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Cross-country horseman visits Oak Harbor
A horse may be a horse, but it’s not a common sight in downtown Oak Harbor these days.
An old cowboy and former bondsman who goes by the name Doc Mishler rode into town on a horse, with two more trailing closely behind. Wearing a cowboy hat and a western get-up to match, he headed down Pioneer Way Thursday afternoon and stopped, naturally, for a beer at the nearest saloon — Jo Jo’s Harbor Light Tavern.
A small crowd gathered Thursday afternoon as he hitched his weary horses to a post and left them standing in a parking spot. Al and Kathy Collantes of Angelo’s Caffe brought out a big bucket of water and fresh carrots for the ponies. Kathy even offered to let Mishler and the horses stay on property she owns nearby.
“I could not have made it this far without the support of people along the way,” Mishler said, motioning at Collantes. “It’s renewed my faith in the human race. It really has.”
Mishler has ridden thousands of miles and crisscrossed the nation on horseback on his one-man quest to eradicate childhood hunger. Along the way, he’s depended on the kindness of strangers and the equine stamina of Chief-Free-Spirit, Charity and Justice. A deeply religious man, he is not raising money, but is trying to convince people to change their priorities and follow Jesus’ example.
Mishler is obviously practiced in speaking to crowds and news reporters. He speaks in rehearsed phrases that are sometimes funny, sometimes shocking.
“My first journey took me from Choteau, Mont., to Washington D.C. by way of California,” he said, adding that he spoke about the issue of childhood hunger before a Congressional committee.
“I’ll stop riding when the Pope sells the Vatican and gives all the money to the poor,” he added.
Mishler said it’s not an accident that his trail led to Whidbey Island. He was in the Navy and stationed at Whidbey Naval Air Station until 1960. He said he was a navigator / bombardier on an A3D Skywarrior, a twin-jet nuclear bomber that’s famous for being the largest aircraft ever to operate from an aircraft carrier.
Mishler said he’s a much different man now than he was in the Navy.
“All the money we wasted, dumping fuel all over the island,” he said, “it could have fed a lot of poor people.”
Mishler said he started his first journey in 2002 after surviving cancer. He suffered through a quadruple bypass surgery and a hip replacement, then miraculously got back in the saddle and road to New York State.
Mishler and his horses came onto the island over Deception Pass Bridge. He said he may be leaving on a ferry.