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‘Wagon man’ sees the country behind a horse

Primitive traveler makes his way through North Ga., living his dream

POSTED: August 14, 2011 12:30 a.m.
La Venier Mize/For The Times

James Newton travels the countryside in his homemade wagon pulled by his horse, Friday, and with his dachshund, Buster Brown.

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CLEVELAND — The 90-plus degree Georgia heat on a recent Monday did not stop James Newton from making the trip by horse and a homemade gypsy-like wagon from Helen, where he spent the night, to Cleveland.

It was almost noon as Newton pulled his rig into the parking lot of Glenda's Restaurant on the main drag of U.S. 129 South of the town's main square to get something to eat. The 70 year-old Newton is almost as colorful as the wagon he is traveling in and the mountains he has passed through.

He hitched his half-Belgian horse named Friday to a bush and took time to pose for a few pictures with his little dachshund named Buster Brown and answer questions before going inside for a meal.

"I've been traveling for over 4,000 miles in nine states since February, 2009," he said. "I love to travel. I'm going slow and taking time to look at the countryside. I didn't have too many relatives to hold me back."

Newton said he averages about 15 miles each day on the road.

"You only get one chance to live and will be here on this earth for a short time so you had better enjoy life all you can," he said.

He said while touring America in his wagon, he stops to read historical markers along the way.

A retired electrical worker, Newton said this is the second homemade wagon he has traveled in. The colorful buckboard was painted by an artist from McRae, he said. The wagon has room to sleep in once he removes all of the contents, and he spends the night wherever he comes to at the end of the day.

He has a radio and cell phone plus a fan, lantern and other assorted camping gear. An old car seat provides place to sit.

Newton began his journey in Corpus Christi, Texas. He said he is headed to Alabama, where he gets his mail, and his future plans are to build a cabin. He has a son and a grandchild in Minnesota.

Newton said he attends church during his travels, mostly Baptist and Methodist churches.

"I like cowboy churches best but there are no cowboy churches around here," he said.

When night fell on this hot August day, Newton camped at the edge of the woods near Mountain View Baptist Church just west of the Cleveland square where the church was holding its summer revival.

"He showed up in church," church member Ruth Hunt said.

"I'm just living my dream," Newton said with a smile.

That is apparent. Those words are written more than once on his home on wheels.


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