DE SOTO, Iowa (AP) — A Florida man who is riding a mule across the country to keep a promise to his granddaughter received some help from an Iowa rancher that should speed up the journey.
Randy Tucker, of Ocala, Florida, bought the mule for his 9-year-old granddaughter, Sierra, but a truck taking it to her home in Dubois, Wyoming, broke down last month in Paducah, Kentucky, and the driver left the mule at an animal shelter.
Tucker, 52, decided to take a bus to Paducah, and then begin a slow, roughly 1,500-mile mule ride to Wyoming.
"You can't promise a kid something, then not do it," Tucker told The Des Moines Register (http://dmreg.co/1lGxO0A) Thursday evening.
For nearly three weeks, Tucker and the mule have been riding mainly along back roads, averaging 20 to 25 miles a day and sleeping outside each night. They've endured rain and hail storms as they plodded along.
"I just got on a bus, saddled him up and started riding," Tucker said. "It wasn't the brightest thing I ever did. Because it's really worn me out. It's been hard."
On Thursday, police departments in suburban Des Moines began receiving calls about a man riding a mule or donkey. Clive Police Chief Michael Venema wasn't sure what to do.
"It sounds like the beginning to a joke," Venema said. "It's not something I recall ever dealing with before, having to decide whether it's legal to ride a donkey on a city street."
Clive officers directed him onto rural roads, but police in West Des Moines then began receiving calls.
Police finally reached out to Dean Scott, a De Soto rancher and feed store owner who offered to take in Tucker and the mule. Tucker was able to take a shower and the mule got a good meal.
Scott planned to attend a family reunion in South Dakota this weekend and was going to deliver a horse, so they offered to take Tucker and the mule with them.
Scott said he wasn't' especially surprised by the situation, noting he turns his operation into what he calls a cowboy church on Sundays and often helps out people.
"Stuff like this happens here all the time," Scott said. "People just show up in need. I can't explain it."
Scott will drop off Tucker and his mule in the Black Hills, cutting their ride to a more manageable 400 miles.
After taking so long to reach Wyoming, Tucker said he plans to stay.
"When I give Sierra the mule, I'm going to go find a job there," he said.
Information from: The Des Moines Register, http://www.desmoinesregister.com