In the summer of 2019, I worked for the Shoshone National Forest as an ATV ranger. The job consisted of riding an ATV on the forest’s motorized trails, making visitor contacts, checking permits, and maintaining and marking the trails. My coworker was Tim Gilland, a Wyoming native who had recently moved back to his home state after a career in law enforcement and firefighting in south Louisiana. Since I now live in south Louisiana, I recently became curious as to where exactly Tim worked. A quick Google search produced an obituary. He died in August of 2021. I was surprised, because Tim was only 58 when I worked with him and didn’t have any health issues I was aware of. What follows is my honest eulogy for him.
Tim was not simple or easy to understand. He was a man of depth and simplicity, of integrity and failings. But though he had failings (the plague of all mortals), I came to realize that Tim was an honest and caring man. Every day, we would meet at the office at 6 AM to start the workday. We would then drive up the mountain in an F250, trailering two Yamaha four wheelers. The drive would take at least 45 minutes. Tim and I, being male coworkers removed in age, never waxed poetic to each other, pried into each other’s family life, or inquired after the other’s stirrings of the heart. Nevertheless, even without ‘deep’ communication, we came to understand each other and inevitably grew to know each other better. Driving the truck, riding four wheelers through the mountains, catching glimpses of moose, outrunning thunderstorms, running chainsaws, building fence- there is only so much distance that a difference in age and unfamiliarity can create.
Tim liked to talk, and talk he did. By listening to his narration of events and by doing a bit of reading between the lines, a detailed portrait began to emerge. Tim wanted to be a good man. He was conservative and traditional; he believed in having friends, worshiping God, guns, and strict border control- but there was part of him that was not able to live up to his perceived ideal, and I believe that pained him. That pain, however, he used to fuel his relationships with others- his grandson Kolyn, whom he cared for and for whom he was willing to sacrifice anything- his friends, and even me. In fact, I believe that it was that pain that gave him his set of generous and caring virtues. It is not every coworker who will talk to you like an equal, who will notice but not condemn your mistakes, who will teach and instruct, lead by example, and have you over to have dinner at his house. No, Tim was not just a coworker. He was a good friend, a complex man, and one for whom I have the utmost respect.
In closing, I would like to share one more thing: Tim wanted to be respected and loved, and he treated everyone I knew accordingly. This was evidenced by the reverence with which he would speak of Jimmy Smail, another Shoshone National Forest legend. Jimmy passed away only months before Tim did, but to hear Tim talk about him you would think Jimmy had been canonized already. Tim had a keen eye- 35 years as a sheriff will do that- and perceived the truth better than most men. That included failures, and certainly he was aware of Jimmy’s, his own, and mine, but I never heard him belittle anyone for falling short. I trust that the Lord treated him accordingly at his judgement. Please join me in praying for Tim’s soul, especially by remembering him at Mass.
Requiam aeternem dona ei, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat ei. Requiescat in pace. Amen.