Thursday, 4:30 PM
A 'Forrest Gump' walking for the governor's race?
(Photo courtesy of BJ Hill)
BJ Hill is walking across the state collecting notes for whoever is elected governor on Nov. 7.
By Andrew Ryan, Globe Correspondent
A long way from the hubbub of Beacon Hill and the backbiting race for governor, BJ Hill has spent his October walking. He has walked on roads and bridges, from diner to diner, small town to small town.
In a pair of worn sneakers with a cardboard sign pinned to his back, Hill is walking for the next governor of Massachusetts. But the 30-year-old Cambridge resident isn't a human political billboard or a fringe activist pushing a radical agenda. He isn't trying to drum up support for the candidate on the left, the right, or the middle.
Instead, that handwritten sign on Hill's back advertises his website, which highlights a single issue: There's more to Massachusetts than just the city of Boston.
"People in other parts of the state feel left out," said Hill, speaking on a cell phone this morning somewhere between Hopedale and Milford.
To make his point, the 30-year-old out-of-work teacher is walking some 260 miles from Williamstown in the northwest corner of the state out to the tip of Cape Cod. Along the way, Hill is asking people to scribble messages in a spiral notebook for the newly elected governor of Massachusetts, whoever that may be.
A man he met in a bowling alley in Spencer wrote: "Our schools are our future. They need as much help as possible." In Hadley, another man echoed that sentiment: "Help our schools (without raising taxes.)"
"No one is saying we need more money for UFO research or anything," said Hill, who grew up in Leicester but lives in Cambridge. "They have real concerns."
As he walked this morning, Hill said he'd collected about 50 messages to date and hopes to amass many more before reaching Provincetown on Oct. 27. After the inauguration, Hill hopes to get a few minutes with the new governor and present people's notes.
Like the epic run of Tom Hanks' character in the 1994 movie Forrest Gump, Hill began his journey on Oct. 4 looking for a purpose, compelled by in part by unemployment and a relationship that had gone sour. After a few days, he noticed a palpable disconnect between rural residents and race for the governorís office and found his calling.
"I've found some people who don't even know the names of the candidates running for governor," Hill said.
With a 40-pound pack and a worn pair of Reebok Cross Trainers, Hill is trudging 15 to 18 miles a day. He has a tent big enough for one and a sleeping bag, and when it gets dark he knocks on a stranger's door and asks if he can sleep in their yard.
"So far the people of Massachusetts have been pretty nice," Hill said, adding that more than one person has invited him inside for supper.
Hill notes on his website that he doesnít take donations (thought one day a woman pulled up next to him in a car and held out a wad of bills, and said: "I don't know why you're walking, but here's some money.")
And, Hill stresses that he is a registered independent who isn't supporting the campaigns of any of the candidates for governor. (He's still making up his mind who he is gong to vote for.)
"One of the good things about this walk," Hill said, "is I can avoid all the TV commercials."
(Photo courtesy of BJ Hill)