The history of the Old West has long fascinated 47-year-old Gary Jones of South Lake Tahoe, California. Newly returned to riding thanks to a less-than-gentle nudge from a Wide Glide-riding friend John C., as Gary Jones scanned the Where am I? September issue clues, reading the name “Bob Womack” and hearing tell of gold claims and narrow-gauge railways, he felt he’d made his own discovery. By golly he knew the answer. It had to be Cripple Creek.
As a member of the Ancient and Honorable Order of E Clampus Vitus, Gary Jones is what’s called a “Clamper,” describing the organization as one wholly dedicated to the preservation of Western heritage. A lover of all things Old West, he laughed and said, “Bob Womack might well have been a Clamper,” perhaps one of the founders to boot. It seems Clampers are a spirited bunch, and liquid spirits have factored in the history prominently. According to Jones’ recollection of the folklore, there’s rumor of a poker game gone wrong where “Womack sold his gold claim for a bottle and $500 one night.” In my personal digging around on Womack he was said to have been a flexible fellow, a horseman but not terribly ambitious. Lore has it he could pluck a bottle off the ground using his teeth, remaining on the saddle of his horse Whistler.
Gary Jones was born in the Central Valley of California in 1970, in Modesto. The family moved to the pine tree mosaic of Turlock, California, where Gary took a job at Mountain View Feed & Seed allowing him to attend classes at night. He eventually became head herdsman, watching over Holstein heifers for the most. It didn’t take but a few years when he realized that a 24/7 brand of employment stung just about as much as an Old West hot iron on a calf’s backside. He diligently studied livestock health, remaining in the field (pun intended) to further ambitions on the ranch. But when he discovered the travel industry “because I wanted to travel” and vacation property management, he began to imagine a different life, a few fewer hours swatting flies. His marriage had concluded and with no children to keep him in Turlock, he took a leap, putting his belongings in storage and heading for South Lake Tahoe.
In Turlock he’d enjoyed dirt bikes and bought his first street bike at age 17. Unfortunately, he wrecked it. Disinclined to sitting still, his adrenaline fixes would come from jet skis, snowmobiles, mountain bikes and whitewater rafting instead of two wheels in the ensuing years. Those did the trick until he had to make good on an offer made to retired Santa Cruz area H-D mechanic and friend John C. The bargain struck was, “Move to South Lake Tahoe when you retire and we can go riding together.” John C. retired and relocated nearly two years ago so, as Gary explained it, “June 1 I pulled the trigger on a 2017 Street Bob.” Now in his fourth month in the saddle, “I don’t see myself ever going without one again.” Gary and a few riding friends plan on hitting Street Vibrations, Carson City, Virginia City and of course Reno later in the month.
Over the dozen years in South Lake Tahoe Gary’s worked for others but is now an independent contractor, managing roughly 50 homes for several companies. His business is called 2nd Home Management Services and he watches over smaller condos to 10,000-square-foot homes with prices ranging from $99 to $5,000 per night.
Home for Gary is on the South Shore where he’s nestled in and surrounded by pine trees. His roommate is Pierce, a female Catahoula Leopard dog, a working breed going on five years old. Nine months ago, Gary’s girlfriend of three years died and Gary rescued Pierce from a shelter. Adopted as the state dog of Louisiana, internet sources say the breed is intelligent, loving, gentle, inquisitive, energetic and independent.
Sounds like a perfect match to me.