Book review: ‘Sherwood,’ by Sherwood ‘Woody’ Stockwell
Sherwood: Stowaway, Jockey, Rancher, Prospector, Gambler, Saloon Owner, Mine Owner, Politician and owner of Prunes the Burro
Written by Sherwood “Woody” Stockwell
Published by Western Reflections Publishing Company, Lake City, Colo., westernreflectionspublishing.com
Available at The Bookworm in the Edwards Riverwalk, $19.95
Also by Woody Stockwell, “Eagle County: A Graphic Guidebook,” $14.95, available at the Bookwork in the Edwards Riverwalk
Woody Stockwell’s small book perfectly captures Rupert Montgomery Sherwood’s larger-than-life life in a classic American tale.
Stockwell’s biography captures the colorful sweep of American history through which Sherwood passed.
Sherwood was born in 1850, made and lost fortunes, and made them again. He was almost every Wild West story ever told, the personification of the rugged West — tough as old leather but with a heart of gold that he spent much of his life chasing.
“Every word attributed to Rupert M. Sherwood and every reference is truthful in so far as I have been able to verify,” Stockwell said.
The abridged version of Rupe Sherwood’s life goes like this: He was orphaned at 12 in Wisconsin and grew up by his wits. He stowed away on a wagon train heading west, leaving behind a sister and his only living relative. On the trip west, he befriended Confederate Civil War deserters and became a jockey. Over the rest of his life, he was a professional gambler, a prospector, a gold miner and mine owner, a rancher, a saloon owner, a politician and local hero in the boomtown of Fairplay and in Eagle County.
Rupe Sherwood grew up with the nation, and his life reflects the youthful exuberance of that period of American history. Sherwood was not yet a teenager when he dodged outlaws and Native Americans bent on killing him and stealing the herd of horses they were driving.
About the Sherwood ranch and railroad station.
You know that red stone that built Denver’s Brown Palace and so many other buildings? That mine was on one edge of Sherwood’s Eagle County ranch, just between Eagle and Wolcott.
Last year, that ranch, the mine and the railroad stop became permanent open space, purchased by Eagle County’s voter-approved open space fund.
Stockwell is a historian, but more than that he’s a storyteller. He was researching one of his books about Eagle County (“Eagle County: A Graphic Guidebook”) when he happened upon an 1895 Denver & Rio Grande Railroad map with a train station in Eagle County called Sherwood. He dug around a little and found that the property belonged to Rupert Sherwood. Before long, he also found a charming children’s book about a prospector and his burro titled “Prunes and Rupe.”
One thing led to another, as research often does, and Stockwell found a series of newspaper articles in the Fairplay Flume about Sherwood’s colorful life, written by Everett Bair, as well as a partial manuscript.
The book opens on April 30, 1930, when the monument to Prunes was unveiled in Fairplay, honoring Prunes’ life of work with Sherwood in the area’s mines. Sherwood stood beside the monument when it was unveiled.
Sherwood was a bachelor who spent most of his adult life with his beloved burro. As the mining wound down, so did the lives of Sherwood and Prunes.
Everett Bair wrote in the Fairplay Flume: “Old age had now silvered the little adventurer’s hair. The trails were getting steeper, the specter of gold-bearing rock was fading in the distance. He would often pat the shoulder of his fairhful burro, Prunes, and say, ‘It’s only a question of time now, old podnuh. Who’ll it be? Me ‘er you? Neither of us is any good without the other’n.’”
Prunes died, and Sherwood went a year or so later.
About that Bair wrote, “Then one day the aged legs of old Prunes collapsed, never to climb the trail again. Rupe Sherwood cried, unashamed. ‘Lord I hate to see him go. I would trust him ahead of any man.’ Soon after it came Rupe’s time to take the last trail west.”
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