Terry Klepey grew up in Cooperstown, New York, home of the Baseball Hall of Fame. But, baseball was obviously not his major interest. He graduated from the New York State Ranger School at Wanakena in 1964. He had worked for the Otsego County Forestry Department (1/4 mile from his home) before going to Ranger School and returned there after becoming a Forest Ranger.
Ranger seems to be part of Terry’s identity. Always a ranger or thinking about THE Ranger. “I was always a fan of the Lone Ranger. My aunt took me to the New York State Fair in 1956. We were walking through the fairgrounds.
“Whoa! There was the Lone Ranger. Even though we didn’t have a camera, I got my picture taken with him.” In 1986, Terry had the photo enlarged, sent it off to Clayton Moore and got the picture autographed. Wow! He has another photo taken of himself shaking hands with his hero in 1997 during a book signing at the Gene Autry Museum in Burbank, California.
Klepey didn’t stay long at the local forestry station. He was drafted into the Army in 1965 and went off to Korea working in the signal corps.
Back to being a ranger in 1967, Terry got a job with the US Forest Service - Olympic National Forest at Forks, Washington. He worked for 30 years (including military service) for the Forest Service all at the same station. “I look back and think I should have moved every five years. But, I put my roots down. I had a family with two kids then. And, I liked it there.”
Forest Ranger Klepey shows an old photo of himself dwarfed by a huge Douglas fir tree. “Probably a 600-year-old tree. It was over three hundred feet tall and had a diameter of around nine feet. They get ten to twelve feet of rain there each year.”
For ten years, Klepey did layouts for clearcuts. “I did what was needed to put sales together.” For the next ten years, he administered many of the contracts that he had put together. And for his last almost ten years, Terry worked on reforestation (silviculture). “We always managed our cuts. We had the next forest ready to grow when the slash was cleared from a cut.”
Mr. Klepey retired from the US Forest Service in 1993. On the next Monday, he went to work in an antique mall two days a week starting with a showcase, then a spot and later two spots. It wasn’t long before Terry leased a storefront of 1000 square feet in Forks and opened The Silver Bullet. What else?
“I was selling anything I could turn over that was legal. My shop became an old codger hangout. All the retirees I knew would show up. Some would come in, every day. They didn’t buy much. But, they were pretty loyal.”
Terry met Kay (formerly Kay Willson of Ryegate) in 1985 and they were married four months later. Kay was a high school counselor at the time. She eventually gave that up and took to real estate in 1998. Kay is a broker now with her own company back in Washington to which she commutes every few weeks.
“We started talking about moving out here in March of 2005. I wasn’t making much money at the shop and had turned 61. So, the time seemed right for me. We bought our house and started moving to Ryegate last year in July.”
While Kay has many interests and hobbies, Terry has two. Tractors (they deserve another story) and the Lone Ranger. He “got back into the Lone Ranger” in 1984 going to antique shows and buying Ranger stuff. In 1988, he started writing The Silver Bullet newsletter. (This was before he opened his shop.) “We needed a newsletter to get info out to Lone Ranger buffs.”
The Silver Bullet newsletter was Klepey’s main contact with the Lone Ranger world for 14 1/2 years. Beyond that, it turned out to be a good way to get free goodies from memorabilia makers. The paper began with three pages growing to as many as 28 and was published four times a year. Klepey had up to 75 subscribers, but only managed to cover postage and expenses.
In 2003, Terry passed The Silver Bullet on to a man in Colorado who has since moved to Texas. With the 75th anniversary of the Lone Ranger coming up in 2008, Klepey hopes to make a trip to the Anniversary Convention in Amarillo.
Klepey remembers being involved with the Lone Ranger “most of my life. You’ve got to be a collector at heart, though. There is a sense of pride about it. Writing the newsletter for many years. Meeting Clayton Moore and John Hart (who performed in 52 TV episodes). And, Fred Foy, the announcer for the TV show. And, Tom Gill, the artist for the comic books.”
Klepey has a huge collection of Lone Ranger souvenirs spread all over his house - upstairs and down - even in the bedrooms. Maybe one of the three or four largest in the country. From dolls and lunchboxes to posters and books and movies. He is quite attached to those artifacts and doesn’t like to part with any of them.
Many of the items he owns easily bring back memories of Terry’s involvement with the Lone Ranger. Klepey stares at 18-book Lone Ranger sets. (He has over a hundred of these books in varying versions, covers, and printing.) He flashes back to the punctuality prizes he won when he was a kid. Each prize brought him one dollar credit at a bookstore near his elementary school. For an extra 50 cents, Terry was able to buy TWO Ranger books.
A set of those books can go for over a thousand dollars on eBay these days. “I’m a fulltime eBayer. But, I do very little with the Lone Ranger on eBay.” Terry will only sell doubles.
The Klepey’s back window gives a grand view of the Central Montana rimrocks. They seem like they could have hosted the Lone Ranger series just as well as Lone Pine, California, did. You can see horse and rider as they round the bend in the trail. The horse rears and the Ranger yells out, “Hiyo, Silver. Away.”