Craig Around a table in the B&B Café in Dinosaur sit three friends.
Two sodas, one cup of coffee.
Two mustaches and one jean jacket with a patch that reads, “Remember when sex was safe and motorcycles were dangerous?”
There is talk of wild coyotes and trophy elk, but also murmurs of the soul of a small town and the “good old days” of wandering the barren hills, digging up arrowheads and shooting cans.
At the table, there are more than 125 combined years of living in the town of about 300 people. In a few weeks, each of the three men will play a part in its future.
L.D. “Smitty” Smith, Jerry Jeffrey and Dick Blakley are the men who live in, care about and want to represent Dinosaur.
“It’s not Dinosaur, Colo., it’s Dinosaur “by God” Colorado,” Smith said, banging on the table to emphasize the “by God.” “We want to keep it the way it is. It ain’t Aspen, it ain’t Boulder, and we don’t want it to be.”
Smith, who moved to Dinosaur four years ago, is on track to be elected mayor of Dinosaur, succeeding Freda Powell’s four-year stint.
A Dinosaur resident from the moment he was born, Blakley served as mayor in the early 2000s and was on the town council in the 1970s.
He’s running for a council seat again this year.
Jeffrey, who has lived in Dinosaur since the 1940s — when it still was named Artesia — also is running for a spot on the council.
They all are running unopposed, but Dinosaur still will hold its election April 6 at the town hall.
Write-in candidates Tony Cortez and Wendall Lawrence will fill the remaining two open seats this election.
After that, it’s up to Smith and his six-person council, and ideally, all the people of Dinosaur, to band together.
“As mayor, what I want to do is leave everyone alone for the most part,” Smith said. “Whenever we want to pass some ordinance that affects everyone, I want to get everyone to the schoolhouse and vote on it. I’m their representative, not their boss.”
Four years ago, Powell was elected mayor, earning 74 of 78 votes cast.
She had a vision of a clean, up-to-date community.
“When I went into that position, I just wanted to bring Dinosaur up to the 21st century,” she said. “We passed some building ordinances, and we had a building inspector come in. If you look, weeds, junk, trash, it’s a huge issue in Dinosaur. But you try to enforce that, and you come up against a brick wall.”
It was the brick wall of community members that tried to recall her from office — twice.
In 2006, a group mobilized to oust Powell on the grounds she was not providing police protection.
Currently, the Moffat County Sheriff’s Office has one deputy who patrols in Dinosaur.
In 2007, a new business tried to move into town, and Powell said they did not comply with town ordinances.
The person behind the business proposal petitioned to remove Powell from office.
Both recall efforts failed because the petitions did not meet Colorado Revised Statutes.
Powell said it only takes a small group of people to railroad an opinion through in a town of that size.
“Oh, you get frustrated,” Powell said. “Anyone would get frustrated. If you have such good intentions and it turns south … you certainly can’t go into it thinking everyone will be your friend.
“They want to live there, but they don’t want to follow the regulations.”
Blakley said he was in court for 15 months because of a trash ordinance violation during Powell’s tenure.
Trash collection is one of the larger issues for those who live outside of the city and have to haul trash to as far away as Meeker and Craig to clean their yards.
Blakley said, as a council member, he hopes to reinstate an annual cleanup day where Dumpsters are brought into town and everyone helps one another out.
“We want those cleanup days, where everyone gets out together,” he said. “And if there are some elderly folk, we can help them out instead of just writing them tickets.”
‘Quaint little town’
For Blakley, Jeffrey and Smith, growth is positive. Expansion will revive the town.
But none of the three want to drift too far from the town’s deep roots.
“That isn’t a ski slope up there,” Smith said, pointing toward Dinosaur National Monument. “If you skied there, you’d slide into the road and get hit by a car. This isn’t Aspen.”
Instead, it’s the little things that will improve life in Dinosaur, they said.
For all three men, getting a natural gas line into town could be the foundation for future growth.
At the B&B, Blakley, the owner, heats the restaurant with a pellet stove, claiming his other option, propane, is too expensive.
The closest natural gas line is just three miles away, and it would cost an estimated $80,000 to outfit the town.
“If we can get (natural gas), it’d be a godsend,” Smith said. “We’re not going to get any industry here or new businesses without it because propane is just too expensive.”
Clean yards and gas-burning stoves are only a part of returning Dinosaur to what Jeffrey calls a “quaint little town.”
“It’s a peaceful, quiet town,” Jeffrey said about never wanting to leave Dinosaur. “Most everyone’s hunters and bikers like us.”
They reminisced about Little League games in the park and things for children to do besides playing pool in the local tavern.
But it will take a lot more than a memory of times passed to implement even the smallest changes.
“It still comes down to that dollar,” Smith said. “It’s hard to say that I like this and that without really having a way to do it. In this life, nothing is free.”
But Smith said nothing will change in Dinosaur unless its people want it to.
“This is not Washington, D.C.,” he said. “Let the folks decide. It might not be what I want, but that’s not my place. I’m supposed to represent them.”
Powell, who could have served one more two-year term, said the next mayor of the town would have to find a way to unite the community on common ground to move forward.
“It’s got to be someone who can bring that community together,” she said. “Dinosaur is not going to grow until they clean up and take pride in their community. I don’t want to sound harsh because I live there. Dinosaur has a lot to offer.”
She said she is proud of several accomplishments during the past four years, including chip-sealing parts of the highway and securing grant money for sewer line improvements.
However, she said she did not accomplish her vision and that there will be much left undone come April.
She still sees the possibility for growth, prosperity and the preservation of the town’s history and soul.
“I didn’t close the door on anything,” she said. “Anything’s possible.”