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Man bears large cross walking from Texas

Man from Texas on his way to Washington with large cross on his back

Yesenia Robles
James Strickland walked his way through Craig on Thursday with an almost 12-foot-tall cross slung over his shoulder. Strickland, who began his journey with $5 in his pocket, is walking from Longview, Texas to Aberdeen, Wash., to see his two children.
Hans Hallgren

— With $5 in his pocket and a 12-foot cross on his back, James Strickland left Longview, Texas, on foot 11 weeks ago hoping to make his way to Aberdeen, Wash.

The only other things he had with him were determination and a cell phone to call family.

“I’m walking for the Lord,” Strickland said. “It’s a sign of obedience. I was in a pretty deep pit, and it was something I needed.”

In Aberdeen, Wash., Strickland plans to meet with his 3-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son, whom he hasn’t seen since November. He hopes to stay there to be close to his children.

Late Tuesday afternoon, Strickland made his way into Craig and stopped at the Westward Motel, where he met Diane Kalsow, the manager.

“He came in and asked for a room at the lowest price I could give him, and when he told me what he was doing, of course I gave him the room for free,” Kalsow said.

She didn’t think he was crazy.

“It was really a blessing,” she said about meeting Strickland. “You don’t meet those people everyday. I’m a Christian, and my point of view is that we all have to carry our cross. He just chose to do it in this way.”

Strickland rested for two days in Craig then resumed his journey Thursday, walking west on U.S. Highway 40.

He figures it might take him two or three more months to get to Washington. His journey is not rigidly planned, though. He was given a map in Kremmling, but he hardly uses it.

He said the Lord will guide him and help him along, as he already has.

During one of his first nights, Strickland camped out in the middle of east Texas and realized he was surrounded by wild hogs.

“I know they will eat a man, but I just said, ‘Lord, I trust you,'” Strickland said. “They were close, though.”

The wild hogs didn’t bother him.

The cross Strickland carries is almost 12 feet high, made with help from a friend in Texas.

The man and the cross have had their share of hardships along the way.

There are three wheels at its base, the fourth set of wheels he’s had to use. In the beginning, there also were foam pads on one side to help relieve the pain of the weight on his shoulders, but he has found that a wrapped blanket works better.

He cut four inches off of the base of the cross after breaking its axel, and he’s gone through four sets of tennis shoes that have been provided to him by people he has met on his journey.

Strickland hasn’t had to do it all himself, though.

People also give him food and water, sometimes without his asking.

“I’ve had a few hand gestures that were inappropriate, but mostly I’ve had support,” Strickland said.

When Strickland thought of his idea to walk more than 2,000 miles across the country, people thought he was crazy. In the beginning, he thought so, too.

“I thought it was an original idea, but of course my pastor told me about Arthur Blessit,” he said.

Arthur Blessit is a Vietnam veteran who has been carrying a 12-foot cross for 40 years all across the world. Through his Web site, Strickland found ideas and more inspiration.

Eventually his family came around, too. He said they support him, and he keeps in contact with a cell phone he carries.

New friends he has made along the way also send him inspirational messages on his phone.

Leaving Craig on Thursday, Strickland already was feeling energized and excited to see his children in Washington soon.

“It’s in a pretty dark county,” Strickland said. “It has a pretty high suicide rate, and it’s just bad, you know. I hope to bring some people to the Lord.”

Strickland didn’t start out with the latter mission in mind.

“I do seem to be helping others, but I didn’t expect that,” he said. “I thought it was going to be a personal journey.”

Walking for so long, it has been a journey that he said has helped him feel more at peace and closer to the Lord.

Strickland doesn’t call himself a member of a specific church but simply a follower of God.

“I’ve always known the Lord, but I hadn’t truly been walking the walk until now,” he said.

“The first 50 yards, I felt kind of embarrassed, but the Lord has taken that away. Now, I’m proud. It’s an honor.”


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