Friday, January 6, 2012

The Leatherman's "Real" Cave

I am oddly fascinated by the stories and legends of The Old Leatherman. No need to recount the standard tale here, a Google search will easily tell the same story on half a dozen websites. I did, however find an interesting entry on one blog:

"Steve… Gotta say I like your site… I grew up exploring that whole area…In fact just over the hill and along the next ridge of the mattatuck trail… Is a very real cave… You use to have to use a chain to climb up to it… also there is a very large rock overhang known locally as the “half c”… I partied all over that place and hiked and explored…. Only thing I will say though is that the cave there by jericho wasn’t the cave we all knew as Leathermans… If you go almost all the way down Park Rd. coming from Eylematic… In one the last curves in the road is a turn out… Used to have a railing across what was/is a dirt road… And there is a lone house up to your right a good few paces… Any way, follow this until you get to a place where you could take a jog right or stay with the “road”…

Take the jog right… Walk another 50 100 yards… leathermans is on your left… At the end if this ridge is a towering rock…If you climb to the top of this, it is a great view… Someone carved a star into the top of this… Looks to be along time ago… This rock is widows peak…But at any rate That is the real Leatherman’s… You can feel it"

I've been to the cave near the Jericho Trail a few times. There are two routes, both uphill: Steep and Steeper. Other posters on this blog doubted that the popular "Rock House" cave under Crane's look out would be heatable by a campfire, and I agree-its large, and open at both ends. The wind would go right through it. I followed the above directions to this place:

Another rockfall "cave", this one only about half a mile from the road, on almost level ground. I believe it is the place. I don't seem to know how to photograph a cave to "look like a cave", but this place narrows to a snug den, which a campfire would heat easily.  Much easier to reach, especially by careless modern partiers, who'd left beer cans all over. I carried out a boxful of them (cans, not partiers).  What the hell is so hard about carrying out your trash??

I followed the directions further, and climbed the nearby widows Peak. Nice view of Thomaston.  I think I found the above mentioned "star", but its faint, and looks more like a starfish:

I tried looking for the "very real cave", but I don't think I found it. Saw other interesting details on the way, though:



 I also read that the idea of Jules Bourgulay as The Old Leatherman has been debunked. Shame, it was such a good & dramatic story!  However, it sometimes seemed to me, that the Standard Story might be a little embellished, as if to explain why a man might walk an endless circle in an uncomfortable leather suit. It seems that in those pre-welfare days, Hoboes were not such an uncommon sight. This particular vagabond was, however, a little "socially different" and mysterious, giving rise to legends of his origins. He may have even been "playing" it a little with his striking appearance and silence. He never worked or sought work, covered only about 10 miles a day, and ate free meals, several times a day. It became a sort of "honor" to be known as someone who fed The Leatherman. 
I have also read that when he was found dead, he showed signs of mercury poisoning & syphilis, which might explain the behavior of walking in a great circle for thirty years.

He may or may not have performed his circuit for profound reasons. Maybe he was just a "differently configured personality".

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