Recently, an article about exhuming the Leatherman ran on LoHud.com. The interesting thing about this article is that it is from the community where the gravesite is located. The researchers had previously stated that they haven’t heard much local opposition. The comments sure make for some interesting reading. The thing about the Leatherman is that his legend is his identity, as he kept his actual identity to himself for 30 years. And there is still so much to be learned above ground through oral traditions passed down in families as witnessed by comments on the article like these:
“…my grandfather told us…”The Leatherman” patrolled the woods and made sure they were safe and free of vicious animals and people who do other people harm; He said he protected the people of the Hudson Valley and in turn the people protected him.”
“My Grandfather told us that “The Leatherman” was the inspiration for the character “The Tinman” in “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz”, a 1900 book by L. Frank Baum and W.W. Denslow. It makes sense that this is true because Mr. Baum lived in NY and CT during the time of “The Leatherman”.
Over the last 10 years I’ve read everything I could find about him, and had never come across that “Tin Man” story. True or not, once again, from beyond the grave, he has given us a gift that will further the folklore, and keep his legend alive. Artists such as Eddie Vedder, Jeanne C. Finley, John Muse, Susan McCaslin, Jonathan Kruk, Catoctin, and maybe even L. Frank Baum have been inspired by him, and in my opinion the world is a better place for it. I believe gifts are always better when they are freely given, so we should not be going in and taking anatomical gifts from him to further our empirical knowledge of this private man. Like his contemporaries, we should respectfully accept what he gave us in life, and map his footprints, not his DNA!