When the Rocky Mountain Ranger Met the Marlboro Man

RIP Darrell Winfield

In January of 1991, Jim Carrier authored a sweeping eight-part series for the Denver Post titled “In Search of the Marlboro Man.” He was, at the time, the paper’s Rocky Mountain Ranger, the kind of beat that just doesn’t exist anymore. As Carrier puts it in his current bio, that quixotically titled job of reporting on the American West ran him through “500,000 miles, 7,665 sunsets and 87 pairs of Levis.”

Carrier’s Marlboro quest, carried out before Google search and with Philip Morris going out of its way not help, wound its way to the most iconic Marlboro Man of them all – Darrell Winfield (pictured). The Wyoming rancher, who did his first campaign for Leo Burnett and Marlboro in 1968, passed away this week at age 85.

Although Winfield was more than happy to spend time with Carrier, he told the reporter it could not be in the form of an interview. So Carrier put away the notebook and just soaked everything in. From the end of Part 8:

As we re-entered the [Native American] sweat lodge, I realized my search was over. I’d looked on the billboards, in the hat shops, in rodeo shutes and wide open ranges, in museums, books and minds of the West for this Western man.

But I’d learned that who he was came not from his hat, his set on a saddle or – least of all – the brand he smoked. The cowboy beside me was just one I’d found, and it had nothing to do with his looks.

What I’d been seeking was the soul of the West, embodied in its people. As the water was sprinkled and steam rose again, I knew I’d found the Malboro Man.

Thus culminated a daily newspaper series that reads today as authentically journalism old-school as Winfield was, evidently, authentically Old West. RIP.