For well over 40 years, the people of western Maine—and folks from around the United States and Canada—have delighted in the storytelling of Rangeley native Gaylon “Jeep” Wilcox. Now, he will also share his poems through his book, Favorite Story-poems of Maine’s Unique Storyteller Gaylon Jeep Wilcox, The Woodland Bard, slated to appear December 22nd in local bookstores.

Author “Jeep” Wilcox at the Kennebago River’s Steep Bank Pool. His book, Favorite Story-Poems, will be available in Rangeley at Ecopelagicon, 7 Pond St., on December 22nd.  

A book of story-poems has long been a dream of Jeep’s; and, in the 1980s, he talked about this dream with folklorist Margaret “Peggy” Yocom, who had come to Rangeley to work with the Rodney Richard family and the Logging Museum they founded, along with others. In 2014, after Peggy retired from teaching at George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia, and moved to Maine full-time, she and Jeep started working on the book in earnest. She is the editor of Favorite Story-poems.

Designed by Höhne-Werner Designs of Wilton, the 170-page Favorite Story-poems contains 36 of Jeep’s poems with 43 accompanying images—37 color photographs, two black-and-white photographs, and four drawings by talented Wilcox Family friend Jackie Myer of Honeybrook, Pennsylvania. Jeep’s fans will recognize many story-poems in the book, such as “Children’s Day Parade,” “The Eighth Day,” “The Mad Whittler,” “A Real Native: The Boot From L.L. Bean” and, of course, “You Can’t Get There From Here, But You Can Get Here From There.”

Jeep Wilcox grew up on a hardscrabble farm, the seventh of 12 children, and went to first through fifth grades in a one-room schoolhouse. He started creating story-poems at a very young age; the big woods of the Rangeley Lakes Region were his major inspiration. Born in him was a fascination for the woods so strong that when he was as young as five years old, his parents dared not leave him outside unattended for fear that he would wander off into the woods. By age 10, he was constantly roaming the Region’s mountains and valleys like a sort of “Johnny Appleseed,” leaving story-poems on trees by the waysides, using a pen, pencil, or jackknife.

These story-poems that Jeep left on trees became much talked about. Then, Jeep started sharing his story-poems with audiences of all kinds, unknowingly catching the attention of well-known folklorists. Soon, he found himself traveling down his own tote road of fame.

Critics have said that his performances are extraordinary—even flows of wit and philosophy. His road has led him to appearances at the Maine Folk Festival; the Lowell, Massachusetts, Folk Festival; the National Folk Festival in Bangor, Maine; the Northwest Folk Festival in Seattle, Washington; as well as at countless schools and civic organizations. He has been featured in documentaries, exhibits, and articles, including Peter Mehegen’s “On the Road Again”; Public Broadcasting Service Radio; “Gather ’Round: Tales of New England’s Work-A-Day World,” an exhibit by the Vermont Folklife Center; and in several articles by Dr. Margaret Yocom. Over the years, he has shared his stories with over 500 tour bus audiences at the Rangeley Inn.

Jeep has worked as a logger, truck driver, and as custodian at Rangeley Lakes Regional School. From 1952 to 1956, during the Korean War era, he served in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. He helped build the largest jet base in England—Molesworth, and he received training in many wartime skills, including the handling of explosives.

Favorite Story-poems of Maine’s Unique Storyteller will be available at Ecopelagion and Books, Lines & Thinkers of Rangeley for $21 plus tax. Linda Dexter of Ecopelagicon will host a book signing with Jeep and Peggy on December 22nd at 1:00pm. Linda welcomes pre-publication book orders as well as mail orders: contact 864-2771 or [email protected] com. For more information, contact Peggy Yocom at 860-0392 or [email protected] or visit http://margaretyocom.com