Lex Burton stands with his horse, Abu, outside his home in north Craig. Burton has kept horses on his property off and on since he moved there in 1965, but he recently was informed by the Craig Police Department that he would have to remove them or be fined.

Photo by Hans Hallgren

Lex Burton stands with his horse, Abu, outside his home in north Craig. Burton has kept horses on his property off and on since he moved there in 1965, but he recently was informed by the Craig Police Department that he would have to remove them or be fined.

Local man asks council to let him keep horses at his home

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Burton said that when the city annexed his house, officials made a verbal agreement with him that he could keep horses there as long as he was alive. Now he faces fines if he doesn't move the horses. The Craig City Council will deliberate the issue, possibly making a decision at it next meeting Aug. 26.

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Lex Burton points to an old photo of his family on a horse-drawn wagon taken when he was a child growing up in Browns Park.

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Lex Burton's great-grandson, Stone Balleck, watches him through a mirror in Burton's kitchen.

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Lex Burton

A slideshow of pictures featuring Lex Burton and his horses at his home in north Craig.

A slideshow of pictures featuring Lex Burton and his horses at his home in north Craig.

— Lex Burton was raised on the frontier hills of Browns Park, when that land was a jigsaw of ranches and fields, not the protected nature reserve of today.

When he moved to Craig in 1965, he, his wife and their five children built a family home for themselves just north of what was, at the time, Craig city limits.

When the city annexed his property some time thereafter, Burton agreed with one condition: they allow him to keep his horses, to which the city relented, but only as long as Burton was alive to take care of them.

Now, as the pine trees he planted have grown 35 feet tall, that agreement has come under scrutiny, and Burton's traditions might come up against an insurmountable opponent: progress.

Burton is an old world person, a man who hangs on to certain ways of life now forgotten by most Americans.

In the past few decades, progress has left him somewhat behind.

Now 74, his children grown, Burton owns a lot of old things: three tractors made between 1946 and 1955, several 8-track tape players and a horse-drawn buggy he built himself.

"Oh, well, I'm fairly old," he said. "All this new doesn't bother me. I don't care for it myself. If we were still in buggies and wagons, then the world's not progressing."

However, progress came knocking on Burton's door recently when the Craig Police Department informed him he would have to remove his horses from his property on Colorado Street or be fined.

In response, he went to the Craig City Council meeting Tuesday to plead his case.

Burton told the council about his agreement with the city's former leaders, but he had no proof.

Nothing was ever signed, Burton said to the council, because he had faith in what city officials told him.

"I believed every word," Burton said. "I have no proof. That was 30 years or better when that happened.

"I firmly believe it yet today," he later added, "and I'm not dead."

Burton submitted four pages of signatures from neighbors and others who support his cause.

Some of the petitioners addressed the council, too, after they decided writing their name wasn't enough.

"It makes all the kids happy," said Cammy Winder, a neighbor of Burton's who started the petition that was submitted to the city. "He walks all his horses on leashes and lets them play with them, and he talks to them."

Removing the animals would take away what Winder and others said was something of a neighborhood institution, something that made their part of Craig special, even if it is old world.

"That's what Craig is," Winder said. "We're not big city stuff. We're the dump and animals. If we can keep the simple things for as long as possible - I know it's not going to last forever - that would be nice."

Although the council initially told Burton they had no choice but have him remove his animals, members decided to stay any fines until they could have more time to ponder the issue, with a decision possibly by their next meeting Aug. 26.

Councilor Gene Bilodeau first compared the horse issue to the city's recently resolved "Francisco fiasco" - referring to multiple court cases involving former council candidate Francisco Reina, who was cited for spending more of his own money on his campaign than allowed by the city charter. The city eventually dropped its citation and conceded that its charter violated a 1976 Supreme Court Decision.

He then told other city officials that maybe, in this case, the rules don't have to be the end of the discussion.

"It just seems to me that sometimes in the country and the world, we get bogged down in what the rules are and forget to use common sense," Bilodeau said.

Burton has no intention of being difficult if the council decides the horses aren't appropriate for city life, however.

A fight against the law is a losing battle.

"No, I'll just move them away," he said. "That's all you can do. No use in fighting them about it."

It will change things, though.

He'll no longer have the manure to fertilize his lawn and garden, which has a wide swath of vegetables from radishes to strawberries.

Most of all, though, he won't have his horses, Little Buck and Abu, to come along on another walk through the neighborhood.

