Side Streets: Is Wagon Man too funky for Manitou Springs?

By Bill Vogrin Updated: December 11, 2013 at 7:43 pm • Published: December 11, 2013 | 7:55 am 0

It makes me sad to think I finally found someone too unique for funky Manitou Springs, which prides itself on welcoming all types of personalities and celebrates unique, quirky individuals with coffin races and fruitcake tossing contests.

In May, I introduced Side Streets readers to Phillip "the Wagon Man" Cargile, who just wants to walk, his right arm thrust in the air, pull his wagons and let everyone be inspired by the sign hanging from his neck: "BE POSITIVE."

He and his wife, Cheryl "the Wagon Lady," spend their free time walking the streets spreading their gospel of positive thinking. Often, they leave their little home in Manitou Springs and walk all day. Doesn't matter if it's hot and sunny or cold and snowy.

They've walked across the Pikes Peak region every day for about the past year. Now, suddenly, the couple say they are being harassed and threatened by police bent on driving them off the streets.

Twice in recent days, Phillip Cargile has been cited by Manitou Springs Police Chief Joe Ribeiro for illegally walking in the street.

If convicted at trial in January, he could face fines of $100 apiece. That's a hefty price for someone who was homeless when I met him in May and does odd jobs to make ends meet.

"The Wagon Man went out Sunday to make everybody positive and happy," Cheryl told me Monday. "But a police officer pulled him over. He's been harassing the Wagon Man and telling him to get out of the street. On Sunday, he gave him a ticket.

"He came home broken-hearted."

Shortly after we talked, the Wagon Lady messaged me and said Cargile came home with a second ticket Monday evening.

Ribeiro confirmed he cited Cargile and insists it has nothing to do with harassment. In fact, Ribeiro said he likes Cargile and his positive message.

But the police chief said he is positive the Wagon Man is going to get hurt if he keeps pulling his wagon train on snow-packed and icy streets, especially in the dark, and they want him to move to the sidewalks.

"I've had conversations with Phil, and I think what he's doing out there is cool," Ribeiro said. "But he needs to do it safely.

"Generally, walking down the center lane of the street is dangerous and illegal."

Cheryl Cargile told me the Wagon Man sticks to the side of the road except when he needs to turn to head home. Then, he pulls his wagons - one holding a portable radio, the second shirts printed with his photo, which he sells, and the third holding a large, homemade cartoon doll and a flag - into the center lane.

Ribeiro said he's tried to warn Cargile to use the sidewalks and cross the street using crosswalks or at intersections.

"We advise people it's not safe to walk in the streets," Ribeiro said. "We try to educate folks to not be in the street. For pedestrians, the safest place is on the sidewalk. And pedestrians need to cross in the crosswalks."

In talking to Cheryl, it became clear to me there is confusion in their minds about whether their wagon train constitutes wheeled vehicles, which are banned from Manitou sidewalks in the business district.

"He's getting punished for doing good," she said. "We can't let that happen."

I asked what they'd do if he is convicted.

"We can't afford a $100 ticket," she said. "But if he'd done something wrong, we'd gladly pay it. We'd have to work hard. But we'd pay it."

So they plan to go to court in January and convince a judge they were not breaking a city ordinance.

Again, Ribeiro insists they misunderstand the ordinance and his intentions in issuing the tickets.

"In my career, almost 31 years in law enforcement, I've probably written fewer than 10 tickets to pedestrians in the street," Ribeiro said. "And Phil brings a smile to my face when I drive past. He brings positive energy. I think he's a good fit for Manitou. He belongs in Manitou.

"I just don't want him to get run over."

Manitou Mayor Marc Snyder echoed Ribeiro's insistence there's plenty of room in Manitou for the Wagon Man and Wagon Lady.

"We welcome the eclectic, unique individuals absolutely," Snyder said. "This is no attempt to stifle his message or infringe on his free speech rights.

"It's my understanding the chief has been trying to work with him. We're trying to get him to understand this is a public safety issue. There's a safer way to conduct his operations. But he hasn't taken it to heart. He hasn't responded to warnings."

I'm hoping Phil and Cheryl can persuade a judge to waive the fines and perhaps they'll confine their walking of the wagons to daylight hours out of the middle of the road. I like to think funky Manitou will embrace the Wagon Man and Wagon Lady so they can keep on walking, spreading their great message.

Actually, I'm positive this can all be worked out.

-

Read my blog updates at blogs.gazette.com/sidestreets

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