An old Turkish wagon that rolled into the record books as part of one of the great adventure stories of its time will soon go on display at the Minnesota History Center in St. Paul.
The wooden wagon belonged to David and John Kunst, who on June 20, 1970, set off from their hometown of Waseca, Minn., on a walk around the world. It was a journey at once epic and quixotic.
The brothers -- David was 30, John 23 -- had just $1,000, no paying sponsors (although they did raise some money for UNICEF) and no experience as world travelers; spoke only English; and were driven by nothing more than a youthful sense of adventure and an urge to find a place in the Guinness Book of World Records.
David eventually completed his walk, traversing 14,450 miles on foot before returning to Waseca on Oct. 5, 1974. It was the first officially certified walk around the world (Kunst flew across the oceans) and did indeed earn a spot in Guinness.
John, however, was shot to death in October 1972 by bandits in Afghanistan. David was wounded in the same attack, which he survived by playing dead.
The brothers bought the old wagon from a street peddler in Istanbul, Turkey, and used it to carry gear. It also served as a shelter and sleeping area after a canvas top was added.
A Turkish mule -- one of four eventually used during the expedition -- pulled the wagon, which also contained a small house beneath the rear axle for a dog named Drifter II, who accompanied the brothers on part of their trip.
The wagon will go on display in the history center's popular "Minnesota A to Z" exhibit beginning June 25. It will be under "J" for journey. The exhibit will feature other memorabilia, including photographs and two of the 21 pairs of shoes David Kunst wore while making his way across North America, Europe, Asia and Australia.
"We've had the wagon for a number of years," said Susan Holland, exhibit project specialist for the Minnesota Historical Society, "but this is the first opportunity we've had to put it on the floor."
Among those looking forward to the exhibit is Kunst himself. Now 62, Kunst lives in California with his second wife, whom he met in Australia during the walk, which literally remains the story of his life.
Since completing his circumambulation of the world, David Kunst has made his living speaking to school groups and others about his great adventure. To this day, he still loves talking about the walk and its effect on his life.
"It changed my life in many ways. I gained a lot of confidence. I never went back to an 8-to-5 job after that," he says.
Kunst -- who was accompanied by another brother, Pete, during parts of the walk -- wasn't warmly received by everyone in Waseca upon his return in 1974.
A month earlier, while trekking through Nebraska, he'd described himself to a Minneapolis Tribune reporter as a "social deviate." He also took potshots at organized religion and said marriage was a "bad idea."
Those comments grated on more than a few people in Waseca, although photographs show that a crowd turned out to greet him on the day of his return.
In 1994, Kunst returned to Waseca to celebrate the 20th anniversary of his walk, but says "not too many townspeople showed up" for the event. Even so, he says he remains fond of his hometown, which he calls "a great place to grow up."
Kunst says he'll be back in Minnesota in July to give a speech in Caledonia, where he was born, and to visit the exhibit at the history center.
"I'm still enthusiastic," he says. "I wish everybody in the world could hear my story."
What: A wagon, shoes and other items from David Kunst's 1970-74 walk around the world
Where: The "Minnesota A to Z" exhibit (under "J" for Journey) at the Minnesota History Center, 345 W. Kellogg Blvd., St. Paul
When: Exhibit opens June 25 and will run indefinitely
More information: David Kunst's Web site has an extensive account of his adventure, as well as maps and photographs: http://davekunst.com