MAYBELL -- During hunting season, the Victory Hotel keeps a waiting list of visitors. Across the street, Maybell's park is filled with hastily pitched hunting camps. Dead deer and elk hang from the trees and swing sets. Hunting season is Maybell's boom time.
Six months later in early spring, when no vehicles are passing through on U.S. Highway 40, not an engine can be heard in Maybell. Three customers are in the restaurant shortly past noon. Most driveways are empty, and few doors are answered. Nobody's home.
"A dog walks through every three days," said Ted DeFebio. He and his wife, Kim Sung, moved to Maybell from Aurora last July. It's the non-activity of the area that DeFebio said he enjoys.
The center of the community is a one-room schoolhouse, run by one teacher and attended by 10 students, grades one through four. People celebrate wedding receptions and mourn funeral services in the school's gym. It's where the Maybell Women's Club performs its annual play and the Maybell Ambulance holds training sessions.
The Maybell Store is the local gossip mill, according to ladies who work in Maybell's one restaurant. There is one church at the west end of town, and the lay minister, Danny Manley, said he has preached to as many as 38 and as few as eight people there.
On a Tuesday morning, DeFebio sat behind his house working on his garden. The dirt at the plot he had chosen was lousy, full of shards of glass, aluminum, ash and other trash, and he was replacing it with rotted sawdust and sand in the hope that some plant would like that. In the house, 2-foot tall tomato plants, watermelons and cantaloupes were waiting to be transplanted.
DeFebio had dug 4 inches into the dirt to remove the rubbish. An avid rock hunter, he said the county has the most exciting rock hunting in the country. South of Dinosaur National Monument, he said one could find any run of agate imaginable. But he wasn't finding anything very interesting in his garden hole.
Ask him about county issues and he'll say it's not his place to speak for the people who have lived in the town for years, and he's not up to speed on it, anyway. Many of Maybell's residents say the same thing.
Asked if he had any opinions on county issues, an older gentleman in the Maybell store responded: "Nope, that's why I live in Maybell."
Others have opinions but are hesitant to share them with a reporter. The town is small enough that instead of giving directions, the residents just point at the inquired destination. Because the living situation is so close, people are afraid of speaking out and offending their neighbors.
"You can go back to Craig and leave this," one woman said. "But we have to stay here and face each other."
The woman, who didn't want her name used, said she felt strongly that the Moffat County Board of Commissioners should not have cut the community's full-time ambulance director, but she didn't want to go on record saying so.
The elimination of the ambulance director position is the biggest issue in Maybell. Many residents vocally opposed the move when commissioners visited the town. But a large number of silent residents think the cut makes budgetary sense, Danny Manley said.
Manley is a lay minister at Maybell Bible Church. During the summer, he sees people passing through on vacation, and in the winter he sees no one, because everyone is keeping warm.
"I've got kind of a junk yard here," Manley said, gesturing to the engine parts strewn in front of his trailer. To keep himself busy, Manley works on transmissions for friends who race in Hayden, and he often repairs cars for the widows in his church.
Manley said he thinks cutting the full-time ambulance position was a smart move, because he didn't think it was needed. Yet as far as cost cutting, he thinks it was too little too late.
"I'll give up my anonymity and admit I signed the recall petition," he said. "We've got to recall or at least let them know we're not happy."
The recall he referred to seeks to remove commissioners Les Hampton and Marianna Raftopoulos from office. Recall petitioners have circulated through the town, and they did well collecting signatures, Manley said.
Last November, Norm Mays, proprietor of the Victory Hotel, suffered a stroke. He stumbled next door to the home of two Maybell Ambulance members. They took one look at him and knew he needed immediate medical attention, said Norm's wife, Jennifer Mays.
"He'd be dead if it wasn't for that," Jennifer Mays said.
There were no visitors at the Victory Hotel on Tuesday morning. Sitting behind his computer, Norm looked well and gave little sign that he'd so recently suffered significant medical problems. But he said his recovery was taking time.
The Mays moved to Maybell about a year ago. They run the Victory Hotel for friends.
"I truthfully don't know if the ambulance is advantageous as far as paying it's own way, but in my case it was advantageous," Mays said.