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Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2016

Wandering couple wind their way through Sikeston

Tuesday, August 28, 2001

"The walking is the easiest part," according Bud Kenny, who is two months into a walking tour of the world with his wife, Pat, and Della the Mule.
(Mike Jensen Jr., Staff)
SIKESTON - Journeys on foot around the globe have been done before, and in as little as four years. But Bud Kenny is in no hurry. He and his wife, Patricia, both 53 years old and having no children, have set aside the next 15 to 20 years.

"We hope to publish some books," said Bud. The real reason, however, is just to "take some time to really see the world and meet the people in it."

Bud began his "Footloose - Poetry in Motion" walking tour of the world June 22 at Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas with Pat accompanying him on a home-made radial-tired pack cart drawn by his mule Della.

The sight of a mule-drawn cart doesn't often go unnoticed. "You can't believe what it's like entering into a town," said Pat. "Children are drawn to it like a magnet."

Della is a Belgian draft mule who, at nine years old, has been full grown for about a year. At 16 and a half hands tall and just under 1,600 pounds, she is "bigger than most horses," according to Pat.

"Della has a fan club all her own," said Pat. "She's the heart and motor of this operation and the kids love her.

"She loves the attention," said Bud. "That's why she loves to get in the harness. She is the ultimate sightseer."

The cart took about a year and half to build, according to Bud, through a process of simply trying things out. "It evolved," he said.

The back folds out into a stage in the tradition of the old traveling medicine shows, only the Kennys offer poems and travel tales instead of miracle cures and snake oil.

Golf cart batteries store energy generated from the rotation of the wheels and from solar panels on top of the cart to power lights and sound equipment for the shows as well as a computer.

The poetry shows are intended to showcase the works of local poets in addition to the Kennys' poems and will be recorded for possible inclusion in a future radio program and anthologies.

The Kennys prefer to make their way along old state highways and other paved roads finding gravel roads unpleasant. "No interstates," said Pat.

"We average about 8 to 10 miles a day," said Bud. They once traveled 18 miles in a single day, but only because they had difficulty finding a good place to camp. They remember it as one of the few unpleasant days they've had during their first couple of months on the road.

Asked what their best day was so far, Pat replied that they have enjoyed "a lot of best days." Among the finest yet, however, was the day they entered Sikeston this weekend and saw all the excited faces as they made their way through the Sunset Addition. "We felt we were really being welcomed," said Pat.

They had originally planned to just stay in Sikeston long enough to do some laundry and take a quick look around town on their bicycles.

Instead of a depressed Mississippi River delta town, the Kennys were surprised to find places like the Sikeston Depot and the Imogene Ruth Albritton Mayer Center for the Arts theater. "I've been just real impressed with the town," said Bud. "There seems to be an interest in bettering the cultural well-being in the community."

Additionally, while doing their laundry they met some of Sikeston's people, including Terri Matthews.

"Terri invited us to stay in her yard," said Pat. "We got a real shower, running water. They opened up their hearts and home to us and showed us what Sikeston is all about."

Tentative plans are to cross the Mississippi and travel to New England, winter in northeast Ohio or northwest Pennsylvania for about three months, visit the Maine coast, and work their way south to Connecticut for the next winter. While there, Bud hopes to complete a prose book about his journey, "Footloose in America - Dixie to New England."

"We've heard some really great stories along the way," said Bud.

They then plan to head back across the north United States and parts of Canada to the west coast before cutting back through the middle of the country to hit the east coast "in the Carolinas somewhere," according to Bud.

After completing their tour of North America, the Kennys plan to put Della on a plane to England while they book passage on a freighter with the cart.

They plan to spend two or three years in the British Isles before heading to Scandinavia and following the European Atlantic Coast down along France to Spain and Portugal and around the northern Mediterranean Coast, including Italy and Greece, on their way to China.

A visit of rural western Japan is also planned before making their way by ship back to California or Oregon.

"We're subject to take a left or right at any time," said Pat. "We're winging it." And if a place turns out to be more interesting than they expected it to be, such as Sikeston, they stay longer.

Those interested in doing so can keep track of the Kennys' tour on the Internet. "We've only seen our website one time," confessed Bud. He explained the website, www.worldonfoot.com, was conceived and is maintained by a patron of The Poet's Loft, the coffeeshop Bud formerly owned where he and Pat met and got married on New Year's Eve 2000.