Moffat County resident Rick Barnes, 43, a coal miner with Trapper Mining for the past 3 1/2 years, sees a particular significance in the historical Gadsden flag.
Known for its depiction of a coiled rattlesnake against a bright yellow backdrop emblazoned with the words, "DONT TREAD ON ME," the 234-year-old standard bears a strong meaning for Barnes.
"The rattlesnake will give you numerous warnings before it strikes," he said.
"It won't attack unless it has to, until it has to either attack or die."
Barnes and his wife, Tami, 44, said they now feel backed against a wall, and it's time to start speaking out.
"I'm tired of the government," Barnes said. "They don't listen. Basically, they've gone from 'by the people, for the people,' to 'by the people, for themselves.' It's too big for its own good."
He plans to vent his frustrations with other likeminded residents at noon April 15 at Loudy-Simpson Park for a Tax Day Tea Party.
The event is part of a nationwide protest partially organized by The 9-12 Project, which is described on its Web site as "a nonpolitical movement" for citizens to retake control of local, state and federal governments.
"This is not a Democrat or Republican thing," Barnes said. "It's for everyone who feels like they're not being heard."
According to taxdayteaparty.com, four other tea parties are planned for Colorado, including events in Denver and Grand Junction.
Barnes, who spent Thursday morning watching Congress debate the budget live on C-SPAN, said he has experienced the federal government's cold shoulder firsthand.
"I've spent about $40 in long-distance calls to (U.S. Rep. John) Salazar, (U.S. Sen. Mark) Udall and (U.S. Sen. Michael) Bennett," he said. "I call them every time they have another vote for stimulus payments or bailouts. I can't even get them to return my calls."
"Tea Party" is a reference to the Boston Tea Party, a 1773 protest against English law for "taxation without representation."
"The government is not listening to the people, so they're not representing us," he said. "Take this $780 billion spending bill they just passed for the banks. Maybe 10 people read it. Shouldn't they have taken more time to understand how to spend our tax dollars? Who are they listening to?"
Unlike the 1773 protest, however, Barnes doesn't plan to dump barrels of tea leaves into the Yampa River.
"This one is just picket signs," he said. "People just have to bring a sign of what they want the government to hear."
Barnes will fly the Gadsden flag during the rally and carry his own sign, but he has yet to decide on what it will say.
At this point, he only knows why he feels compelled to organize for the first time.
A gun-licensing bill recently introduced by U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill., known as Blair Holt's Firearm Licensing and Record of Sale Act of 2009, could be the start of tearing the Bill of the Rights apart, Barnes said.
It would require all owners of handguns and any other semiautomatic weapons with a releasable magazine to give a thumbprint, sign a pledge to keep the weapon out of reach of children and release all of his or her mental health records to the U.S. Attorney General.
"They're trying to destroy the Second Amendment," Barnes said.
Fast-paced initiatives to transform the country's power supply into green energy also signal a dangerous surrender to special interests, he added.
Government proposals for a cap and trade system on greenhouse gas emissions would not only affect his job as a coalminer, but Barnes said it would dramatically affect every household's utility bill, every driver's gas bill and, by extension, nearly every other product available for purchase.
"They're thinking they can pay for all this spending with the money they make on cap and trade," Barnes said. "What's going to happen to you and me when we can't afford to buy anything, including food? They're not worried about that."
Barnes isn't the only local resident concerned about government spending.
John Ponikvar, Moffat County Republican Central Committee chairman, said he recently received a phone call from Barnes about the event.
Although he will be unable to attend because he plans to fly to Florida that morning, he said he would be there if he could.
"People are concerned about what's going on with this government now," Ponikvar said. "Even our own state Legislature. They put the fees on our license plates and registrations, but Colorado has had a tradition of the people voting on our taxes. Now, they're not calling them taxes, they're calling them fees.
"The stimulus package that Congress has put out is another thing. It has certainly stimulated people in other ways."
Although Barnes said he has "almost zero" faith in politicians - though he cited Moffat County Commissioner Tom Mathers and Craig City Councilor Byron Willems as two exceptions - he hopes the tea party can start a new movement within American politics.
At the very least, it's something he feels he has to do.
"Even if I'm the only one there," he said, "I'm going to feel like I'll get my voice heard."
Collin Smith can be reached at 875-1794 or firstname.lastname@example.org.