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Campbell County Historic Ranches: The infamous "Little Whit" - Gillette News Record: News

Campbell County Historic Ranches: The infamous "Little Whit"

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Posted: Tuesday, February 14, 2012 12:00 am | Updated: 2:15 pm, Tue Nov 5, 2013.

Elias Whitcomb's only son, Harold, or "Little Whit," had been born in 1894 just a year after his niece, Marjorie Badgett.

At the time, his father bought the pair Shetland ponies and eventually built up a herd of 300 - believed to be the largest Shetland pony herd in the country (descendants of ponies carrying the WX brand were still around Campbell County as late as the 1960s).

Little Whit had a cabin on Shirley Springs near Four Horse Creek that still stands on the OR Ranch. At 21, he may have inherited as much as a half-million dollars when his father passed away, and basically drank it all in alcohol.

"Like his father, he hated fences," recalled Nick Jessen. "He had a big Cadillac or something and would just drive right through the gates. By the 1930s he was out of money, so he'd make moonshine and trade it in town for good whiskey. We kids always tried to find the whiskey he buried when he was drunk."

In fact, Spud Story said his great-uncle was drunk at the OR headquarters one night when somebody decided he should ride up to the bootlegger neighbor's for more booze. He either fell off his horse or was bucked off and laid in out in the snow for hours, freezing both his feet and his left hand. His buddies tried to thaw him, but gangrene set in and Little Whit was taken to Sheridan where the affected parts were amputated. He'd already lost fingers on his right hand in a roping dally.

Neighbors remember Little Whit stabbing his wooden feet (covered with socks and shoes) with his whittling knife to scare homesteader's kids. And one time at Pickrels' he was bucked off while his wooden legs continued to ride. Story also recalled the creative way he rolled his cigarettes with one hand and a stump.

By 1936, Little Whit had allegedly quit drinking, and stopped at Pickrels one night on his way home from town. The son of one of the richest men in Wyoming was 42 and penniless.

"He got up early and went out for a bucket of water at the well," Story said. "When he came in, he set the bucket down and fell over dead."

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