For once, Montana's U.S. Marshals Service sent a guy off to a foreign country instead of chasing him there.
On Friday afternoon, Marshal Darrell Bell and his staff hosted a reception for famed Montana cartoonist, artist and author Stan Lynde and his family and friends as he prepares to move to Ecuador at the end of the year.
"He's a part of the history of Montana and of the marshal's service," Bell said.
Lynde is nationally known for two syndicated Western cartoon strips, "Latigo" and "Rick O'Shay," both of which were set in Montana and reached an estimated 15 million readers. They ran between 1958 and 1983.
Earlier this year, Lynde announced that he and his wife were selling most of their belongings and moving to Ecuador, with return trips to Montana planned for each fall.
A talented artist, Lynde also had a hand in the image of the Montana U.S. Marshals office. In 1994, when the office was looking to update its image with the public, he was recruited to design its state patch, which still endures.
Chief Deputy Marshal Rod Ostermiller said that it is now one of the most sought-after patches within the Marshals Service and that he receives calls from around the world from people looking for one.
That, coupled with Lynde's use of U.S. marshals as characters in his comics, was enough for the marshals to agree to host the party when Lynde's wife got in touch with them recently.
"It's almost like you're retiring a part of our Western heritage," Ostermiller said. "We want to show an appreciation to him for what he's done for us and the state of Montana because a piece of Montana is going to be living in Ecuador soon and we want to thank him."
At Friday's gathering, at the new Federal Courthouse, Bell presented Lynde with a "blend-in kit" that included easy-to-carry beach items, including a Panama hat.
"I mean, what do you get for a guy who's moving to Ecuador with not much more than a backpack?" Bell said.
Lynde also designed the Billings Senior High Bronc logo, and Principal Dennis Holmes surprised Lynde with a piece of school memorabilia featuring the logo.
When the service began working to design a new patch, officials tasked deputies with designing the one for the Montana district. The deputies had trouble coming up with a design, and one of them mentioned that he knew Lynde.
A few days after the deputy approached him about designing the patch, Lynde presented it to the service.
"There were two requests for the patch," Bell said. "It had to reflect the U.S. Marshals Service but it also had to reflect Montana. He was able to do a patch that did both."
Lynde and his wife plan to leave for Ecuador on New Year's Eve.