Jimmy Schutten says, in a believable tone, that he doesn’t give a damn what other people think.
The irony of that statement is that folks around Bailey think a whole lot of Jimmy Schutten.
Schutten displays all the overt qualities of a classic American rebel. He is a dyed-in-the-wool free thinker. His long hair, tattoos and colorful history within the local biking community all serve to hammer that image home.
Once getting to know Schutten, however, as many Bailey residents have since he settled here in 1976, other compelling qualities of the man quickly begin to surface. Some of those qualities stand in stark contrast to what might typically be associated with a rebellious temperament, or persona. But in Schutten’s case, it all works seamlessly together toward the betterment of his community.
Schutten, who will celebrate his seventy-seventh birthday in August, is actually a natural-born rebel with a number of community-building causes and a well-documented knack for helping others. Additionally, he is an authentic, unapologetic patriot, and a proud Vietnam veteran.
“When your country needs you and asks you to go, you go,” Schuten said. “So I went. I love my country. I salute every American flag I see.”
Schutten is likely saluting more often these days while en route to and from his daily breakfast at the Cutthroat Café, because one of his community-building ideas recently caught on in a huge way.
Longtime Bailey resident Carrie Marsh, who is heading up a new community initiative dubbed “Red, White and Bailey,” explained how Schutten’s heartfelt patriotism inspired her to act.
“Jimmy Schutten commented to me that it would be really neat to have an abundance of American flags flying all throughout Bailey,” Marsh said. “Enough flags flying as to really make an impression as people drop into town after traveling over Crow Hill.”
Schutten also backed his suggestion with a $1,000 donation for flags, as well as to help with the erection of a plaque at the Bailey Community Center which is to read: “Dedicated to the veterans and first responders of Park County by a grateful community.”
Marsh took the idea to local business owners, and with the help of others such as Matt Dambrowsky and Timm Gregg, noticeable changes around town became evident virtually overnight.
By the day of the HUNDO Bike Race, June 15, seemingly dozens of American flags flew prominently outside of businesses and restaurants in downtown Bailey. The gently fluttering flags, liberally dispersed throughout town, made an ideal backdrop to the festive atmosphere as large crowds assembled for the ceremonious start of the race.
“Carrie and others deserve all the credit for the flags all over town,” Schutten said. “All I did was make a suggestion. They did all the work.”
Schutten grew up in Denver and graduated from Sheridan High School in 1961. He joined the Navy in 1964, and served a year in Vietnam building airplane runways. His unit built more than one runway during his time there, often times under fire.
“The Marines did the fighting. One time a high-ranking Marine came over and told us we had better take cover because things were about to get bad. But a high-ranking member of the Navy told him that we would keep building runways and for him to go back and fight. So we just kept working. We completed two runways while I was there.”
Schutten’s immediate return to the United States was sadly similar to that of others who came home after serving their country in an unpopular war.
“A guy in the airport spat on me as soon as I got back,” Shutten recalled.
After finishing his stint with the Navy in 1969, Schutten’s adventurous spirit led him back to Denver where he joined the Iron Horsemen bikers club.
“I was just looking for some fun and adventure,” Schutten said. “I needed the excitement. A lot of guys after the war felt that way when they got home, I think.”
After a considerable amount of high-speed excitement and adventure with the Iron Horsemen, Schutten eventually settled in Bailey. He took up residence in a cabin where he has made his home for the last 44 years.
At Bailey Day, June 22, Schutten was at his usual post, manning a booth for charity. The object of the game at the booth was to hit a marked spot on a platform with a sledge hammer, preferably hard enough to ring the bell that sat atop a vertical track about 15 feet overhead.
“I used to have a kissing booth at Bailey Day,” Schutten said with a grin. “Proceeds went to the school this year, but a lot of times I help people sort of on the fringe who could use a break. Mostly I find that people usually just need someone to listen to them and to offer common-sense suggestions.”
Schutten is well adept at covering a wide range of conversational topics with absolute ease. His opinions are well thought through, concise, and almost always stated with a sense of calm but confident conviction.
“I just think you should do what’s right, and after that let your conscience be your guide,” Schutten said.
When asked about modern American families and Americans in general, and how both have changed over time, Schutten responded without hesitation.
“The worst thing that ever happened to American families was the invention of the TV tray,” he said. “They never sit down and talk together any more. People are also lazy, but mostly because it hasn’t been demanded of them to be otherwise. If need be, Americans will pull together, but only if it gets to the point where they are threatened.”
“I’m just old school. A favor done is a favor owed. Business used to be conducted on a handshake and a look in the eye, but now it seems like everything requires at least three signatures.”
Schutten worked primarily as a truck driver and a welder for many years, but has been retired for quite some time.
“When I did work, it was only because I had to,” Schutten joked. “These days I have plenty with my service benefits and my old-people money.”
It is likely that Shutten will continue to serve his community and to generously offer his time, resources and sage advice whenever it is needed.
He will do so with a rebellious spirit and generous heart, in his own unique way, whenever and however he darn well pleases.