Moffat County Locals: Kathy Bassett thinks Moffat County rocks
Craig — Rattling across the last cattle guard before the entrance to Browns Park, Kathy Bassett sensed she had come home.
It was the late 1970s and the young woman originally from Iowa had been warned by a family friend about Northwest Colorado.
She was told, “You’re either going to like this place or you’re not, there is no in-between.”
It wasn’t a matter of liking Moffat County. Bassett fell in love with Northwest Colorado and currently lives in Maybell.
It’s a love affair that outlasted many personal hardships, saw her through the trials of raising children in one of the most remote corners of the state and inspired her, in August, to organize Moffat County Rocks, a community-building project.
Moffat County Rocks sprung from a simple idea — transform a plain rock into a work of art then hide it in plain sight for others to find.
“It’s about helping people smile and feel good about themselves,” Bassett said. “There’s so much evil and sad stuff in the world, everyone needs a smile and a reason to not give up.”
Grit and gumption, the will to never give up, runs strong in Bassett. She lives just outside of Maybell, providing care for her mother, Catherine Shoenhair, who lives with her and has dementia.
Last winter, while outside finishing her nightly chores, Bassett slipped on ice and fell, breaking her leg.
Using a cordless phone she was eventually able to gain her mother’s attention.
Her mom, using a walker, managed to bring a second walker to Bassett.
“I looked up at the walker. I knew it was going to hurt to get up, but I was already so cold and in shock. I had to do it, so I pulled up my big girl panties and took hold of the walker and pulled myself up and walked myself into the house,” she said.
Bassett attributes her ability to meet life’s challenges with grace and grit to her sense of humor and her art.
“I think that when you have a problem or are hurting, if you can get a joke going and laugh you’re pain isn’t as intense and you feel better,” she said.
Her latest project, Moffat County Rocks, brings joy, laughter and sometimes tears to the lucky people who find the specially painted rocks.
Tiffany Schulze posted her feelings about finding a rock to the Moffat County Rocks group Facebook page on Oct. 15 writing:
“I found this pretty little rock today in the Post Office while I was working… I needed this today so desperately, and it means more than words could even explain. To whoever left this rock for me to find, thank you for making these unbearable few days just a little bit easier.”
Once a rock is found, the hope is that experience’s like Schulze’s are shared on Facebook.
“Posting is important,” Bassett said. “It lets the artist know that their rock was found and appreciated. Put up a picture of the rock and the person with a big smile, and tell us how it made you feel.”
The page has nearly 200 followers, and when it hits 500, Bassett plans to celebrate by hiding at least one special rock with a prize.
People who find rocks may keep their rocks or re-hide them for someone else to discover.
Everyone is encouraged to join in the fun. In October, students enrolled in Heather Fross’s art class and the Shared School painted more than 100 rocks.
Bassett paints her rocks in the sunny, south-facing porch of her Maybell home.
It’s a peaceful artist retreat filled with sunlight and houseplants, smelling of mint with music.
In this studio, Bassett, who has been painting since she was a little girl, transforms plain rocks into miniature works of art.
She also holds rock parties in the space, gathering friends together to paint more rocks.
“You don’t have to be an artist to paint a rock,” she said. “We love the rocks the little kids paint.”
Bassett used to write a regular column for the Craig Daily Press.
These days she produces the Maybell Gazette.
The ongoing, online newsletter features news and stories about the town.
It is another way for Bassett to tell her stories and show her love of the people and places in Moffat County.
She’s planning a story or two to encourage folks to continue painting and hiding rocks throughout the winter.
“There are so many places to hide rocks inside — the mall, some stores, window ledges and planters. There’s all kinds of places to hide them,” Bassett said.
There are also a few places to avoid.
“Don’t put them on or near ATM machines or right in entryways,” Bassett said.
She’s planning to request permission to hide some of the rocks in area stores in the hope that rock-hunting would help to bring in some business.
“People just zoom by and don’t see what’s out there. Rocks make people slow down and look,” Bassett said.
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Recreational marijuana taxes will stay at the same rate for now in Craig, and the museum and library will have to look elsewhere for funding in the near future.