Hermit Tommy Garrison Copyright 2004, 2005

 Tommy Garrison was known as Cooke City's Hermit. Not much is known of his early life, nor when he first arrived in the Cooke City area. It is believed he came from the East as his brother once came to visit from Boston. Stories flourish about characters like Tommy, and we'll share a few that persist today. It is said that Tommy's trek into the wilderness followed a sad turn in a relationship with the "Love of his life". From very reliable sources, we're told that anyone who ventured too close to Tommy's cabin could expect to hear bullets passing close by. An unfortunate experience involving a government employee almost cost Tommy his cabin. Fortunately no one was ever hurt.
 Tommy said that he first came to Cooke as a soldier in the 1920's. In His time of need, Mrs. Evans, a local lady, found that indeed, Tommy had been in the military during that period, and was able to secure a small pension for him
 Tommy drove a yellow MG-B. He miraculously would drive this automobile to his cabin on Lulu pass - a four wheel drive road. The current owner of the MG-B has provided us with a photo of the car which is shown below.
It was often said that Tommy's only friends were the animals, however Jack and Birdie Williams, and Sam Brady of the Cooke City Store were "human" friends. Tommy spoke so infrequently that his vocal chords functioned poorly, and he was difficult to understand. A story persists to today that a certain man claimed that Tommy spoke to him and was his friend. Those who understood Tommy realized that all he ever said to the man was "Get out of my way!"
 In 1988 Tommy's cabin was consumed by a backfire set to combat the Yellowstone fires. Tommy was too old to rebuild, and had too few resources to buy. With no place to stay, he lived in his MG-B, parking it outside the Cooke City Store. As winter temperatures dropped below zero, Ralph Glidden, owner of the Cooke City store.took steps to ensure Tommy's survival, placing him in a nursing home. Tommy longed to returned to Cooke. Pat and Darrell Crabb, who owned the Watuck at the time, brought Tommy back to Cooke City and provided him with room and board for the remainder of his life. Tommy passed away on April 27, 1989 at age 84. In the photo above, Jack Williams has his arm over Tommy's shoulder. This photo was taken in 1986 during the Cooke City Store celebration. Tommy became despondent following the Yellowstone fire that burned within 100 feet of Cooke City. The charred hillside was so devastating to him that Birdie Williams had to cover the Windows in Tommy's room at the Watuck Annex.

 It's hard to imagine Tommy driving a sporty car like this, let alone driving it up the pass to his cabin. Following Tommy's death, the car was placed on the auction block by his brother. The current owner reports that the car is original with the exception of an interior replacement. He feels that the interior suffered while Tommy was living in it after his cabin burned.

 The car is currently owned by Jeff & Diana Boyle of Bozeman Montana.

   The photo at the left is Tommy at the site of his cabin after the fires had consumed it. He is about 83 years old in this photo. He died within the next year. Birdie Williams (not shown) is sifting through the ashes looking for anything that might have survived the fire. CNN was onsite to interview Tommy. Thid photo is cut from the interview. I have only seen a very short segment of the interview, it may have been discarded as Tommy was very difficult to understand at this point in his life.

 Copyright 2005 Michael J. Kay
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