By Connie Leinbach
Tod “Doc” Mishler’s mission to spread the message of peace, kindness and feeding hungry children has taken him crisscrossing the United States on his horse for 14 years.
His journey brought him to Ocracoke this week where he set a spell with Mike Stockwell, a fellow horse person and who runs Morning Star Stables on the island.
“I’ve been riding quite a bit,” said the certified long rider about the three trips across the United States and the 22,000 miles he’s logged since first setting out from Choteau, Montana, in 2002.
He rides to let people know that humanity has the means to feed all hungry children in the world.
“I am for change,” he said this week during a stop on Ocracoke, his first visit to the Outer Banks.
“We have the money to feed the hungry children,” he said while relaxing on Mike Stockwell’s porch along British Cemetery Road while his two horses took a two-day rest. “I have a lot of little children praying for me.”
His quest is fueled for his deep belief in Jesus, but not established religion.
Mishler said he will stop riding “when the pope sells the Vatican.”
If humanity just rearranged its priorities, there wouldn’t be any hungry children, he explained.
“It’s the big-business churches’ fault,” he continued. “The Bruderhof has a $50 million net worth and the Mormon church has $50 billion,” Mishler said. (According to their website, the Bruderhof, based in Walden, NY, “is an international communal movement of families and singles who seek to put into action Christ’s command to love God and neighbor.”)
When will these and all the other churches with vast coffers give their money to the poor?
“We have the money to feed every starving child in America,” Mishler said. “It’s not the way that’s lacking, it’s the will.”
Mishler’s piercing blue eyes set off his cowboy appearance. His shoulder-length white hair is capped with a cowboy hat and he wears jeans, a vest and cowboy boots with spurs.
“I’ve become the man the little boy I was always wanted me to be,” he says quietly, noting that he grew up on a farm in Indiana where he rode his family’s Percheron horses.
He is a Navy veteran, serving as a bombardier flight navigator from 1956-1960. He was a bail bondsman for many years, and did a stint as a substitute professor of critical thinking and logic at Western Michigan University.
As he talks about his faith in God and Jesus, his smile is ever at the ready. God guides him, he said, ever since he had a life-altering event decades ago.
“In 1996, I was diagnosed with cancer, and that brought me to my knees,” he said.
Receiving the good news of permanent remission four years later, Mishler began his peripatetic wanderings.
“Every day, 35,000 children die of hunger or hunger-related illnesses on the earthy,” he writes in the hand-out he carries with him and gives to those interested in his mission.
But he doesn’t tell people what to do; he suggests that people live according to Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount message.
“If you wish to help, please unite with Jesus’s lead,” he says in his hand-out and also to an interviewer. “In your heart you know. Give and give—do for others what they cannot do. It is that simple.”
Mishler has no daily schedule.
“I live by the spirit and,” he said. “I ride north in the summer and south in the winter.”
His two horses, A-White Cloud, an Arabian Tight, and Charity II, a Walkaloosa (a cross between a Tennessee Walker and an Appaloosa), carry him and all of his provisions. He averages about 20 miles a day and travels on all kinds of roads, including interstates.
“Federal law says a horse has the first right-of-way,” he said about interstates.
When it rains, he gets wet. He camps, stays at motels and in the homes of those he may meet and invite him in.
And he’s living his dream.
“Every day I pray for Jesus to use me,” he says.
Often, it is “individual kingdom Christians,” or just nice people, who aid him on his journey.
Last year, a couple near Nashville, Tenn., sheltered Mishler for two weeks after he’d had a heart attack and needed to recover.
Mishler has 6,000 Facebook followers—the maximum one can have–and another Facebook page called “Where’s Doc Now?” follows his journey.
But, he stresses that the journey is not about him.
“It’s about feeding the hungry children,” he said.
His birthday is coming up May 20. Though he doesn’t like to admit the exact age he will be, he does allow that it will be “the second time I’m 40 years old.”
Mishler was most recently in Morehead City, and to get to Ocracoke, the local horse community got to work.
Stockwell, who has several horses himself for his horseback riding businsess on the island, picked Mishler up with his horse trailer and brought him and his horses to Ocracoke. Stockwell contacted horse colleagues up the beach for the next leg of Mishler’s journey.
Equine Adventures on Hatteras will pick him up today for his stay in Hatteras.
“We’re trying to hook him up through Nags Head and up to Virginia Beach,” Stockwell said.
Mishler showed a visitor where his horses were happily munching hay in Stockwell’s paddock.
“Look how he did this,” Mishler said about Stockwell’s care for his horses. “People all over the country just want to help. It’s renewed my faith in the human race all across the land.”