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Covered wagon gives firsthand view of Old West

By John O'Connell
Idaho State Journal

POCATELLO - Chet Parker wanted to show his mother the Great American West before it got screwed up. She wanted to travel the old-fashioned way.

Four years ago, they left their southeast Florida home in a covered wagon, on a journey with no set destination or timeline.

Parker, a professional carpenter who had some money saved up for the trip, built the wagon himself.

Tuesday night, they stopped and camped in Pocatello, at Huskey Auto Electric, 7175 S. Fifth Ave., before leaving for Lava Hot Springs Wednesday morning. They were joined by Finisia Medrano, of Arco, a person they met along the way. After they reached Lava, the Parkers parted ways with Medrano, who is bound for the Ghost Dance in Moroni, Utah.

Parker and his mother, Donna, are headed for Mt. Rushmore and then to Texas. After that, Parker said they'll go wherever the road takes them, until his mother says it's time to stop.

"I want to show my mom this country before we screw it up," Parker said. "Look at Florida. It's all city."

Since leaving home, they've traveled about 20 miles each day in their mule-drawn wagon.

His mother decided she wanted to travel in a wagon one afternoon when her Winnebago broke down outside of Memphis.

"Mom said, 'If we did this in a covered wagon we wouldn't have to worry about all of this bull'," Parker said.
He sent her to a dude ranch in Cody, Wyo., where she went on a wagon ride through the Tetons, for practice. Then they left.

Parker said he could care less about traveling in a covered wagon, but he's always up for an adventure.

Parker said he and his mother have encountered "real good people and some real bad people." But for the most part, they've been fortunate.

At a Dallas grocery store, Parker randomly met some old Navy friends he'd lost touch with.

And just outside of the Fort Hall Indian Reservation, they found a cold 12-pack of beer on the roadside.

They've also had one really bad break. One of their mules died recently after eating too many alfalfa cubes.

After the mule died, they rented a horse trailer and truck and hauled their wagon and mule to Arco. While in Arco, they met Medrano at a grocery store.

"A covered wagon at a grocery store is going to attract some attention," Parker said.

Medrano said their wagon was tattered, and she took them to her home and helped them restore it before joining them for the first three days of her trip to the Ghost Dance.

The message "Moroni or bust," is painted on her wagon.

Medrano, who is part Osage Indian, makes her living writing books about Native American views on European lifestyles and selling beadwork.

She considers driving cars and consuming fossil fuels to be "spiritual suicide."

She said she's been using a covered wagon for transportation for several years but sometimes must rely upon a car out of necessity.

"I'm not living a life that's killing the earth," Medrano said.

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