Cross country walker stops in Oakes and
participates in Relay For Life
The Oakes Times
Thursday evening, August 15, I was told “There is some guy walking South on Highway 1 with a backpack and carrying a flag. You have to go find out what he is doing.” Marlo Tveter, Oakes, was one of many that were curious as to what this gentleman was doing. I grabbed my camera and notebook and headed North on Highway 1 and located Robert McNary, Lavina, Montana, near the Catholic Church.
Robert started walking on June 11, 2002. He has a goal...to arrive in Liberty Island, New York...on foot. He wears red, white and blue and carries a flag that he made himself. The flag is the traditional United States Flag with one exception. Robert feels “We need to be more united as a nation, so I have put all the stars together as one big star. Then I added a big heart in the middle of the star to show that we need to show more love too.”I asked Robert why he was walking from Lavina, Montana to Liberty Island, New York. He stated “It’s something I’ve always wanted to do.”
When asked how he prepared for the trip, this was his answer: “I asked my home town minister how long it took him to prepare his sermon. My minister stated ‘Dr. Bob, I have been preparing for a lifetime.’ This is my answer, I have been preparing myself all my life.”
Robert started his trip with a companion, Leo, his dog. Leo couldn’t quite make it. A friend is taking care of Leo right now. “I don’t know if he was faking it or not, but he started weaving and such. He waseither playing me to get out of the rest of the trip or it was really too much for him.” Robert had a little trouble somewhere between Jamestown and Edgeley. “I thought the mosquitoes were going to carry me away. I was able to meet up with my brother who lives in South Dakota and I took two weeks off to visit.” He has another brother in Minneapolis and plans on taking another break when he gets there. Robert “sleeps under the stars mostly. Every three to four nights I try to find a rest stop or hotel to wash up and get some quality rest.”
Robert said “The weather has cooperated pretty much, up until now.”
Well, we did get some bad weather and Robert got to spend a whole day in Oakes. I took him around and introduced him to several people and he joined the activities at the Relay For Life.
Robert is originally from Mitchell, S.D. He has served in the Military two different times. During his time in the Vietnam War he decided to become a doctor. When he was discharged he went to Medical School. After graduating he was in practice for a time. He then realized that what he thought a doctor should be was not what he was doing. Robert feels to be a doctor is to be a teacher. He wanted to teach people how to take care of themselves and how to prevent illness and disease.
The people in his hometown still call him “Dr. Bob”. Robert has renovated a building in Lavina, population of 160, to be used for town activities. He is always looking for new talent for his hall. His father passed away last year and left him a little money. “I guess my father has provided me with the means to finance this walk. I have him to thank for many things, now I can thank him for letting me attempt this dream.”
Robert left Oakes Saturday morning, August 17 and headed South to Highway 11. He is now on his way to Minnesota. Hopefully we will hear from him to find out if he reached his goal. Good luck Robert!
Montana man passes through Elbow Lake on walk to New York City
by Gail Hedstrom
Mr. Robert McNary made a brief stop in Elbow Lake, taking time to visit the library while on his way to see the Statue of Liberty in New York City.
Mr. McNary’s journey is anything but typical, he has chosen to make his trip by foot.
“I had a conviction in my heart and mind that I should walk across the country and I’ve always liked to walk.”
McNary grew up in Mitchell, South Dakota but currently calls Lavina, Montana home. Lavina, where his journey began, is north of Billings, Montana, and due to its small population is not visible on all maps. Back in Lavina, McNary focuses on his pet project, the garage he purchased and is renovating. It isn’t your typical garage, it used to be the home of Lavina’s volunteer fire department, and currently it is used to host the annual fire department benefit dance, red, white & blue art shows, some theatrical and musical events, and it was the site of McNary’s 50th birthday party celebration.
On the outside of the garage McNary has painted his trademark symbol: a United States flag that rather than having 50 stars, has one large star with a heart in the center, obviously a show of the love he has for his country and the people in it. McNary spent a month sewing a replica of the flag to carry with him on his journey.
“That flag is my baby.”
The stirring in his heart to make this journey began in the year 2000 during an all-school reunion in Lavina that included a parade in which McNary dressed up as Uncle Sam and a woman friend of his dressed as Miss Liberty.
A short while after the celebration he was out on the prairie with a couple of friends, while admiring the beauty of the landscape it just kind of hit McNary that he should walk across this beautiful country.
He had planned to make the trip in the year 2001, but his dad passed away that year, and he decided to postpone the trip. McNary’s decision to walk has proven beneficial in new found friends.
“If I would have driven, I would never have been able to meet the wonderful people I have met, or visited the great small towns along the way.”
He has also made libraries regular stops on the journey.
A little over a third of the way of his 2100 mile trip and two pairs of shoes later, the walker claims, “My feet are sore and I’m a little tired so, I am accepting rides.”
He also welcomes people to walk with him sharing in a part of the journey. He tries to cover about 25 miles a day.
During the first leg of his trek, McNary had the company of his golden retriever, Leo. Unfortunately, by the time they reached Miles City, Montana it was obvious Leo wasn’t doing so well.
“The heat was really getting to him, he was weaving into traffic and I knew I had to find another home for him.”
McNary thought it best that he bring Leo to a veterinarian who could maybe find a home for him; the possibility of the dog being put down was very disturbing to him
“Before bringing Leo to the vet, I decided we would have a last meal together, I took him to Wendy’s and got him a burger, and then I took him to Albertson’s and got him some chicken. We walked over to a park to eat and we heard some bagpipe music and went over to listen to the music.”
That music was coming from the bagpipes of the band “Caledonia,” who just happened to be rehearsing that evening. When the musicians finished McNary went over to compliment them and thank them for the private concert. As he was visiting with the drummer in the band, he shared his dilemma about Leo. The drummer offered to take the dog home and when McNary gets back to Montana he will be reunited with Leo.
On his journey, the walker is carrying his flag and a 30 pound backpack.
“It did weigh 40 pounds. I was carrying my laptop computer, but I decided to send it on ahead to my brothers.”
The laptop is used to document his journey on a web page. McNary also carries a digital camera, taking pictures of the people and places he visits along the way. Some of those photos will show up on his web page at <www.lavinamontana.com>.
McNary is very dedicated to his community and the people in it.
“My community is my family,” is how he described Lavina and its residents.
You’d think there would be a lot of danger on the road, but McNary’s scariest encounters have been with, “mosquitoes.”
Apparently at one time in North Dakota the mosquitoes were so bad, McNary had to find shelter to get away from the little tormentors.
The wanderer’s life has come full circle. After high school and a semester of college he told his parents he wanted to study photography in New York. His parents didn’t like the idea so McNary decided to join the military and served in Vietnam. After his time in the service McNary went to medical school and became a doctor. He again joined the military, this time as a fight surgeon. And now, all these years later, McNary is on his way to New York practicing his photography along the way.
McNary is a man of great wisdom, spiritual purity, and integrity. He quotes Aristotle, the Gnostic Gospels and other great thinkers and pieces of literature, obviously a great reader. The poem “Nothing is Something” holds very special meaning to McNary.
He is also a healer and firm believer in holistic medicine. One message he wants to pass on is: “Life goes on and on, there is no waste in the universe, God knows how to recycle.”