Meet Jay Ledbetter, a retired outlaw

A veteran of Six Gun Territory’s shootout days shares his life and times.

Jay Ledbetter on his front porch with Six Gun memorabilia. [Julie Garisto]

Home » Community
Posted August 31, 2023 | By Julie Garisto

Jay Ledbetter, a retired neighbor of ours in Forest Corners, is a former outlaw who roughhoused and made crowds gasp in shootouts at Ocala’s old Six Gun Territory. 

In case you aren’t from around these parts, the Western-themed attraction was located on East Silver Springs Boulevard and drew tourists to its make-believe one-horse town from 1963 to 1984. A shopping plaza bears its name today.

One day while visiting him on his porch, Ledbetter showed me a scrapbook filled with photos, postcards and advertisements from his Six Gun days in the early 1970s. 

One postcard advertised a colorful theater show; another, aerial cable cars. One particularly memorable photo depicts a shootout. In the melee, a young Ledbetter circa 1972—portraying outlaw Frank Davis—is felled by a gunshot and drops to his knees. 

“When Six Gun was there, they had a place called Funland,” he explained. “It was just like a carnival. It had all kinds of rides and everything. My nephew and I went to work there, running rides, and then the marshal came over and asked if I ever shot a gun before. I said yes, and he said he needed a gunfighter.” 

Ledbetter’s new boss asked him to grow a beard. 

Cast of Six Gun outlaws; Jay Ledbetter is in the white shirt holding rifle, center row. [Supplied]

“You gotta be kidding me,” he barked back. “I can’t grow a beard.’ 

Then, and even today at 79, Ledbetter has always had somewhat of a boyish face.

Still, he tried to grow a beard, but wound up shaving “that thing off.” 

He was born with sight in one eye in 1944, in East Prairie, a small town in the hills of southern Missouri. His older brothers and sisters teased him mercilessly and told him he wouldn’t amount to anything. 

“I hated it there,” he said. 

So, he left home at age 13 to work on a shrimp boat with his older brother in Fort Myers. He slogged away in the Gulf of Mexico for two years before moving 86 miles northeast to Sebring. 

His limited eyesight disqualified him from enlisting in the military during the Vietnam War, so he went to work with his brother at new and used furniture auctions.

“Oh boy, the pay wasn’t good,” Ledbetter said with a laugh. “I was making $30 a week, so I left there and went back to Missouri for, I think, two or three months. It was then that I married my first wife.”

After the marriage ended, Ledbetter drove a garbage truck in Okeechobee with another older brother. While there, his nephew, Wayne Ledbetter, lured him to Ocala to work the rides at Six Gun, where he swooned over a pretty coworker. 

It was there he met Sandra Fay Ramsey, an employee in the general store. He asked her if she’d like to go to Tammy Wynette and George Jones’ Old Plantation Music Park in Lakeland. They were to meet at Six Gun that Saturday morning, but she stood him up.

Ledbetter didn’t see her again until three months later, when he got a surprise at work.

“When I walked in the door, she hid. She ducked down behind the counter, and I told her, I said, ‘Sandy, you can’t hide. I know you’re back there.”’

 She explained to Ledbetter that she took a job at the nearby Dairy Queen but didn’t like it, but there was another reason she was reticent about going on a date with her determined suitor.

Ledbetter asked her out to the drive-in. She nervously said yes.

Jay Ledbetter and his impressive Western movie collection. [Julie Garisto]

“Well, I got two babies at home,” she admitted.

Ledbetter was undeterred. ‘Well, we’ll take ‘em with us!’” he responded.

The young mom confessed that she was worried about having to interrupt the date to change her baby’s diapers. But Ledbetter, who had his own kids, was unruffled by the routine.

“I said,” he continued, ‘just bring the diapers and we’ll go to the laundromat and do the diapers.’”

The couple went out with kids in tow like a ready-made family, and Ledbetter didn’t waste any time proposing. They got married in a trailer park behind a little restaurant on State Road 40, just east of Highway 314A.

Jay Ledbetter with his late wife, Sandra. [Supplied]

“I was tickled by the preacher,” he reminisced with a laugh. “We were sitting there, and the preacher opened up his Bible. His wife looked over at him, and she tapped him on the shoulder and said, ‘You got the Bible upside down.’”

Jay Ledbetter performing as an outlaw getting shot at Six Gun Territory, Ocala, circa 1972. [Supplied]

During their time in Silver Springs, Ledbetter worked for the city of Ocala on baseball diamonds and bleachers in its recreation parks. He also helped build swimming pools with his father-in-law. He and Sandra had one daughter together, Amanda. The couple lived with her in North Carolina until Sandra succumbed to complications from cancer and cirrhosis of the liver.

“She never drank or nothing all the time she was living,” Ledbetter said of his beloved wife. “But she had that bad disease in her.”

An old friend helped Ledbetter move back to the Silver Springs area from North Carolina a few years ago and set him up in a manufactured home. Ledbetter pays him rent. 

These days, the former Six Gun outlaw lives a quiet life. His home is filled with western-themed decor and cowboy movies. He likes to crack jokes and always wears ironed button-up shirts and jeans.

One day, I was inspecting blueberry bushes toward our back fence when our neighbor drove by in his SUV and yelled, “Hey girl, did you go and get yourself lost?” He laughed and drove off as vintage country music lingered in the dust behind him.

Ledbetter’s perpetual giggle sounds somewhat like Sheriff Roscoe Coltrane from the “Dukes of Hazzard,” but more endearing. 

Parting ways, he smiles and says, “Have a good one.”

newspaper icon

Support community journalism

The first goal of the Ocala Gazette is to deliver trustworthy local journalism so corruption, misinformation and abuse are not hidden from the public or unchallenged.

We count on community support to continue this important work. Please donate or subscribe: