Paul Knowles: On the passing of Wayne Wymore |

Paul Knowles: On the passing of Wayne Wymore

Paul Knowles/For Craig Press

Museum of Northwest Colorado Assistant Director Paul Knowles, left, poses for a snapshot with Wayne Wymore and Knowles' infant son, Parker.

Just a month after starting my job at the Museum of Northwest Colorado in 2016, I unexpectedly discovered the biggest perk of my new career. One day, the front door opened and slowly presented an elderly gentleman hunched over at nearly 90 degrees, leaning on a cane. When he stared up at me from under his hat, he shook my hand and simply said, "Wayne Wymore. I wanted to come meet the new guy."

I immediately knew I was meeting somebody with a fascinating history to tell. As we sat down and spoke, I quickly realized I was talking to a man whose father was born in the 1880s! Wayne's dad was a real cowboy who worked for the famed Cary Ranch and homesteaded north of Craig. On this homestead, Wayne's parents somehow managed to grow a sizeable orchard and would invite the whole town out every spring for Blossom Days — a day of picnicking and marveling at all the apple blossoms.

During our second meeting a couple weeks later, I realized I was talking to a man who had his own amazing history of ranching, breaking horses, braiding leather, owning a tack and saddle shop, and, believe it or not, even getting hit in the head by an airplane. His stories were mesmerizing. Surprisingly, he seemed equally mesmerized and inquisitive about the few nuggets I was able to contribute.

During our third meeting, I realized something different entirely — something way more impactful than our sharing of local history and places. We had become friends.

If the measure of a person is their ability to positively influence those around them, then Wayne Wymore is a very high mark. His contributions to me and my family will remain immeasurable for generations to come. I already had a love for the landscapes of Moffat County, however his belief that this was "the most beautiful country on earth" made me truly passionate about it. I already liked hiking in the middle of nowhere and admiring things others walk right by, however his love for the most remote of places, along with an amazing rock collection from nearly all of them, made me set out to explore areas I never knew existed. He essentially opened my eyes to a world I thought I already knew, then threw gasoline on the fires of interest. My kids, and eventually, their kids, are major benefactors to Wayne's sharing of his passions.

In my last meeting with Wayne, he mentioned that people throughout his life must have thought he was rich. He said it was the only way to explain why some people never paid him for his services. Towards the end of our conversation, he began talking about what a wonderful ride life has been — even with all the rough spots. He said he had been blessed to live in such a wonderful area with such interesting people and said how glad he was to have experienced it all. Then, after giving him a hug goodbye, I said, "Wayne, all those people were right, you know. You truly are rich."

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He was. And, because of him, I am a much, much wealthier man as well.

Paul Knowles is assistant director of the Museum of Northwest Colorado.