Thursday, April 4, 2013

Big Nose George Parrot

We had an overnight stay in Rawlins, Wyoming and decided to look for a cemetery cache; hoping to find a grave of a Calvary soldier, an outlaw or some other old Weste3dex character and thus “find” a Wild West story.  After doing a search on we found a cache in Rawlins Cemetery, just a mile or so from our hotel.  Our target cache was Wild West Redux (GCG010).  With a cache name like that we couldn’t lose!

 Tombstone near Wild West Redux
We quickly found the cache and figured out the answer required which indeed was a Wild West story, but we wanted more.  We looked around the cemetery a little more, hoping to find a U.S. Calvary veteran’s grave or some other interesting graves, but didn’t find much of interest.  We resigned ourselves to leaving without discovering a bigger story and headed to our hotel.  But wait, all was not lost!  Shortly after dinner we received an email from scribbler, the Wild West Redux cache owner, saying that we had gotten the right answer to the cache and if we wanted more information about the cache’s story we should look up “Big Nose George Parrot.”  We immediately did a Google search and got, as they say, “the rest of the story!”

Big Nose was a cattle rustler and would-be train robber.  After a bungled train robbery in August of 1878, Big Nose and his gang shot and killed two lawmen that were on their trail.  Big Nose escaped capture for almost two years until he got drunk in Montana and bragged about killing the two Wyoming lawmen.  He was captured there and then sent back to Rawlins to stand trial.  There he was convicted and sentenced to hang, but while awaiting his execution Big Nose overcame his jailer and almost escaped.  This almost successful escape enraged the townspeople and they burst into the jail, grabbed Big Nose, and took him outside and lynched him.  That’s a pretty good Wild West story right there, but wait, there’s more!

No kin claimed Big Nose’s body so two local doctors claimed the body in order to examine it for clues as to why Big Nose was so bad.  They began by sawing off the top of his skull so they could remove and examine the brain.  They gave the skull cap to their 15 year old medical assistant, Lillian Heath.  Having found no abnormalities in the brain the good doctors then took the skin from Big Nose’s chest and thighs….and had it made into a doctor’s bag, a coin purse and a pair of shoes!  One of the doctors, Dr. John Osborne, later was elected in 1893 as the governor of Wyoming since statehood and he wore his “Big Nose shoes” to his inauguration.

You would think that having a rustler/train-robber turned into a pair of shoes would be a great ending to the story, but no…there’s more!  Roll the clock forward to 1950 and the story continues.
On May 11, 1950, construction workers unearthed a whiskey barrel filled with bones, a skull with the top sawed off….and a pair of shoes made of some strange leather.  Some locals remembered the stories about Big Nose George Parrot and they sent for Lillian Heath. 

Lillian Heath was the 15 year-old medical assistant who received Big Nose’s skull cap.  She had gone on to become the first female doctor in Wyoming and she was now in her eighties.  She had kept the skull cap all this time, making good use of it in a variety of ways including as an ash tray and a door stop.  She brought her half of the skull and it matched perfectly with the bottom half of the skull in the whiskey barrel.  Big Nose George Parrot was back together again at last!

We finally had our Wild West story, and so much more!  Thanks to scribbler and Wild West Redux we have discovered another piece of Americana that we would never have heard about without geocaching.  It’s amazing what you learn while geocaching!

Big Nose George Parrot did find his final resting spot in Rawlins, but not in a cemetery like most other people.  The bottom half of Big Nose’s skull and the shoes made out of his skin are on display in the Carbon County Museum in Rawlins, along with some other related artifacts.  Next time you’re in Rawlins we recommend you stop by Wild West Redux, visit Big Nose at the museum and then find your own Wild West story that you can share with us! 

No comments:

Post a Comment