"It's changing mighty fast, the world is," Burton said. "The people that come here today, they know nothing but what they might read in a book. What did this country grow from? Sheep, cattle, ranches. I've never not had a horse. I don't want to give them up."

Comments

als362 5 years, 4 months ago

Let the man keep his horses. The city can't go back on its word. I would like to know what got this started. Appearantly it wasn't his neighbors.

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mineralsman 5 years, 4 months ago

Craig CODE ENFORCEMENT at its finest ! Give someone a badge and a bit of power, and they have to harrass someone to make themselves feel Big AND to justify their position and salary

So they are harrassing this elderly man over a situation that has been there for 40 years ??

Of course, the City Council likely won't keep their word, everyone knows you don't have to live up to that forever, the City has the right to change their mind, ya know. (or so they'll rule)

Leave the man and his horses alone, for once live up to what prior Councils said they would do

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daybyday 5 years, 4 months ago

It's really nice to think back when a handshake meant your word. But the agreement was that the gentleman be allowed to keep his horses, which I read as not be forced to get rid of the horses he already had when the property was annexed. The horse in the photo, beautiful as he is, doesn't look a year over 20. :)

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GlacierDragon 5 years, 4 months ago

It doesn't say it had to be the same horse. I say he's lived there since before the city annexed the property so they should grandfather clause him in. It's not hurting anyone.

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xrsareus 5 years, 4 months ago

Ok Daily Press, Looks like a good question of the week.....

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mineralsman 5 years, 4 months ago

the City can't control the local meth problem

mebbe this will make everyone think they're doing something important

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whispering_rain 5 years, 4 months ago

I remember as a little girl walking to Lex and Goldies and petting the horses with my grandmother. They have been a part of that neighborhood for years. If the neighbors are not bothered with the horses, I say let them stay. It is not like Lex lets them run wild like most people in town do with their dogs and cats, and they are certainly well cared for. Let this good man keep his horses.

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Really 5 years, 4 months ago

What about the people at 13th and Yampa that have all the cows? Isn't that in city limits too? Let him keep his horses!

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lostyermarbles 5 years, 4 months ago

Well City of Craig. Do you just stir the pot and go on to something else?? What about the alley clean up that was just in the paper a while back. Is that being enforced or that was just a thought. Just a thought doesnt get the point across. Les obviously has an agreement from way back. The neighbors don't seem to mind. Why don't you fry some of your real rules. How bout these set back rules on fences and trees on corners??? I would like to take pictures of all the signs that aren't visible due to set back rules not being enforced. There are ALOT!!! How bout the open freezer in the Nugget parking lot?? Danger, Danger.... The lesson here again is do your paper work. Consistancy, consistancy. Next employee meeting??? Les was probably trusting enough to think that the person's word he got way back then is all he needed. However I think the grandfather law could be said on this. If you haven't said anything in all these years, WHY NOW??? Probably those horses are better neighbors than alot of these not stop barking no good dogs people put up with. What about the deer problem that was never solved?? The deer are all over, not in a fence like these horses. They can kill you or your dog if provoked. Destroy your landscape. How can Craig have the "beautify" thing when the deer are like the grasshoppers this year?? By the way Moffat county...... I say you have more pressing problems than some well kept horses.. Now get busy!!

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ticktoff 5 years, 4 months ago

I totally agree with lostyermarbles! It's a terrible thing that one person can file a complaint and rack havoc on an old man's life! In fact an old man that has been an asset to the Craig community for 40+ years! Give him a break! I have seen his place and met this man, he is thoughtful, respectable, and does not deserve to be treated with ill intent. Which is what it will be if he has to move his horses. He has helped many people in the community and continues to help people. His place is always maintained and neat! His horses are very well taken care of and loved! The horses have been a part of his life..... for his whole life! Don't take this right away from this man because one person has nothing better to do than worry about someone elses business! I wonder if they have a pet and love it, would they want it taken away. Would they want to be ordered to get rid of it? Probably not! I also believe there are many more items of concern in this world now that need attention more than a man and his horses. Let it rest.

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slipknot 5 years, 4 months ago

I don't understand. Did Code Enforcement decide to press the attack on Lex and his horses on their own or did one of his well meaning 'neighbors' anonymously complain. This is usually the case. Some 'do gooder' probably got bored with Dr' Phil re runs and caught a whiff of horse and decided to complain and one thing led to another and here we are. City Councils should be bound by previous council agreements and neighbors should MYOB.

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