I am presently working on a new book to be called Montana Made Me Do IT, the second half of which recounts my Walk Across the Country in 2002. This “second time through the territory” has offered me an opportunity to re-connect with the experience and some of the people along the way. One of the most extraordinary meetings occurred when I took a ferry boat across Lake Michigan. Toward the end of the four-hour cruise, I met Andy Horujko who had quite a story even though he only shared modest amounts of it with me at the time.
The little, fuzzy-bearded Horujko was pushing 80 at the time, but still chopped wood on his property at Chase, MI, most every morning. That was just a beginning. Andy revealed that he had two claims to fame. He had worked as an aeronautical engineer with one of the Wright brothers. And Andy also walked a large part of Latin America when he was near my age - in his late 40s. So, we had a few things to talk about.
Andy was also a bit of a philosopher and skeptic. Philosophy and politics became the center of our conversation on the boat. As we disembarked, Andy pointed us to a pub where he treated me to fish and chips in Ludington. Mr. Horujko and I exchanged letters for a time, but I lost touch with him until I got to writing about the Michigan stretch of this story. Consulting the Internet, I discovered that Andy had left out big and very impressive parts of his life story.
My Internet investigations revealed a number of fascinating things. First, Horujko is pronounced as Eureka which is Greek for “I found it.” Second, Andy was a champion woodcutter. After leaving the engineering profession, he lived as a hermit-loner on 80 acres and made a living cutting pulp wood. Third, he was a member of the Michigan Mensa Society for many years. (Mensa’s mission is “to identify and to foster human intelligence for the benefit of humanity; to encourage research into the nature, characteristics, and uses of intelligence; and to provide a stimulating intellectual and social environment for its members.” To join, your IQ has to be above 149 - genius level.)
Fourth, Andy didn’t just “walk around South America” as he had told me. His accomplishment was far beyond a walkabout or my modest excursion from Montana to New York City. Mr. Horujko, weighing in at 130 lbs., trekked from Anchorage, Alaska, to Tierra del Fuego - the southern tip of Argentina. He began what he thought would be the world’s longest hike on March 31, 1970, when he was 48 years old. Andy started his trip covering 30 miles a day, about a 1000 miles a month, and expected to complete his venture in about a year.
He admitted his reason for his journey was mainly because “it’s the challenge.” But, he also considered his hike as a protest against air pollution from automobile exhausts. “That's why I can't accept any rides, no matter what the weather. You can't protest against cars then hop into one, can you?” Andy hadn’t driven a car since 1936.
Mr. Horujko made his destination at Ushaia, Tierra del Fuego, on December 23, 1971. Along the way, he went through twelve pairs of boots. The latter ones were self-made ones of kangaroo hide with rocker shaped soles which he first developed in Arizona. He encountered “the worst coffee in the world in Colombia” and fought off a bat and thieves in the Chilean desert. When his brother-in-law in Michigan was asked on completion of the journey how Andy would get back home, he replied, “No one knows.”
Serendipitously, I was fortunate to meet Andy on a ferry boat almost 30 years later. We shared the boat and dinner at a local pub, conversation and correspondence regarding our similar paths and adventures.
Andy died in 2008 at the age of 87. It seems he had quite a walk and quite a life.