When I'm outside shoveling the seemingly never-ending snow, I often think about how nice it is knowing that when I'm done, I'll be able to retreat to a warm and cozy home, sip a little hot cocoa and take refuge from the winter.
Invariably, my mind drifts to what it would be like if I had to stay outside and endure the elements ... eventually, I think about the Old Leather Man, how he would be trudging endlessly through the snow along unplowed roads and byways, making his way slowly across frozen country lanes and fields. No protection from the biting cold aside from his leather garb as he walked, and after completing the day's miles, only a dank shelter and small fire to enjoy. A few puffs on his pipe, and then to sleep, with a stone for a pillow. Brrrr....
What's even more interesting is that, as I've repeatedly stated, for an anonymous wanderer who has been dead for over 130 years, it's amazing that the Old Leather Man still commands the headlines. As you can see from the link, the New York Supreme Court has given the Ossining Historical Society permission to exhume the body of the Old Leather Man, a decision that has been met with a lot of debate, even right on this website.
On one side, we have interviewed Dan W. DeLuca, the author of The Old Leather Man, who has spent decades researching the legend, bringing to light an amazing wealth of information. He agrees that the Leather Man's remains should be moved.
On the other side, we have also interviewed Don Johnson, high school teacher and founder of leavetheleathermanalone.com, who is staunchly opposed to exhuming the remains. As Don says, he'd like to see efforts concentrating on mapping the Leather Man's footprints, not his DNA.
We've been to the grave of Old Leathery at Sparta Cemetery in Scarborough, and can attest to the fact that the grave is very close to Route 9, and have to agree that the safety argument is a legitimate one. Cars whiz past at speeds better than 55 mph less than a few feet away from the head stone, so visitors have to be cognizant or face possibly dire consequences. Moving the Leather Man's remains to a safer place in the cemetery makes a lot of sense in that regard.
By the same token, I find myself agreeing with the idea that the Old Leather Man was quite intent on keeping mum his identity and the reasons why he did what he did. If I were in a similar position, I'd expect future generations to respect my privacy. Mapping the Leather Man's DNA wouldn't reveal his name or the reason why he wandered as he did. Plus, no crime has been committed here, nor are we looking for a paternity test of any kind -- this isn't "Maury," right? -- so there's no need for a DNA analysis.
So I guess that puts me in the middle -- move the body for safety, but don't "disturb" the remains for DNA purposes. How's that for sitting on the fence?
Well, we here at Damned Connecticut wi'll be staying on the fence as the situation continues to unfold, and we will keep you up-to-date.
Of course, there's a good chance that once the historical society starts digging, they won't find anything, which would be fitting. One good mystery deserves another, right?
In the meantime, here is a three-part documentary about the Old Leather Man -- Dan showed this at his recent lecture, and Don also has it on his site.