Covered in dirt and lipstick

Mike Anson leads life of excavation, giggles

It's difficult to imagine Mike Anson in lipstick, the same man who gets a sparkle in his eye when he's working with heavy machinery.

But in addition to lipstick, Anson, who is this year's chairman of the annual Kiwanis play, probably also has donned a dress, a fluffy wig and maybe heels for the occasion -- an image that is a stark contrast to his daily uniform of denim jeans, boots and a work shirt.

Yet the owner of Anson Excavating & Pipe Inc. likes the kind of freedom to be a little silly for a good cause -- a perk, he said, that comes with living in a small town.

"It's pretty neat," Anson said of the play that Kiwanis members soon will finalize. "I always hear that it's something that can only happen in Craig."

Anson has been involved with the Kiwanis play for the past six years. This year, it's his duty to serve as chairman, which means he is in charge of scheduling the event and making sure it runs smoothly. In its 59th year, the play that generally pokes fun at local politics and events is the group's only fund-raiser. Proceeds go to support scholarships, Special Olympics and other causes.

"It's a good organization," Anson said. "I'm not a person who wants to knock on doors or sell trinkets to make money. This just looks like more fun to me."

While Anson will be busy heading into "play week" -- the days during which group members practice before the first performance March 4 -- he also keeps pretty busy with a day job.

Anson has run his own excavating business since 1998, after a few years of working for other excavating companies in the area. He graduated from Colorado State University with a degree in construction management. He moved to Craig at age 9 in 1979 with his parents, who bought into T & H Parts Inc. Mike and his wife, Mardi, have two children, 3-year-old Grady and 4-month old Garrett.

But even when Mike's parents operated the auto parts store, he said he was fascinated more by heavy equipment at an early age than the store's tools. It's something that Grady has caught on to. After watching his dad do maintenance on some of shop's heavy equipment, Grady has learned to follow suit, pretending he's changing the oil on toy dump trucks and skidders, and taking off the toy wheels after he has determined that they are flat.

Considering the warmer than average winter, Anson said he has been especially busy recently -- evident by the five phone calls he took during an interview.

Working in Craig, Anson said he's learned to diversify, because there usually aren't many big projects. That means jobs can run the gamut from digging a residential driveway or foundation to digging sewer lines for city streets. Anson said most of his work comes from area coal mines.

Writing up bids is probably the trickiest part of the work, Anson said. It requires balancing fair work estimates with trying to earn a living. Anson said some weeks he could spend as much as 40 hours completing bids.

But it's operating the machinery that Anson really loves, especially his latest toy, a machine for cleaning ponds that has a 60-foot reach.

If not so busy, Anson wishes he could devote more time to hunting. The family's Brittany spaniel, Ginger, probably would like that, too. Anson serves as the treasurer for the local Ducks Unlimited group.

"I'd like to be a big-time hunter, but my job won't allow it," he said.

Still, the satisfaction of creating something out of a dirt hillside or "making something that's pretty nice" is rewarding, he said.

"I can see myself doing this for a long time," he said. "I have too much invested in it to change."

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