E.L. Smith has suffered several strokes and two heart attacks, but this 70-year-old is more worried about women who risk breast cancer than he is about his own health.

E.L. Smith has suffered several strokes and two heart attacks, but this 70-year-old is more worried about women who risk breast cancer than he is about his own health.

Smith was in Neosho last week driving a pair of horses that were pulling a 14-foot covered wagon. He was on the second day of a trip that will take three or four months. The route goes from his home in Miami, Okla.; through parts of Missouri; into Arkansas; on to Memphis, Tenn.; then to New Orleans; west to Houston, Texas and then up through Texas and Oklahoma and finally back home.

Why is he going all this way?

“My ex-wife is a breast cancer survivor and there are many women who can’t afford to be tested,” Smith said. “So, I want to raise awareness and raise some money for the Freeman Foundation.”

Smith carries a letter from Kim Simpson of the Freeman Foundation which endorses his fund raising efforts. The letter says, in part, “Please allow this letter to serve as confirmation that E.L. Smith is raising money on behalf of Freeman Foundation to benefit Helping Friends Mammogram Fund.”

Accompanying Smith on this adventure is his good friend, Chuck French. Smith and French live out of the wagon that carries their few needs and serves as a bed at night. The two men will be spending many hours together. They take turns holding the reins, talking about the things they see along the way, and discussing the traffic conditions. In Missouri, they are taking U.S. Highway 60. Early in the trip they will cover 10-15 miles per day, but expect that to increase to 25, once men and horses are in condition.

Last Wednesday, they made it to the Steve Chapman farm and sawmill where they spent the night. Chapman donated the lumber to build the wagon and supports the men in any way he can. He gave some hay he was baling on their arrival and a generous check to boot. Chapman said he will remain in touch by cell phone if anyone wants to contact the men in the wagon.

Raising money, Smith said, will be the hardest job on the trip. People can make checks to the Freeman Foundation or give money directly on the route. They can mail checks to his home at 11151 S. 540 Rd, Miami, Okla., 74354. Donors who give on the road will be receive an official receipt from a book that Smith carries with him.
Pulling the wagon are a couple of Haflinger horses named Dick and Marie. They are beautiful brown and white, looking almost like paints, but Smith says they are great horses and he’s proud to have them along.

“They aren’t afraid of anything — not trucks or traffic or dogs,” he said.

The rig is quite primitive, although there is a battery to run the taillights and turn signals. And at night, they string rope for a corral to keep the horses.

The horses eat grass along the road unless a farmer donates a bale or two of hay. Smith looks for a park or a friendly farmer who will let them spend the night, but they can camp in the road ditch if necessary. Michael Steele of Seneca put them up the first night, and Chapman guested them the second night. From there on, they were hoping someone offers a resting place.

He’s hoping folks will pass the word along on the trail, and let folks know they are coming. But, regardless, Smith and French are going to make the best of whatever situation they find themselves in along the way.

So, help them out if you can by giving to the Freeman Foundation or by notifying someone you know along the route.