Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Jimmy Wooten

In the town where my family is from, there is a legendary tale about a man named Jimmy Wooten. I hear the story every summer and someday I hope to go visit his gravestone.

Briefly, here is how the story goes: One Hundred Years Ago... A mail carrier was on his route in the middle of nowhere Wyoming. It was blizzarding cold, he was drunk on "Four Roses" Whiskey. He died. El Fin.

Now, there are a few details I may have glossed over, but really, that's the meat of the story. A mailman froze to death in Wyoming a hundred years ago. I am amazed by this story, totally astonished! Why? Because it's a local legend! It's a story that is being passed down the generations. The grave site is protected and cared for by several people who never knew him. Stories have been written about him. The local historian can talk for hours about his life and death.

Really, it's amazing that this man became a legend. That is what astounds me. I am not saying he didn't deserve the attention. I'm just saying that the story of this man could have very easily been lost under the snow that winter. He very easily could have been nobody. Very easily just a "Hmm, where's my mail?" and that would have been all. I venture to guess that a lot of people froze to death in the bitter Wyoming winters in the 1800s. The 1900s too. And the 2000s.

I think the story is significant though. As simple as it is, it tells the truth about the harsh life and hard times that we've all come from. It's a story about Mother Nature vs Man and she wins. But mostly, it's a story about the wonderful caring people of Wyoming who refuse to forget, who respected a man they barely knew, who do what's right instead of what's easy. The story is more about the people who tell the story than it is about Jimmy Wooten. He's a legend, but the real story is in the people he left behind.

The local historian, Big Jim, wrote a book about Jimmy Wooten after my grandfather told him the tale. My grandpa used to care for the secretly located grave site, then Big Jim, now he's passed it on too. If you like a good story, with all the details, rather than my one sentence summary, you can order the book from Big Jim. It is worth owning.

After sitting with Big Jim for a few hours and discussing the legend of Jimmy Wooten, my husband was inspired to write a song. You can hear the tune HERE.

Rest in Peace, Jimmy Wooten.


Wolfpak5 said...

You forgot to mention that our great-grandfather was one of the people who buried him.

Mmom said...

And your great uncle Elmer and great aunt Elsa were two of the school kids who got to see the dead body. I'll have to send you Elmer's version of the story. There is a copy of it in Spuddie's stuff.

Daddy Schu said...

"...There is a copy of it in Spuddie's stuff..."

There is a copy of it online.

Mmom said...

I found Elmer's story on line : www.washakiecounty.com/Hot_Springs_County/Jimmy_Wooten_Grave/

I believe you sent this to me a few years ago

Living With Cavemen said...

We tried to find the grave two summers ago, but didn't take the right road. Next time. It is an amazing story and nice that a mail carrier is such a legend.

Glad you had fun listening to Big Jim's stories.

Living With Cavemen said...

PS. LOVE the Jimmy Wooten song.