Randy Tucker‚??s arrival in Des Moines with his mule Thursday prompted an outpouring of support from Iowans. / Timothy Meinch/The Register
Randy Tucker did ride from Missouri to Iowa with just his animal, but the rest of his story is nebulous.
The tale of a Florida man riding a mule across the country to give to his granddaughter was a bit too good be true, said a Desoto, Iowa, rancher who lent a helping hand last week.
There is no 9-year-old named Sierra in Dubois, Wyo., awaiting the arrival of Grandpa Randy Tucker with Jaguar, a 6-year-old mule, Dean Scott learned from one of Tucker's relatives on Tuesday.
"I got an email this morning that said he might just be a fraud," Scott said Tuesday.
Tucker's sister-in-law of Elsberry, Mo., told Scott that she and her husband sold the mule and saddle to Tucker about two weeks before the 52-year-old showed up in the Des Moines area last week. She said Tucker had been living in Wyoming. She described Tucker as somewhat transient and said his granddaughter does not live in Dubois, Scott said.
What is true is that Tucker traveled a lot of miles with the mule, Scott said. Tucker either walked or rode with the mule from Elsberry, which is north of St. Louis, to Des Moines, Scott said.
Attempts to reach the woman by phone Tuesday were unsuccessful.
Tucker's arrival Thursday prompted an outpouring of support from Iowans after he said he was traveling to Dubois to deliver the mule to his granddaughter.
Tucker said he began his ride in Paducah, Ky., three weeks prior after a paid transport broke down and abandoned Jaguar.
Scott assisted Tucker and Jaguar, provided them with a place to stay, and transported the pair to South Dakota over the weekend.
Law enforcement officials had found the weary travelers beside Interstate Highway 80/35 in the Des Moines area.
"For us it was less a matter of a crime in progress and (more a matter of) trying to help a guy out," West Des Moines police Sgt. Ken O'Brien said.
Friends of Scott who work with West Des Moines police contacted the charitable rancher, who organizes a weekly cowboy church, and told him about Tucker. Police first checked Tucker's background to make sure he had no warrants out for his arrest.
Tucker's record does show identification from at least three states and a Missouri felony for stealing in the mid-1980s, according to online court records. His record also includes multiple citations and short jail sentences for driving with a suspended or canceled driver's license.
Scott said Tucker admitted there was "more to his story," without divulging details while traveling to South Dakota over the weekend.
But Scott said he would have done nothing different, even had he known the details about Tucker's travels, which still seem vague and fragmented.
"The story is about central Iowa and the Midwest and how good people are," Scott said.
Before Scott departed Saturday with Tucker and Jaguar, he fielded nearly 50 calls from Iowans offering food, clothing and transportation to the travelers. Community Choice Credit Union raised more than $1,000, which Tucker received Friday. Checks are still arriving in the mail, Scott said, noting he is now returning that money to the generous donors.
"I just feel bad about those people who drove in here and gave money," he said.
On Tuesday Scott alerted his nephew and another friend in South Dakota who volunteered to truck Tucker and Jaguar across the border to Wyoming, but he had not heard back from them.
He added that Tucker was not dangerous at all, but genuinely kind and generous to him and his wife, Peggy.
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