Life often proves to be an interesting ride. Perhaps the most interesting part is the way it can sometimes come full circle, in all sorts of fascinating ways.
Longtime Fort Worth resident Eugene Bostick spent nearly four decades working for three different railroads, retiring from Union Pacific in 2000. He grew up living on the same open farmland where he now resides, alongside Sycamore Creek — learning to swim and fish; and caring for an assortment of horses, cows, goats, and wildlife.
“We moved there when I was six years old,” he says. “At one time, we had seven horses, plus milk cows and goats. And we always had dogs in the family.”
To this day, Bostick still has dogs in the family. In fact, presently he has nine … and in a manner of speaking, they’ve led him back into the railroad business again.
Once or twice a week, 80-year-old Bostick — with the help of his older brother, 87-year-old Walter “Corky” Bostick — fires up his John Deere riding mower and prepares to let his pups savor the scenic route aboard their very own custom-built dog train.
“They sure do get excited, barking and jumping all around whenever we take the covers off,” he says. “We park it in the shed where my wife and I used to store our RV, which we’ve since sold. So we really don’t call it the shed anymore. Now it’s the train depot.”
Bostick and his wife, Patricia, live on a cul-de-sac that sits astride roughly 11 wooded acres just north of the creek, which borders a municipal golf course. This open, quiet area just southeast of downtown Fort Worth sees its share of abandoned strays. The Bosticks have taken in many of these dogs over the years, keeping them warm, snug, and well-loved in either the house or the spacious 14-stall horse barn.
“We feed them, give them water, get them neutered, and keep them vaccinated,” he says. “In the past, we’ve sometimes found dogs abandoned in other areas of town, too. We named one of our dogs Wally because we found him in a Wal-Mart parking lot.”
Around 15 years ago, an idea dawned on Bostick while he was watching his friend haul rocks.
“He was using one of those big 55-gallon fiberglass barrels,” recalls Bostick. “Up until then, I’d been hooking up a trailer to my riding mower to take the dogs for rides. Looking at this barrel, I figured I could make train cars for the dogs, add some wheels, and drive them around.”
And that’s exactly what he did. Bostick turned the barrels on their sides, cut out a basic moon shape, affixed a hand truck beneath each car, then rigged them to latch together securely. As a finishing touch, he added some throw pillows to make each car extra-comfy. Thus a commuter railroad of sorts was born, and he’s served as chief canine engineer ever since.
Recently, Bostick’s dog train became a viral sensation after a video was posted on BuzzFeed. He and his pups have since been receiving tens of thousands of views as well as admiring calls from all across the United States.
“People have always come around when I give the dogs their rides, some taking photos or videos or whatnot,” he says. “But this is the first time I’ve seen anything like this happen.”
Bostick explains that his dogs need to demonstrate that they can follow basic commands such as “sit,” “stay,” and “heel” before they’re permitted as passengers on the train. But all of his current canines have passed the test, and most seem entirely uninterested in leaving their assigned seats anyway.
“We go along through a wooded area, down toward the pond, and then back,” he says. “We don’t get up a whole lot of speed, but the dogs really seem to enjoy the fresh air and the scenery.”
Current participants — all former strays — include the aforementioned Wally, who barks and howls with the most gusto; husky Labradors Buddy and Daisy; brother/sister duo Bonnie and Clyde, both Border Collies; Ms. Nell and Tubby, who are mother and pup; plus Jack and Mickey, who always ride together.
“Each dog gets a separate car, except for Jack and Mickey, who like to share,” says Bostick, noting that safety is always a priority. “Clyde can get a little bit enthusiastic sometimes, so we use a leash to make sure he and Bonnie don’t go anywhere. The rest have always stayed put for the entire ride.”
Just as in years past, canines aren’t the only recipients when it comes to the benevolence of the Bostick brothers. On a daily basis, they feed and water a motley menagerie of turtles, cats, squirrels, raccoons, coyotes, rabbits, geese, goats, ducks, and fish. In all, estimates Bostick, food is left out for well over two dozen animals — “give or take, depending on the season,” he adds.
Having adapted his lifelong railroading passion to serve pets in need, Bostick has no plans to quit anytime soon.
“We have pretty good weather down here, so we’re able to go out on a fairly regular basis,” he says, mentioning that they’ll even enjoy the trip during light snow flurries, though they skip it during thunderstorms.
But besides the occasional blustery day, Bostick and his crew of carefree canines plan to keep right on rollin’ along.
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About the author: Marybeth Bittel is a freelance writer who lives in the Midwest with her wonderful husband, her crazy rescue dog Grant, and her level-headed rescue dog Maizy – all of them Heinz 57 mixed breed types. Marybeth identifies as mostly Italian, so she enjoys feeding family, friends and furkids almost as much as Grant and Maizy enjoy eating. She’s also a marketing communications consultant and former marketing/PR exec. Connect with her on LinkedIn or — to see her latest pet pics (and be careful what you wish for here) — check out her family Instagram feed.