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Cowboy Santa spreads Christmas cheer in Gillette
First Published Dec 24 2013 06:11 pm • Last Updated Dec 24 2013 06:11 pm

Gillette, Wyo. » Jim Slattery is a cowboy to the bone.

Born and raised in Gillette, he was a Wyoming Livestock brand inspector, worked at the coal mines for 20 years and continues to shoe horses on his ranch.

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But for the past four years during December, he swaps out his large belt buckle for a belly resembling a bowl full of jelly.

Around Christmastime, Slattery, 68, can be identified wearing the iconic red stocking cap at a handful of local schools, the bus barn, or family homes. Like any good Saint Nicholas, Slattery takes pride in bringing enjoyment to people for Christmas.

"I’m a people person," he said. "I get a kick out of making people laugh."

Dressing in the red suit, bells on his wrist, and a pillow for a stomach allows him to do just that. He always aims for a grand entrance and loves to see the reaction on kids’ faces.

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"If I can give them a little bit of giggles and cheer them up a bit. That’s the part I like about it the most," he said.

It all began when the Northeast Wyoming Board of Cooperative Educational Services was having a difficult time finding a Santa Claus in 2009.

Slattery and his family have been familiar with the school for years. The daughter of he and his wife, Nancy, attended the school as a student. Another daughter currently works there as a nurse, and Slattery worked as a cottage parent for eight years.

When BOCES couldn’t find a Santa, he stepped in and has been doing it ever since.

"That’s where it all started, but then word gets out," he said.

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