The patron saint

No one can spin a yarn, combining fiction and historical fact with characters real and imagined, like writer James Micherner.

From his historical novel “Centennial:”

“At about this time, Centennial became the butt of a prank by a group of high school students who had been complaining about poor food served in the cafeteria. They erected over its portals a sign which infuriated some, evoked hilarity in others. Unfortunately, all the perpetrators were offspring of Republican families, and a regrettable political overtone was cast over the affair where none was intended.

“The sign read: ‘Alferd Packer Memorial Cafeteria,’ and when the teachers saw it all hell broke loose, the local Democratic leader claiming that to erect such a sign on a building paid for by taxpayers was an insult to Franklin D. Roosevelt, not a favorite figure in the area. The leader of the Republicans had the wit to snap back, ‘Nonsense! That sign has no national significance whatever. It merely recognizes, and belatedly at that, a thoughtful citizen of Colorado who performed a public service for which we should all be grateful.’ And so, the confrontation raged until some children from Democratic families tore the sign down.

“Alferd Packer had been a mountain guide as mixed up as the spelling of his first name, and late in 1873, for a grub stake, he volunteered to lead a hunting party of 20 into the western mountains. When a blizzard struck he got lost with five of the members. The party was snowbound for three months. They ran out of food, so Packer, as the man responsible for the leadership and survival of the group, began eating his fellow sportsmen.

“When the spring thaws came, Alferd Packer returned, picking his teeth and showing no signs of ordeal. But later, the skeletons of his companions were found, each skull showing signs of having been smacked with the sharp edge of an ax. The macabre episode might have passed unnoticed into history as one more macabre affair along the Continental Divide, except for the memorable charge made by the judge when he sentenced Packer. Whether the judge actually said these words cannot now be proved, but they have passed into the folklore of the state, providing Colorado with its one indisputable folk hero.

“Said the judge, ‘Alferd Packer, you voracious, maneating son of a bitch, they wuz only seven Democrats in Hinsdale County, and you ate five of them.’

“This affair made Packer the patron saint of the Republican Party.”


While most references refer to Packer as “Alfred,” he spelled his name “Alferd.” His body bore a tattoo with that spelling, and it is not known if the tattoo artist got it wrong and Packer adopted the spelling as a joke.

That school cafeteria sign? Fact: In 1968, students at the University of Colorado-Boulder named its student cafeteria “The Alfred Packer Memorial Grill” – its slogan, "Have a friend for lunch!" According to Web reports, students can enjoy the meat-filled "El Canibal" underneath a giant wall map outlining Packer’s travels through Colorado. In 1982, the university dedicated a statue of the former mountain guide.

The facts of Packer’s cannibalistic sojourn into the Colorado mountains are as fascinating as Michener’s yarn, and I found an excellent account on trutv.com – a report of 10 chapters and a bibliography. (About 20 pages on 12-point bold font.) In addition to the facts of the “crime” (for many still believe Packer was innocent), this report is peppered with illustrations and photos from the Colorado State Archives.

So, if you’ve got nothing better to do on a rainy afternoon, curl up with this historical account, “Alfred Packer: The Maneater of Colorado,” well documented by TruTV writer Katherine Ramsland: LINK

Bon appetit!

PHOTO: Alfred “Alferd” Packer, 1886.


Can you answer the question in the following post?


Infidel753 said...

Well, at least Packer had good taste in that he apparently ate Democrats exclusively. Republicans must taste terrible, all that flab and moralistic bile. Limbaugh could probably have saved the entire Donner party, but I'd hate to think of the long-term health consequences, especially considering his cigars.

Annelle said...

Whether he ate democrats or republicans, it is a great story. Trust you to dig up the good stuff.

B.J. said...

The whole book is good stuff! (I know you read it.) I read it when it was first published and this afternoon finished listening to it again. I’ve gone back to Chapter 1, “The Assignment,” to pick up all the character names whose forebears formed the saga. Now, I’m brushing the dust off my boots.

Frodo, discretion being his stock-in-trade said...

Frodo could have a lot of fun with this; i.e. eating a Republican would ensure that you'd get a piece of white meat.

Tiny said...

Tiny agrees with Infidell1753 on
"good taste" and Frodo on "white meat" assessments. The Republicans are still trying to disperse the Democrats.

She also loves the name of the cafteria and its sign "Have a friend for lunch." With all the headlines re: Sanford, Ensign, Vitter, Gingrich et al, the Republicans are still having a friend for lunch, whether in this country or a foreign one!

Linbaugh is still the Republican party's "Boss Hogg" including all its "flab and moralistic bile." One look at him and you can tell he's a "Packer" of food.

Tiny could make another remark, but thinks it might be too ris·quĂ©.

Great story, BJ. Thanks for the laughs.