May 9, 2015

Steve Fugate's photo.
Steve Fugate with Jay Munsch

Eudora Struble and her fiancée, Jay Munsch, drove over from Winton-Salem to find me last night. They got me a room and we went out for cold IPA’s. Eudora is the niece of my good friend, Ben Struble, and cousin to my good friends, Shannon and Tracey Popp Struble of the Struble Ranch in Doris, California. Eudora’s father, Jimmy Dale Struble was quite the cowboy, known well in the Grand Junction, Colorado area. In the 70’s he was hired by National Geographic because of his renown cowboy skills, as a guide for Robert Redford, retracing on horseback, the routes through Utah and Colorado, taken by Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Jimmy Dale Struble’s fame hit national media in 1992 when his cowboy friends and family fulfilled his request to be buried standing up. He had been left paralyzed after an accident and spent the last few years of his life sitting or on his back. When he knew his time was coming he told his friends he did not want to be buried lying down.
Excerpts from a Grand Junction newspaper December, 1992:

Bull ropin’, bronc bustin’ cowboy Jimmy Dale Struble was buried with his boots on – standing tall in his grave.
The hard living, bighearted cowpoke hated to take anything laying down, least of all death. He wanted to enter the hereafter on his feet wearing his favorite cowboy hat… and his buddies didn’t let him down.
In a simple ceremony in a country cemetery, Jimmy was lowered feet first into his grave, so he could meet his Maker standing up – as a cowboy should. “He was a cowboy to the core.” Said close buddy Eddie McEllery. “He was a dying breed. He was loud, boisterous, big-hearted, and the best horseshoer to ever set foot in this valley.”
Jimmy, 49, spent the last seven years of his cow-punching life in a wheelchair, paralyzed from the neck down. He died of lung problems after spelling out his burial wishes to his friends. Friend, Glenn Younger. said Jimmy made them promise not to bury him lying down. “he hated sittin’ on his butt for seven years and he didn’t want to be buried that way.” said Younger.
“He was used to roping steers, breaking and shoeing horses, hunting bear and trapping coyotes.”
“He was a hard-headed country boy – make that heavy on the country boy.”
“I loved him like a brother.” Said Dan Burns, who took care of Jimmy after his paralysis. “Jimmy was an off-the-wall individual. When there was nothing left to be said, Jimmy would say it. Jimmy loved country music and lived a rough life drinking beer and trapping wild game. He never met a horse or a bull he couldn’t ride.”
Several dozen of Jimmy’s neighbors, friends, two brothers, two daughter’s and other family members waded through boot-top-high snow to carry out the crippled cowpuncher’s last wishes.
Before they closed the coffin, Jimmy’s brother Clifford, put a pocket knife in the deceased man’s hand. “In case he wants out of there, he’s going to need a good knife,” he said. Jimmy’s saddle-draped casket was loaded into the back of his best friend’s pickup truck and driven down the road to Glade Park Cemetery in Grand Junction, Colorado. A friend sang the last yippee-yi-ya, yippee-yi-yo of “Ghost riders in the sky” as tough talking cowboy’s pushed their hats lower on their foreheads – to hide the tears in their eyes. Then they looped their lariats around his coffin and lowered it vertically into the grave.

THANK YOU to Eudora and all the Struble family for your kindness to me over the years and for allowing me to see the outer toughness and the inner softness of REAL cowboys and cowgirls. May your breed never die.