By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily
On a brisk November day, Tom Moulton was 35 feet above the ground in a crane being battered by winds gusting at more than 70 mph.
The Cheyenne resident, swaying with each blast of wind, wasn’t on duty fixing power lines or battling a fire. He was decking the halls.
Moulton is known as “The Christmas Light Guy” — or at least that’s what he calls himself — now in his ninth year of putting up festive lights in whatever weather comes his way.
And at this time of year, every day counts. So if the forecast is balmy and 65, he’s out there — and he’s grateful.
If the temperature is 25 degrees with winds gusting over 70 mph, like it was the day Cowboy State Daily caught up to him, he’s still out there — but not as grateful.
“There’s only so many days before Christmas,” Moulton told Cowboy State Daily. “There’s only so many days people want lights up on their house. So if that means I have to go up in a hurricane, so be it.”
When the customer is ready to go, so is Tom.
It’s a seasonal job, of course, and during the rest of the year Tom is a handyman. Although his Christmas decorating job starts earlier than you may think.
Around the second week of October is when Tom’s phone starts ringing and his first lighting job of the season is usually complete by Oct. 15.
Word-of-mouth and Facebook are his two media for advertising, although towing a giant cherry-picker behind his self-monogrammed truck helps out as well.
Now his work takes him outside of southeastern Wyoming to Scottsbluff, Nebraska, and Fort Collins, Colorado.
After nine years, Tom has yet to be electrocuted or fall, but he did slide off a roof once.
“That was enough to scare me into making sure that everything was right — like wearing a harness or wearing ropes if you’re on a steep roof,” he said. “Killing myself would be bad for business.”
Tom said he has put up lights and decorations in every type of weather. This past week in Cheyenne, except for Tuesday, was among the warmest and least windy weeks he’s ever experienced.
Often, he goes to work when the temperature is in the teens, it’s snowing and the wind reaches “hurricane force.”
In addition to helping him get used to the wintry elements, the seasonal job has alleviated his fear of heights.
“It’s no big deal anymore to be 35 feet up in the air in a blizzard and a tornado happening at the same time,” he said. “I welcome it. I kind of prefer it. It’s part of the job.”
He credits his long list of customers to his “perfectionism.”
That was on display last week when he came out to a customer’s house to touch up the lighting on a tree that he didn’t think looked as good as it could — although to a layman’s eye it looked fantastic.
Regardless, he wrapped the tree again.
“It needed to look better,” he said while re-wrapping the 1,400-plus lights around the tree.
The end result — some four hours later — is impressive.
Tom enjoys the work, he said, because he didn’t have the happiest childhood while growing up in Pinedale and the holiday season was hard.
“Things weren’t always the best, especially around Christmas time,” he said. “I know what it’s like to not have everything you need. I know how hard it is for some parents this time of year.”
To that end, the week before Christmas he finds someone who is struggling to make ends meet and puts up decorations and lights for free.
He said he also gives them money to pay their electric bill because “power is not cheap.”
For those thinking about hiring a contractor for decorations, Tom suggests new customers have an idea of what they want done beforehand and to call him early.
He said he frequently goes out and buys lights for the project or customers can rent them from him.
All but two customers have treated him well over the last nine years. The two outliers? They never paid.
But Tom didn’t go “Die Hard” on them seeking revenge. He merely took the lights down after Christmas.
“Even though they did me wrong, I couldn’t take them down before Christmas,” he said. “It wouldn’t have been right.”
Tom can be reached at: 307.338.0724.