Paul Brandt is going to want to buy the rights to this French Canadian cowboy’s song, but it is a story that can only be told by the man himself.
Growing up in Saint-Barnabé-Sud, a small French town five minutes east of Montréal, Pierre Cloutier set out on a nine month, 4,000-kilometre wagon trip across Canada because he wanted to fulfill his childhood dream.
“As a kid I dreamt of being a travelling cowboy, but I never thought I would travel across Canada,” said Cloutier, who arrived Sunday afternoon at Historic O’Keefe Ranch. “I wanted to live like the pioneers did.”
As he approached the Okanagan Valley, O’Keefe Ranch got wind of his whereabouts and tried to track him down.
“We have been tracking his story for a while and we heard he was getting close,” said O’Keefe Ranch events coordinator Sandi LaFleche. “One of our workers spotted him on Old Kamloops Road, I told her, ‘what are you waiting for? Go get him!”
Tambria Shortt didn’t have to go far to track down Cloutier and his horses, Bobby, Kelly, Ginny and Betty.
“We figured our farm was best suited for him and his horses to stay,” said LaFleche.
Cloutier will be at the ranch until Sept. 1, telling stories about his incredible journey and displaying his wagons and horses. Story times are available by calling O’Keefe Ranch or checking out their website.
Back in November, Cloutier couldn’t find any work as an auctioneer and his long-time girlfriend recently broke up with him.
“I didn’t want to hang around anymore. I wanted to move out to the Okanagan because of how nice I heard it was,” said Cloutier, who set out on Nov. 6. “Vernon seemed like a good fit with the lakes, the country and it looked like a good place for my horses.”
Leaving behind his parents, two older brothers and a younger sister, Cloutier came trotting into town in a horse-drawn carriage towed by four horses. He left his hometown hitched to two Belgian horses, and picked up two more horses just outside Pincher Creek, Alta. to get him through the mountains.
“The people I have met along the way have been so kind. Everyone has been so friendly and inviting,” said Cloutier.
Travelling along the Trans-Canada, Cloutier took Highway 33 into Kelowna before heading north to Vernon.
The trip lasted 290 days and remarkably, Cloutier only spent eight nights sleeping in his wagon, never having to buy hay, grain or groceries.
“Everywhere I went, people had heard of my story and offered anything they could to help; a place for me and my horses and a warm meal,” said Cloutier.
The 41-year-old has been riding horses since before he could walk. He owned his first horse at the age of 12 and built both of his wagons by hand. One wagon contains all of his personal belongings, survival needs and a small kitchen, and the other contain supplies for his horses.
Cloutier completed his trip thanks to all the generosity in this country and because he stuck to his three rules.
“You can’t be scared to work hard for what you want; you have to truly believe in yourself and you have to break the rules sometimes,” joked Cloutier.
Cloutier says he doesn’t miss home, and stated that he always felt like home during his journey.
His arrival in the Okanagan is significant with the Interior Provincial Exhibition right around the corner.
Part of this cowboy’s dream is to start up his own show. He plans to debut his Lore of Star show at the IPE. “I have so many stories to tell about my trip. I think I will also start writing songs with all the memories I have made along the way,” said Cloutier.
“Arriving in Vernon was the cherry on the cake for this trip. This is a great place for me to finish my trip and discover my new home.”
Cloutier says his family plans to head out west to visit his new home someday in the future.
Be sure to check out his Facebook page, which has more than 4,500 likes since starting the trip, to see photos of his stops along the way.