Jesus In Cowboy Boots

Evergreen Cemetery in Paris, Texas is the final resting place for over 40,000 souls. Founded by charter in 1866 by some of Paris’ most influential personalities, it was established in response to the growing needs of the growing city. The original cemetery was composed of only 16 acres and was sold to the cemetery association by George Wright for $320. When it was chartered, it had already had a history as a family cemetery, and since the original land sale, it has grown through grants and additional sales of land.

Today, Evergreen Cemetery is best known for the poignant headstones; the beautifully carved tributes to the loved and lost. They are emblems of history, art, and a window into the lives of those buried and their families. Among these markers are a variety of angels, both winged and not, young and old, each carved with a care and elegance that is increasingly rare in this modern world. There are also plants; leaves, ivies and broken trees. Perhaps these are a testament to the love of the natural world that someone once had. In addition, there are anchors and chains, a carved newspaper front page, a variety of sheep, and a resting buffalo.
Statue on the Babcock Family
With over 40,000 graves though, it’s the headstone of a small-town furniture maker which gets most of the attention. People come from near and far to see the grave they’ve heard about. Most don’t know the person buried there, they really just want to see what’s above him – Jesus in cowboy boots.
Jesus in cowboy boots?
Willet Babcock is the man in eternal rest beneath the boot-wearing Jesus. Willet was originally from New York and he owned two cabinet-making factories. He brought automation to his factories which helped Paris become the cabinet-making center of Texas in the 1870’s; he helped charter a railroad company; and he served on several boards of directors, including the Evergreen Cemetery.
However, few if any of the visitors know any of that. Actually, nobody really knows for sure if it really is Jesus up on the pedestal above Willet’s grave. Look closely and you might say he’s not as macho as most other depictions of Jesus. That same close inspection will also reveal Jesus is not carrying a cross, but is instead leaning on it. Some people think the figure is simply an angel leaning on a cross mourning over a grave. A local historian whose grandfather supposedly was friends with Willet is of the opinion that it is really a Shakespearian character up there as Willet was a big fan of the Bard, but he can’t say which character it is and besides, it’s highly doubtful any of them purchased their footwear from Sheplers.

Still other locals report Willet and his wife were atheists and the whole thing is just their tongue-in-cheek tweak-of-the-nose toward the ultra-religious conservatives in town. It is a long-held tradition, especially in the south, for people to be buried with their feet to the east. The east is the direction of Jerusalem, of the 2ndcoming, and Archangel Gabriel’s horn will sound from that quarter. In order to be facing Christ when they rise from their graves on Judgment Day, the dead must lie with their feet to the east. A posthumous punishment given to those who have extraordinary sins (murder, suicide) is to bury them on a north-south axis so the poor soul will rise facing in the wrong direction. The Babcock’s is the only statue in the cemetery that does not face east. Also, carved into the pedestal base are inverted torches and anything upside down is a sure sign of godlessness. The boots are simply a kicker, the final act of blasphemy, sort of like putting a Stetson on Noah.
What do you think?
The superintendent of Evergreen Cemetery has his own theory however. He thinks Willet simply had a sense of humor about the whole thing and that’s why he set it up that way, so it would give everybody something to cogitate on. He postulates that had Willet died today, we would probably see the same statue up there wearing Nikes. Maybe he was, after all, just a pretty cool guy.