Only ten minutes into the conversation Gap says to me, “If only you weren’t married” and I am thinking, “If only you weren’t 80”. Little did I know how quickly I would fall in love with this 80 year old flirt I was soon to meet.
Gap Pucci has a story. He has a story so deep and so intimate that I won’t even attempt to tell it here and I would not pretend to have all of the details. If you want to read his stories, in his words, you will have to buy his book. Then, if you want to read more, you will buy his second book.
I met Gap because I was looking for donations for a banquet I was organizing. I was told to give him a call because he usually donated something to shooting sports events. I called him while I was eating Pad Thai on my own at a local joint. He was the first person on my list to call. He was the last person I talked to that day. We ended up on the phone together for almost an hour and every breath and every minute was well spent. He asked as many questions of me as stories he told of himself; and stories he did have! He invited me down to his small ranch to pick up a donation and perhaps indulge in some Italian wine.
I’m no dummy, so I researched Gap Pucci before our date to meet. I briefly learned he was a transplant from a city back east and moved to Jackson Hole in the 70s with his wife. He was the caretaker of Granite Hot Springs for a number of years with no vehicle access for much of the year, unless with a snowmobile. He then went on to start his own outfitting business that he ran for more than 40 years while outfitting a turn-of the century cabin without plumbing or an indoor bathroom. As his first book says in it’s title, We Married Adventure. Gap definitely married adventure.
I was intrigued by Gap (Gaspari is his given Sicilian name) from the moment we first spoke on the phone. Intrigue turned to admiration and admiration turned quickly to love when I met him in person. My mother and I headed south of Jackson Hole to Camp Creek. We followed his directions up a canyon to his cabin. We were greeted at the gate with a sign that read something to the effect of, “Proceed with caution, you are now in Gap’s sights”. That is when our adventure began.
Gap was out in a pasture with his Morgan horses when we parked. He had a tractor humming and hiccuping nearby as he forked out flakes of hay to his small herd. He used to have more than 40 head and now he is down to about 10. These he keeps for companionship as his days of outfitting hunters are long gone. He greeted us as if we were family and invited us in to meet his stock. We walked together up a slippery slope to get a better view of the elk feeding on the government land; this 80 year old man offering my mother his arm when she started to slip. We talked about wolves, elk, and horses. We met his Alpine Goat, his peacocks, and his stallions. His love for all of these creatures was clear in his tone, his stories, and his actions.
After feeding a few “cookies” to the goat, the stallions, and the German Shepard; we headed inside the turn of the century cabin. We defrosted our frozen selves in the entryway as Gap deliberately took off his pack boots and explained why he had a chicken in a crate beneath his feet (a 15 year old chicken who did not handle the winters well anymore and now lived indoors until the spring).
Gap told us how he had been on his own in this cabin for 20 years after raising both of his daughters there and how much he enjoyed having company. We were happy to oblige. We stood in his kitchen and talked about his book. We talked about his days of outfitting. We talked about guns and women and love. Then, we made our way into the living room for wine and snacks. It was like walking into a museum.
We were surrounded by bears, pine martins, ermines, moose, elk, deer, etc. There was a story that went with almost all of them. There was the mount of the pine martin with an ermine in it’s mouth. That ermine had killed one of Gap’s favorite chickens; so Gap took great pleasure in trapping it and having it mounted this way. The pelts were his and his hunters’ and he had the trophies and awards for each. He had a story to tell and we were eating it up.
I sat cross legged on the floor as Gap signed his books for our auction. I asked for more stories as he fed us salami and Italian wine with a bible laid open on the table next to us. I could have stayed for hours longer and not have grown tired. I could have spent the night in the guest bedroom of this historic cabin and woken to the obligations of life on a ranch. But I had children to attend to and duties at home.
I promised Gap I would return and would help with the animals. He chuckled and said, “Do you know how many men say they will come and help me out but then they realize what hard work it is and they don’t show up….?”
I simply thanked Gap for the Italian wine and the company and swore to myself that I would be back and I will. I cannot wait to walk with this man as he greets each of his animals as a lover and as a friend. I cannot wait to hear more of his stories as I sit at his feet in his old cabin. The Italian wine is a bonus, the prize is this man.
I have fallen in love with an 80 year old Sicilian.