Moffat County residents celebrate season with unusual events, banquets |

Moffat County residents celebrate season with unusual events, banquets

Bridget Manley

— From in flight to on the run, Moffat County residents historically have found ways to liven up time-worn Thanksgiving traditions.

They cooked turkeys – and also let them loose from building tops.

Once, they hosted a holiday feast – with a pack of outlaws.

Annual turkey flights, organized by the Craig Lions club, used to usher in the holiday season.

At these events, live turkeys were dropped from the roofs of local businesses to a crowd waiting below, the Craig Empire Courier reported.

The event’s rules were simple: Once released, the turkeys were up for grabs. Whoever caught a turkey could keep it.

“The annual event has become an institution in Moffat County and each year attracts a large crowd to Craig,” the Courier reported Nov. 4, 1942.

That year, the event was set for Nov. 21, after organizers made a special scheduling allowance for children.

“The committee wishes kids in Craig to know that they first considered a school day for the flight, but owing to the fact that the kids were so considerate on Halloween, Saturday was selected as the day so they would be able to be out in force,” the Courier reported.

A tower was constructed specially for the turkey drop.

“From there on, they’ll be on their own and : may the best man win,” the Courier wrote.

Moffat County’s holiday past also boasts an event hosted by less reputable figures. One Thanksgiving during the 1890s, the ranching community of Brown’s Park celebrated the season with a gang of robbers who took refuge in the wild countryside surrounding them, a 1977 article in The Denver Post reported.

During the late nineteenth century, Brown’s Park was a haven for two robber bands. Butch Cassidy led the Wild Bunch, while Harry Radenbaugh – better known as “The Sundance Kid” – came to the area with the Powder Springs Gang.

Residents took a permissive view toward their neighbors’ lawless activites, which included robbery and smuggling. The ranchers left the gangs to their business so long as the robbers didn’t target them.

“Even when a man had a price on his head, no one in the park would dare face his neighbors’ scorn – or perhaps the risk of retaliation – by giving information,” the Post reported.

Eventually, the outlaws decided to thank the community for their look-the-other-way attitude toward their livelihood.

The community responded with enthusiasm.

Women hastily made new dresses and men donned their best Sunday suits for the event. Locals loaned their best linen, china and silverware for the five-course dinner that included bluepoint oysters, fresh salad, Roquefort cheese and roast turkey.

The dinner was no ordinary backcountry affair. The guest list included the ex-mayor of Michigan as well as individuals who hailed from Australia, Wales, Sweden, Germany and Ireland.

Brown’s Park resident John Jarvie presided over the table, and community members presented speeches and songs in honor of the holiday.

The single hitch came when Butch Cassidy tried to pour the coffee.

As a man used to rough living, he dumped the coffee into the cups with little regard for formality. After his friends pointed out his blunder, he finished the job from the kitchen in humiliation.

The day concluded with a dance at the lower Davenport ranch, ending an unusual Thanksgiving celebration.

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