, and eight bags of oats. … People, everywhere I go, they feed my horses. That’s my biggest surprise, the generosity of people.”
Another plan that went out the window, is all the canned food he initially started out with was too heavy for the wagons, plus he found he didn’t really need them, so he gave them away to help lighten the load for his horses.
The brother-and-sister pair of Belgians are used to working and pulling a load, and he is able to make about 25 to 30 km a day with them currently; he hopes in about a month’s time, while he’s in Alberta, to be able to buy another pair of trained draught horses to tackle going through the Rocky Mountains on his way to the Okanagan Valley.
He enjoys working with his horses, he said, and noted he has great respect for animals that weigh 2,000 pounds as “Bobby” does.
Noting people’s generosity, Cloutier said without all the help of people along the way, “I wouldn’t have been able to do this. This is why I’m putting my life in the open; it’s a way of paying back to people for their kindness. Nothing is free in life.”
He added he hopes to acknowledge some of the giving and help of people in his songs once he’s able to embark on that career.
“This is where I always dreamed to sing, to give this to people; they can say, ‘we remember when we helped this guy, and look where he is.’ To me, that’s important,” said Cloutier.
Now, he said, instead of the plans he initially thought to make, he takes things day-to-day, noting as an example, spending the day at the Hallberg farm and having his wheels repaired by a local welder.
For his part, McCutcheon said he hadn’t heard of Cloutier, but passed him on his way to work the day before, and stopped to talk to him, after which he decided to offer his services to him if he wanted.
“The plans are changing,” said Cloutier. “How it will go in B.C., I don’t know.”
One of the aspects of his journey that he’s enjoying are all the people he’s meeting and talking to along the way.
“I’m sharing a lot of my stories and my life; people get my story, but I get something back too,” he said, noting as a guest he has enjoyed staying up until late in the evening talking and sharing stories; his intention had been to be updating his Facebook page each night, but now he’s finding he doesn’t get to that until after 10 p.m. most nights.
“I have a big respect for people who put me over (as hosts); I respect that very much,” he said.
“I have a very good feeling about people; I had a hard time when I was a kid, but I don’t want to talk about negative things. I learned to develop that feeling with people,” said Cloutier.
He found that many people responded to his story as he rolled along through the city on Saturday.
Cloutier pulled over for a break in the parking lot at the Church of Christ, for example, and he ended up being there for close to an hour and a half, meeting all sorts of families and people stopping by to talk to him or pose with his horses.
Cloutier appeared to love all the attention, helping small children up onto the back of “Bobby”, his 12-year-old gelding, and getting his photo taken with the families, some giving him donations to help him on his journey before they went on their way. He was able to stop at a Khedive area farm, on Sunday night before making an early-morning start on Monday, heading westwards.
His Facebook page can be found by searching for “Pierre Cloutier, Traversée du Canada a cheval.”

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