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More from Roanoke
The lunchtime crowd in downtown Danville couldn’t believe what they were seeing.
People at Coffee Emporium got up from their seats and stared out the window. Patrons at 316 Cibo pointed to the street. One woman slowly took off her sun glasses so she could see exactly what was happening with the naked eye.
A cowboy was riding his horse through the middle of downtown with a hat, rifle and two horses. Dozens of gawkers who saw him were mostly asking two questions: Who was the cowboy? Why was he riding a horse through downtown Danville?
The cowboy is Johnny Warnshuis and he wasn’t riding through town because he was lost. Warnshuis is riding across the country on horseback — and setting some Guinness World Records as he goes — as part of Cowboy for a Cure.
Warnshuis, who hails from Northern California, has already trekked about 3,800 miles on his horses and is headed for New York. He is spending about four days in the Dan River Region to rest and speak at local churches before he leaves.
“I still miss home a lot and it gets lonely,” said Warnshuis while relaxing and drinking a beer at the home of Jim and Paige Jennings in Bachelors Hall.
The Jennings took Warnshuis in for a few days after their niece heard him speak at her church in North Carolina. Paige’s brother Johnny Duncan kept Warnshuis’s horses in his barn Thursday.
They were inspired by his story and were glad to show him some hospitality — something Warnshuis said has been prevalent in the South.
When he was crossing the desert he said many of the people who came to his aide where from Georgia, Tennessee and other Southern states, and it made him want to direct his cross country trip into the heart of the Deep South.
“The more South I got, the nicer the people were,” said Warnshuis.
His trip began in Northern California and almost didn’t happen. Warnshuis’s mother, who he inherited a love of horses from, suffers from Guillain Barré syndrome — a rare nerve disease.
After months of seeing her through the pain, Warnshuis was disillusioned with life. He was disappointed in how many people treated his mother and her condition and he was fed up with the dreadful economy and health care system, he said.
So the longtime rancher began to ride cross country to get a way from it all for a while and get off the grid. Over time as he rode, more and more people began to follow his journey and it has allowed him to raise awareness for his mother’s disease. He reports that she is now doing much better.
As more people followed him he began to encourage people to donate to other charities and his Website, cowboyforacure.com, allows people to read about his travels and donate directly to a charity. When he was riding through Danville, the horses were draped with his website logo, urging people to donate.
His trip hasn’t been easy. He almost turned around in California when a mountain lion attacked one of his horses and he has spent several days at a time without food and water or a decent place to sleep. But people following him have encouraged him to continue so he continues to ride. He hopes to make it to New York by August.
One of the most important things that has happened to him as he travels across to U.S. is regaining his faith in people, after so many people he never met — like the Jennings — have helped him and his cause.
“It really restored my faith in prayer and God,” said Warnshuis. “…There are a lot of good people out here.”
When he is done, Warnshuis said he would like to write a book and manage a non-profit that develops people’s relationship with horses.
Check it out
» Warnshuis will be riding through Chatham on Monday.
» To donate to a charity through Cowboy for a Cure, visit cowboyforacure.com or get Warnshuis to speak to a group or church, contact him at email@example.com.