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Enjoy Your Life Kid. Because This Is It.


I


IN 12 MONTHS TIME, Hickory Francis had driven 20,000 miles going back and forth between Georgia and Florida four times on his scooter. While he may be homeless, he does not travel alone. He has retrofitted his scooter for his six pets - two dogs and four cats - whom he dearly loves and cares for. And, he has caught the atten- tion of curious local commuters and the media offering to tell his story. He is a musician looking for gainful employment in between music gigs. He spends his nights


in parks, shopping center parking lots or truck stops. He traveled to Florida earlier this year to escape the cold, but it eventually caught up with him. The night before we called Hickory, he was sleeping outside a Walmart on what was one of the coldest nights in South Florida. An eld- erly woman offered him and his pets the shelter and security of her car- port, and something hot to eat.


Who was this man


and his traveling com- panions? We connected with our South Florida rover reporter, Rachel Seymour Newton to see if there was some way we could offer some kind of assistance. Rachel, a 13-year-old animal advocate and volun- teer with Friends Forever Humane Society, enlisted the help of her mom, photographer Jaime Seymour-Newton and a best friend, 13-year-old Nikki Marcus. After some sleuthing, they found out where Hickory was and made arrangements to meet. Dorothy “Dee” Chess, founder of Friends Forever Humane


Society in Miami, arranged for transportation to Bravo Animal Hospital. There, all six of the animals would be checked out, brought up-to-date on blood work and vaccinations. Genuinely moved by the kindness and generosity, Hickory was shocked that anyone, much less several groups of people, would be will- ing to help him. Mostly, he said, he has encountered only nosy, judgmental people - more intent on giving him a piece of their


32 THE NEW BARKER Photography by Jaime Seymour-Newton Hickory Francis, at Bravo Animal Clinic in Miami.


–by Anna Cooke


minds than in actually offering any assistance. Still, he does rely on the kindness of strangers, but does not


ever expect it. “If you’re going to help someone, you go all the way. That’s what all of these folks did for me. I can tell if a per- son is genuine by their tone of voice, their eyes and the first three sentences that come out of their mouths,” said Hickory. Overall, the folks at


Bravo Animal Hospital told Hickory he was doing a good job taking care for his pets. He became visibly shaken though when one of the dogs, Shirley, was found to be heartworm positive. “I just can’t lose her,” he said. “I’ll do anything to save and keep them all with me. I am going to get a job,” he implored. When things started


going downhill, they steamrolled out of control pretty fast. That’s how these things happen, although Hickory can’t exactly remember, or simply chooses not to. And who can blame him? “Nothing lasts forever. Every day is one step for- ward. That’s all we can


do,” said Hickory. Hickory had a car once. He does remember a nice Irish gui-


tar player he met once in Pittsburgh who gave him $30 to help him repair the water pump. But then, he ended up selling the car to pay off other debts. It was becoming a nuisance, anyway. People would walk up to it and try to remove his pets. So, he bought the motor scooter and devised a plan to build a shelter to house his pets. He worked in the parking lot of a Home Depot one day for 30 hours straight, constructing his mobile animal shelter. The scooter holds all of Hickory’s worldly possessions,


including his guitar. Music is therapeutic to Hickory and his pets. “I play for myself. If someone else likes it, that’s cool. I’ll play for tips on the sidewalk. But, I really need a steady job to get back on solid ground for me and the animals.”


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