SAN JOAQUIN COUNTY (CBS13) — A homeless horseman is turning heads in San Joaquin County as drivers spot the unusual pair galloping around town.
Frank Turpen is a self-professed “mountain man.”
“I know how to survive in the wild and I prefer that,” Turpen said.
Turpen is a prospector who normally lives off the land at his camp near Valley Springs.
“I make enough money gold panning to keep myself alive,” Turpen said.
He said he lived off the land until last October when someone stumbled upon his “house in the hills” and reportedly robbed him of his livelihood.
“I had a mine lab GP700… Someone walked off with that, my gold pans, my classifiers, my rock pick. Everything,” Turpen said.
Left with no way to make money, Turpen and his horse Tommy Girl hit the road to Lodi in hopes of raising enough funds for winter camping gear.
“First I’m working on the sleeping bag. The gold panning stuff is going to have to wait. That’s going to be about $12,000 total, and I don’t see myself coming into that kind of money anytime soon,” Turpen said.
Tied to Tommy Girl’s saddle is a blue bucket that reads, “Tips for Pics” in English and Spanish, two languages that Turpen says he speaks fluently.
“There’s an old saying: ‘if you’re going to make it in life, you got to use your props,'” Turpen said.
The pair certainly attract a lot of attention with people pulling over to snap pictures or check on Tommy Girl. Until Turpen can afford to pay for new gear, he said you can find him on the road doing what he loves most.
“‘Bout the only thing I’m interested in right now is working with horses,” Turpen said. “She was an accident. The Mom was at my parent’s house. The stud jumped the fence and I ended up with her.”
Turpen is not only an unusual character, but he’s also a kind soul. He donates any unused equipment he and Tommy Girl receive to other homeless people in need.