‘Gas can man’ journeys through Bogalusa

Published 4:09 am Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The “traveling gas can man” has made it to Bogalusa. He is the alter ego of Bruce Prehn, who has a plan to travel through all 50 states picking up litter and feeding the homeless via the Salvation Army. He also has a goal of meeting and helping “real Americans” in any way he is able.

He does the latter by walking next to a roadway with his “gas can,” which is really a piece of luggage, in hand, and waiting to see who stops to offer him assistance.

“There are still very good people in America,” Prehn said.

The can contains about everything but gas. It holds Prehn’s clean shirts, socks, and underwear, a toothbrush and toothpaste, a razor, and even a credit card and a passport. It is basically a prop that calls out to kind people who want to help the guy who apparently ran out of gasoline.

The now-58-year-old took to the road with gas can in hand 10 years ago. But he said he caught the bug when he was just 16 and caught a ride from his home in Long Island, New York to Alaska. The trip took 10 days, and it set his dream in motion.

“There’s always something to see around the next corner that’s new,” Prehn said.

Now, he has been to all 50 states, “and probably at least 15 with the gas can.”

Prehn said he used to ask the people who picked him up three questions: Do you normally pick up hitchhikers? If I had a backpack, would you have stopped? Why did you stop and give me a ride?

He said people responded in the negative for the first two questions.

“But they always said, ‘You needed help’ to the last one,” Prehn said. “And 90 percent of the people said, ‘I was taught if you see somebody on the side of the road, you offer them assistance.’ Generally everybody wants to help.”

And Prehn’s enthusiasm is contagious. A man who recently picked him up — against his initial compulsion — told Prehn he would try to do a good deed every day from then forward.

Prehn said he gave blood every 56 days for 35 years.

“I gave over 13 gallons of blood,” he said. “Every three seconds somebody needs blood. Why would you not do it?”

He is a positive force, and when he was asked why he wants to meet “good” people, Prehn said he wants to share his blessings.

“Because my life has been blessed, and I feel it’s only right to share,” he said. “I feel that everyone needs a hand at some point in their life. They’re not bad people, it’s just bad times for them.

“I don’t feel like I’m doing anything, but I inspire a lot of people! I don’t have any fear on the road at all! The gas can takes away the fear factor.”

Prehn has a GoFundMe page under travelinggascanman, which he said became his “official name” three years ago. But he insists that the money will be only used for hotel rooms and for various charities. He also has a Facebook page under
“travelinggascanmanBrucephus,” for anybody who might want to check on his progress.

Prehn has a daughter, Ashley, 30, in Alaska, and a son Curtis, 21, who is a senior at Mississippi State University.

Next on his agenda is creating an Ice Bucket-type of challenge.

“What I now I want to create the Gas Can Challenge and challenge celebrities to donate money to their favorite charity for me to go to one of their good friends’ houses in so many days, to bring awareness to their charity, and to get the people who pick me up involved also,” he said. “They can say they got me to Oprah’s or Ellen’s house on time. Everybody is happy. Doing good things makes people feel good. It’s just a win/win situation.”