McCoy John Comer and his daughter Marajorie were a bit out of sync as they tried to simultaneously turn the pages of a giant songbook that prominently displayed the lyrics of “How Great Thou Art” to a singing crowd at the community center in McCoy on Sunday.
But the pair’s lack of rhythm didn’t seem to matter. Most of the 70 “old-timers” and “newcomers” who were singing at the start of the annual Father’s Day lunch in the town 20 miles south of Yampa already knew the song’s lyrics by heart.
“We’ve been singing that song here since the ’60s,” said John, who moved to McCoy in 1969. “It’s become a long-standing tradition, and it’s special that I have my family here to sing it with me again today.”
Lifetime McCoy resident Charlene Kirby said the song, which has been sung at each of McCoy’s Father’s Day gatherings since the event started in 1968, ties together everyone’s memories of the annual picnic.
“We grew up singing it in church here,” she said. “But it’s emotional for some people to sing it because a lot of the old-timers are gone now.
“The event gets smaller every year as old-timers pass away, and that part of it is sad.”
This year’s McCoy Old and New Timers Father’s Day Community Picnic brought together lifelong McCoy residents and their family members and friends from across the state who long have had ties to the town.
Attendees said they came to enjoy the companionship and camaraderie that can be gained at a gathering in such a small town (McCoy has about 200 residents) and reminisce about the place some picnickers have called home their entire lives.
“You have to be pretty independent to live here because you are in the middle of nowhere,” Kirby said. “I didn’t think of it as a rugged place until a friend visited me out here and pointed out all of the deep canyons. I just tell people I live halfway between Vail and Steamboat, and this town is just the way I like it.”
Other attendees swapped stories of grandfathers who worked on the railroads that wind through the ranching town, and of the hardships its residents have had to endure to live in a place that is often called isolated.
“As a newcomer, I would say that to be able to learn the history of this town is special,” McCoy resident Russ Kested said. “I’ve never lived somewhere with such a neighborly atmosphere.”
Doris Schrupp, who traveled to the potluck from Longmont, has never lived in McCoy, but said as she enjoyed bratwurst, hamburgers and the company of family members who made their livings ranching along Rock Creek that she’s never felt more at home.
“I’m a couple generations down from having lived here,” she said. “But it still feels like home. This is the place we’re going to be buried.”
Lunch organizer Edith Lederhause said this year’s theme for the gathering was “nearby places of interest.” She lined each table in the community center with historic newspaper clippings that chronicled the “bumpy” stagecoach routes from Walcott to Steamboat Springs and the history behind the peaks and ranches that surround McCoy.
“I thought they would be more interesting than putting flowers on the tables,” she said. “The history around here is pretty incredible.”
— To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com