People in town know Joe Bristow by many names. He’s “Joe the Butcher,” “Joe the Weatherman,” “Joe the cemetery latchkey” and now he can add another name to his list of epithets, “Joe the 2020 Senior Citizen of the Year.”
Bristow, however, is best known in Winters as “Joe the Butcher.” He earned this meat-centric moniker as the Buckhorn’s in-house butcher for almost two decades — and counting.
“My wife and I moved to Winters in 2002 and started working at the Buckhorn in 2004. It worked out great because I was coming from wholesale butchery and it all fell into place,” said Bristow. “When their butcher, Bob Taylor, retired we pushed the idea of ‘Joe the Butcher’ in radio ads on KUIC talking about our products. It’s been a successful career and I still love it, cooking meat and working for the Buckhorn.”
Bristow has lended his meaty expertise over the years at multiple Farm to School benefits, as a judge at the Carnitas Festival (Festival de la Comunidad) and Winters Chamber of Commerce rib cookoffs, as well as speaking at informational Rotary Club of Winters luncheons on what being a butcher entails.
Beyond the butchering, Bristow also happens to be Winters’ resident, volunteer weatherman. A task passed down to him by his predecessor and Winters Express legend Newt Wallace back in 2012.
“(Newt) said in an article in the Express he was looking for a volunteer weatherman, so I put my name in and got picked,” said Bristow. “They moved the weather station and rain gauge onto my property. I check it every morning and send those numbers to the National Oceanic Administration. It’s really interesting to do.”
Bristow’s daily services to the town don’t end with the weather, however. Since 2015, he’s been a volunteer at the Winters Cemetery and was elected board chair in 2019. A duty performed for Winters residents both living and dead, Bristow opens the cemetery gates at seven in the morning and closes them at sundown seven days a week, without fail.
“We’ve got a beautiful cemetery and a great grounds crew. We’ve also been through a lot with our well going dry during the drought,” said Bristow. “It’s very rewarding, and there’s much more to it all than someone going over and having their loved one buried.”
Bristow would also conduct ceremonies on Dia De Los Muertos and Veterans Day before lining Railroad Avenue and Main Street with American flags.
A fourth title Bristow totes is the world’s third-oldest paperboy. Now, retired from that occupation, he used to toss the Express early in the morning with the world’s oldest paperboy Newt Wallace, and second oldest paperboy, Ted Couture.
Even after years of service to the town while balancing many hats, Bristow’s forecast of helpfulness shows no signs of him slowing down.
“I learned a couple things over the years. The first is when asked to volunteer to help others, you never say ‘no,’” said Bristow. “The second is a quote from Robert B. Thomas, the founder of the Old Farmer’s Almanac: ‘We must strive to always be useful, with a pleasant degree of humor.’”
Although ‘Joe the Funny Guy’ isn’t one of his nicknames, one need only spend a few moments with Bristow — and his contagious sense of humor — to know he lives up to not only to Thomas’ quote, but the title of Senior Citizen of the Year.