Local man hitches ride with Jesus

Published 12:05 am Monday, October 3, 2011

ERIC SHELTON/THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Wendell Clark and his horse, Jesus, talk a stroll near Bayou Levee Road in Ferriday Friday afternoon.

FERRIDAY — Wendell Clark and his horse, Jesus, are a self-made horse-and-buggy pair.

Clark, who was born and raised in Ferriday, said driving buggy rides helps him to make ends meet. But recruiting people to hitch an old-fashioned ride with the sound of the clickity-clack on the pavement is also a favorite pastime.

“It’s a labor of love, if anything,” Clark said.

Clark bought the quarterhorse a few years ago when a friend offered it to him for a sweet deal — $40.

“This is a remarkable little horse,” Clark said.

And the buggy cost next to nothing because Clark used his carpentry and mechanical skills to make it himself, he said.

The frame of the buggy was constructed out of two old boat trailers. The hitch that connects the buggy to the horse was made from old kitchen pipes he welded together. And the seats were made from cushions he recovered from a couch someone threw out on the side of the road, which he weatherproofed by covering in tarp.

“This is homemade rigging,” Clark said.

Clark had just finished painting some red trimming on his buggy Friday morning and was about to clip-clop downtown with Jesus to catch some customers after the homecoming parade when The Dart landed near his house on Bayou Drive.

With the puckering sound of Clark’s lips and a few “ease up” and “ho” commands, Jesus and Clark trot around in perfect sync. And the sounds of the pair quickly summoned neighborhood children from their houses to jump behind Jesus.

Clark said naming his horse Jesus makes him and his customers think about Jesus — the holy version — just by the mention of the name.

“The Lord told me to (name the horse Jesus),” Clark said. “I was just being obedient.

Clark said he likes to offer children in Ferriday buggy rides. Children today do not get as much exposure to outdoor activities and nature as they used to, he said.

“They get excited,” Clark said. “The horse breaks down a lot of barriers.”

His favorite part about the job is meeting people, and the horse gets people talking, Clark said.

But Clark also enjoys taking rides for the joy of it.

“I ride just to ride, but those are the times when I get the most business,” he said.

Clark charges $5 for adults and $3 for children, and he can make as much as $100 an hour when he lands a birthday party gig, Clark said.

“You gotta do something around here to keep your head above water,” he said, smiling.

Clark said his horse, Jesus, is a great business partner. Jesus even knows to stop at stop signs without Clark pulling the reigns, and he knows the usual routes before his bit steers him in the right direction.

And Jesus has become an even better companion to Clark, he said.

“A lot of friends have come and gone but this, buddy,” Clark said, giving the horse a pat on his side, “he’ll be right here for me.”