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Cowboy Santa spreads Christmas cheer in Gillette
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.
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.
"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.