Jeb - an introduction
On January 16, 1998 Jeb Wattles, age 36, died in Austin Texas. He had been arrested in the middle of the night on January 13 along with three other men for living in an abandoned building (what had been a frat dorm) off Guadalupe St. near the University of Texas. Jeb was taken to the Austin City Jail and two days later was moved to the Travis County Jail.
Early in the morning of January 16 (about 3 AM) Jeb was observed having delirium tremens and was put in a restraining chair. Around 9 AM he was found unconscious in the cell and sent by ambulance to Brackenridge Hospital, where they tried to resuscitate his body. At 2 in the afternoon a lawyer, appointed minutes earlier to represent Jeb, had the case that put him in jail dismissed in court and he was released in absentia. Late in the day, his body was taken off life support, and the death certificate was signed at 6:30 PM. The Sheriff's Department later said that as he was not in their custody when he died (that is, when he was declared dead), they had decided not to investigate his death.
His brother, Kirk Wattles, who lives in Philadelphia, Pa., was notified of Jeb's death at 1 AM, January 17, and he notified other members of the family. Jeb's three siblings, Kirk, Miriam and Hugh Wattles, traveled to Austin, Texas, arriving three days later to look into his death and to bring back his mortal remains. They met and spoke with city police, staff at the jails, Sheriff's Department officials, the doctor in attendance at the hospital the day he died, and others. They contacted members of the Rainbow Family in the area and found a lawyer who was interested in the case. They held a memorial for Jeb at a street corner on Guadalupe St. near where he had been arrested, and the next day at the Sunken Gardens near Barton Springs, where Jeb had hung out. The Wattles siblings had his body cremated and brought the ashes back to Philadelphia, which was a kind of home base for Jeb and his family.
At the family's insistence, the Sheriff's Department undertook an internal investigation of Jeb's death. The Custodial Death Report has been withheld from the family, aside from Section I outlining the general circumstances of his death and avoiding questions of responsibility. The autopsy report lists the cause of death as acute alcohol withdrawal.
Jeb had been part of the Rainbow Family for almost twenty years, going to national and regional gatherings and connecting with Rainbows in a wide arc - Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia, Georgia. Since his teens, Jeb was a wanderer. He had many friends to visit and places to stay, especially in the southwest. For some years he moved between Pima, Arizona in the winter and the Taos-Santa Fe area, New Mexico in the summer. He had a strong affection for the natural world, particularly the desert. He did farm labor and other outdoor work in many parts of the country, picking apples, peaches, blueberries and planting trees.
He developed as a craftsman and an artist. Over a period of years, he made a series of complex black and white, pen and ink drawings around the place he was in - physical, mental and cosmic. His drawings testify to his search and understanding of life, freedom and the universe. As a craftsman he used stones, metal and leather to create jewelry, bags and belts which he bartered and sold. For many years he made the annual pilgrimage to the Rock and Gem Show in Quartzite, Arizona.
Jeb learned the survival skills for living the open life. He was a great scrounger, and was known for making something out of nothing. A friend said that, no matter what the weather, Jeb made the best campsite - dry and warm, with a good fire and always something to eat. When there was work to be done, you could count on Jeb to haul water, make a meal, help a friend fix a car. He loved all kinds of music and on occasion played the washtub bass.
He drank beer and wine, often homemade, with his friends. In the last few years his drinking got in the way of his living the life he chose. Jeb has friends scattered across the United States who love him and miss him, as does his mother, Jay Goldspinner, and father, Austin Wattles, his three siblings, Kirk, Miriam and Hugh, and other relatives.
His friends and family protest the injustice of Jeb's death, and considered a lawsuit against the Travis County Sheriff's Department. However, most of the family is Quaker and tended away from taking this avenue. Also the distance to Texas meant that such an action would have been largely in the hands of strangers.
If you knew Jeb or have any information about his life or death, or are simply interested in getting involved, get in touch with CONTACT.