There are still places in Northwest Colorado where a man can lose himself.
Places where the coyote and elk are closer to you than the nearest neighbors. That's the life Dennis Moore has chosen, and it seems to suit him.
He likes the slow horseback rides he takes up Vermillion Creek.
"I've never lived in a town. Not really," he said. "I enjoy hearing an old coyote howl early in the morning or late in the evening."
Moore grew up in north Routt County near the Elkhead Mountains and attended Hayden High School, but that's about the most time he's ever spent in a town.
Moore was lucky enough to find a career that suits his chosen lifestyle.
He has worked for the Moffat County "on and off for about 20 years."
Moore's job as a heavy-equipment operator for the road department allows him to do something he enjoys, in a place that is a near paradise for him.
Moore maintains all the county roads in Browns Park, from the Utah, Wyoming border to Graystone, and 20 miles east to the highway.
Grading the gravel roads in the summer and clearing the roads of snow all winter, his 160 miles of primary roads keep him busy.
"I've always liked the desolate jobs," he said. "Working away from town and being my own boss."
Moore makes it down to Craig about once a month for groceries and to take care of any business he has, such as renewing his license plates.
"When I leave town, I'm glad to be heading home," he said. "About two hours in town is long enough for this old kid."
He lives alone, but he is not alone in his community. Everyone on the roads in his territory is familiar him, and it's those people who make his job pleasant.
"The people in Graystone and on the ranches, that's what it's all about," Moore said. "Meeting the people and having good memories."
And the county shop next to his house is more than where he fuels up his grader. It's where the locals stop when they need help with a tire, water for their radiators or a chain fixed. It's a long ways to Craig or Vernal, Utah, he said.
"They stop at my place for help," Moore said. "I've always got the coffee on, and I can throw a pie in the oven."
Driving the county roads throughout the winter is sometimes a challenge. This year's snowfall has kept Moore busy, sometimes taking two or three days to clear all the roads he is responsible for after a big storm.
Winter of 1983
He was assigned the Great Divide route in the winter of 1983, when Gordon Wynn's sheepherder needed to be rescued.
"The sky in the west was coal black, and it was deathly still," he said. "I knew something was about to happen."
What happened was a blizzard. A whiteout like he had never seen before. His grader got hung up and went off into the ditch.
"It lasted five or six hours, but Butch Cooper manned the radio all night making sure I was all right," he said. "Brad Winder and Tim Mack came up in a D-9 dozer and plowed me out and rescued the sheepherder."
No man is an island
It's crews like that that Moore recalls fondly, calling them "old-school" workers in the county's road department. Crews with names like Butch Cooper, Vern Kaiser and Dennis Jones.
"I miss working with them," Moore said. But he also is quick to praise the current administration in the county's road department.
"My supervisor (county road and bridge director Bill Mack) and assistant (Linda DeRose) are really good with the grader crews, checking on the radios to make sure we're OK."
And he credits Randy Armstrong with making sure the equipment is 100 percent and always working right, saying he's "never had to walk out yet."
He drives a caterpillar motor-grader with an "A" plow on the front and a wing on the side, and the people on his route know that he'll be on a snowstorm's trail.
"Up here, these people know I'm coming the next day," he said. "I even plow 30 miles of the state highway."
The best part of his life is just being out living with nature, he said, seeing the elk, coyotes and mustangs in Browns Park. His plans for the upcoming summer are simple.
"Just keep hitting the road," he said. "He also has plans to ride his horses around more of Moffat County, out close to the wildlife. "There's still a lot of country I haven't seen yet," he said.
Dan Olsen can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 207, or email@example.com.