Tom Ross' column appears in Steamboat Today. Contact him at 970-871-4205 or tross@SteamboatToday.com.
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When Scott Flower led Rock into the riding arena at Wolf Run Ranch on Saturday night, more than 400 people rose from their chairs out of respect. I can't imagine that I was the only one who had to bite down hard to control my emotions.
Rock, a 22-year-old quarterhorse, was the faithful companion of Gregory Whitfield Scott for more than 15 years until Greg died in his sleep the night of July 20 in a remote cabin in northern Routt County.
Greg was Northwest Colorado's favorite singing cowboy, one of those special personalities who define a community for longtime residents and loyal visitors. Subtract him from the Yampa Valley and the cultural landscape has been irretrievably diminished. But as we've learned so poignantly this summer, life must and will go on.
Just the same, when the horse that carried Greg down many a trail appeared in the arena on a perfect July evening when sun beams literally streamed down from the clouds, emotions were close to the surface.
The horse's coat had been groomed to such a gloss you'd think he was on his way to the Texas State Fair. His late rider's boots, filled with spears of white gladiolas, were reversed in the stirrups, a salute typically reserved for fallen cavalry troopers.
I don't want to get all sloppy on you. I wasn't really that close to Greg. Sure, we had a lot of affable conversations throughout three decades, but so many of you knew the man better than I.
Way back in the 1980s, I was honored to make a formal portrait of Greg and his musical partner, Thom Ward, for a CD cover. It's a little piece of Steamboat history I'll treasure. But I didn't think I'd have to struggle to control my emotions at Greg's celebration of life.
During the eulogy, Jack McEncroe recalled the first time he met Greg, a perfect stranger, while pumping gas at the old Husky station on U.S. Highway 40.
"He stuck out his hand, said 'Hi, I'm Greg Scott. I'm setting up to play at the Tugboat! Why don't you follow me?' And I followed him."
The chance meeting led to a long friendship.
"His twinkling eyes took in everything, and (those details) found their way into his songs. He was Yampa Valley's ambassador to the world. And yes, John Denver did resemble Greg Scott," McEncroe said.
Recalling one of Greg's best-loved recordings, he said, "Oh Lord, I'm longing for those days, of riding with the wind."
Greg spent his last days riding Rock with the Roundup Riders organization in Big Red Park, earning his 20-year badge with that fabled outfit. At night, he and his band played cowboy songs around the campfire. What a time they must have had!
Bandmates Eric Barry and Jon Gibbs stood up to reassure the assembly Saturday that Greg's last day on the planet could not have been more idyllic.
He got up Monday morning and was eager to go fishing in King Solomon Creek. The fellows bragged that they caught close to 4,000 fish but kept only 10.
The men went to town for lunch, strummed a little guitar in the afternoon and dragged themselves back down to Dutch Creek Guest Ranch for dinner. Life must have been good in Big Red Park last week.
"That day, we were like three little boys playing in the stream and picking guitar," Barry said. "We were all pretty tired, and we actually went to bed at 9:45 p.m. He went with a smile."
All day Saturday, Flower and his wife, Trish, bass player extraordinaire Willie Samuelson and sound man David Buffalo worked like drovers to ensure that Greg's family would experience a celebration of his life that reflected how much this community loved him.
The result was a memorable concert where musicians walked on and off stage in a moveable feast of Western music.
Ward observed that Greg lived a life of his own choosing, and proceeded to sing two newly composed songs.
"He was singing songs about cowboys and keeping that lifestyle alive," Ward crooned. "He's keeping the lifestyle alive.
One of Greg's all-time favorite songs was "Homegrown Tomatoes." He always sang it with great gusto, and if I had a buck for every time he sang it in public, I could afford a custom-made guitar.
Someone close to the family shared with me that the majority of Greg's ashes would find their way home to their West Texas ranch. But at least a handful will be reserved for a special garden plot near his Yampa Valley home in Hayden.