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That guy who lived in a car?

“… And how about that guy who lived in a car?”

When I first read Chuck’s comment in response to an earlier post, I thought, “there was no guy who lived in a car.” He was making fun of me. Had my interest in low-brow gone too far? 

Could be.

Then I heard about  Wesley Young–a Laporte resident, sometimes called The Hermit of 287. 

Only Wesley didn’t live in a car. He lived in two cars: a 1947 Plymouth and a 1957 Ford, both parked in a field owned by family along old Highway 287.

wesley-young

In a bigger city, Wes would have been a nameless homeless guy, an addled WWII vet with an inconsistent story.  But this is Fort Collins, so the papers wrote his story and people worried about him.

He told the Triangle Review that he started living in vehicles (a sheepherder’s wagon in Bellvue) after his father died.  But some say his father had the gas station just down the street in Laporte and outlived Wesley. 

In some articles Wesley says that homelessness was not his choice. In others he says he’s an ecologist following a “higher part of life,” refusing charity and welfare. People said he was the original hippie.

You could see him walking along Highway 54 between the American Legion and downtown Laporte throughout the 1960s and early 1970s–always against the traffic. He lived on candy bars and milk.

 “A man needs inspiration to recover from the beatings [life] gives you,” he said. “And I just haven’t found it yet.”

I hear he died in the late 1990s. He would have been near 80 years old.
[googlemaps http://maps.google.com/maps/sv?cbp=12,253.6494178907784,,0,8.946697832297499&cbll=40.625541,-105.117945&panoid=&v=1&hl=en&gl=us&w=425&h=240]

(Special feature: Click on the street scene to take a virtual walk in Wes’ shoes down Highway 54.)

10 comments to That guy who lived in a car?

  • I imagine every town has someone like the car guy in their past … or present. I suppose a lot of them get put into institutions “for their own good.” Perhaps some of them prefer it, but perhaps many prefer to live on their own, like Mr. Young. I’m glad he was able to do what he wanted (assuming that he did).

    I wonder how one survives for long on candy bars and milk, though.

  • Chuck

    Yes, that is the word…candy bars and milk. I heard that too. Seriously though, thanks for the F/U Cat.

  • Josh

    And Cadillac Jack? He didn’t live in his car, but the shack next to the Cadillac couldn’t have been much bigger. Remember? He lived up the canyon neat Picnic Rock? Someone told me he stockpiled money in the shack. Of course he did. But when he died toward the end of the ’90s, and they soon after cleared the car and shack, never heard anything about money. Maybe he buried it first.

  • catfc

    My sources think it’s Cadillac Ed. More of a hermit than Wesley. But still people in the Poudre Park community tried to take care of him sometimes. I hear they brought him food occasionally. He died much younger than Wesley, too.

  • Jim

    I worked at Ray’s Little Supermarket (corner of College & Vine – I think it’s a feed store now) and I *think* he would come in – albeit very very occasionally. It was a bit south if his only transportation was walking. Although as I type this – didn’t one of the cars run? I don’t quite recall.

  • Jim Burrill

    Wesley Young would indeed walk to town from the location of his two cars near Laporte. I think his two cars were parked on property that belonged to the Seaworth family. Wesley was related to the Briggs/Ahlbrandt families and could be shirt-tail relation to the Seaworths.

  • captainbevo

    Wesley obviously was related to the Ahlbrandt family as per the listing him in her book “101 Memorable Men of Northern Colorado” page 98.

    “Wesley’s mother died when he was only seven years old. At the age of eight, Wesley helped plow fields with a team of horses and tended a flock of sheep.

    When Wesley was about to receive his diploma from Cache La Poudre High School, he dropped out. When questioned about his action, Wesley reported that he didn’t have good clothes and was embarrassed to walk across the stage in front of a large audience.”

    In the 50’s and 60’s I remember stopping at Ray Youngs in Laporte and feeding the tame deer and other animals that he kept as a tourist attraction. I wonder if the two were related? LETS ASK UNCLE NORM

  • catfc

    Norm told me about those deer, and exactly where that was. Ray Young’s is where Wesley was walking to often. And he lived in a trailer there later. But you’re right, let’s get more about Ray from Uncle Norm.

  • BT

    Cat,
    A group on a bike tour of the markets stopped in front of Charvat’s store across from my house on Park St., and told me about your blog. I’m impressed with the amount of local lore you’ve put together (I’m an historian).
    Then, I saw a reference to Wesley and read through this blog. I knew Wesley well when I was a child growing up in Bellvue in the Sixties and Seventies. What you may not have heard is that he was an amazing mechanic. My father, who was a mechanic himself, would often ask Wesley to help him. I’m not sure if he needed the help, or if he just wanted to find a way to help Wesley, as he always paid him. My dad also always gave him a ride if we saw him walking down the highway. Wesley was reticent about talking, but trusted my father. They had a mutual respect and understanding. Wesley had many offers of places to live, but refused them. I’m glad you were able to find a photograph of him!
    Anyway, very nice website–I had almost forgotten about King’s Food Host! I loved that place! And Iversons. Better than the doughnuts were their vanilla milkshakes :)

  • catfc

    BT, That’s the first I’ve heard of anyone actually taking the bike tour. That’s neat to know. I think the stories about Wes, his eccentricities, and the way people like your father would care for him all tell a larger story of the kind of community we have. That’s what I think is the most important part of the story. Thanks for adding to that.