Just by chance I met him as he disembarked from the ferry, and he shared the news with me. The short story he gave (it had to be short, as the ferry loaded soon thereafter) is that hs was demoted, saw that as completely unacceptable, and walked out the door for good.
My educated guess is that he was demoted for failing to achieve the impossible: bringing some of the least-maintainable code I have ever seen up to snuff. The only way to fix its problems is a complete rewrite, which is something that may in fact not be possible given the resources available to the firm in question. At any rate, it’s something that firm is unwilling to seriously entertain. The latter two facts were some of the things that was playing through my mind when deciding it was time to part ways myself.
The upshot of this news is that things would have gotten significantly worse had I decided to stick it out (he’s definitely one of the best people I’ve reported to, odds are the next guy wouldn’t be so good, plus morale and continuity would have suffered). I’d probably either be quitting myself of soon be asked to leave under that alternate scenario. In turn that would have put me in pretty much the same scenario I am now, but without the benefits of being able to make that late-season trip to Wyoming.
It all goes to show that honesty (with oneself as well as others) is almost always the best policy. Buying into a lie that there was a future in the work I was doing there would have simply made me worse off.