Seniors volunteer to help each other in Maybell | SteamboatToday.com

Seniors volunteer to help each other in Maybell

Tamera Manzanares

The Maybell Community Center is a basic white building just a few blocks off a quiet stretch of U.S. Highway 40.

On an August afternoon, seniors living in and around the town and from as far away as Brown’s Park, bring home-cooked dishes into the center’s big kitchen.

They greet each other with hugs and kisses before sitting down at two long tables with trays of roast beef, scalloped potatoes, green salad and peach cobbler – among other offerings.

Sipping coffee, their conversations drift from the unusually hot and dry summer and rough county roads to upcoming construction to lower the community center’s ceiling – the existing ceiling makes it too hard to hear one another talk, one senior explains.

Sitting against a backdrop of sagebrush and rolling hills, Maybell, population about 350, is among the few stops for services in the remote, northwest corner of the state.

While Craig and Steamboat Springs contend with tourism, mineral extraction industries and growth, Maybell remains relatively unchanged from decades past.

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And that’s just the way Maybell seniors, some of who have lived in the area almost their entire lives, prefer it.

“I like it here because it’s wide open,” said Charlene Scott, 78, who lives in nearby Sunbeam and has been a resident of the Maybell area for 50 years.

Scott doesn’t miss the tree-covered mountains to the east – they make her feel boxed in. Instead, she revels in the sweeping sunrises and sunsets, and the birds, deer and antelope spotting the landscape around her home.

“It’s pretty laidback living,” she said.

It may be laid back, but Scott and other seniors take their roles in the community seriously, helping keep Maybell’s wheels running smoothly by volunteering and caring for fellow residents.

It’s not surprising that Scott, a take-charge woman with a quick, welcoming smile, drove a school bus and was a substitute teacher for 42 years before retiring in 2004.

She hauled two generations of children along secluded county roads – children who probably were more thankful for a ride than they’d be in most other places, Scott said.

“I had a good bunch of boys and girls – they’d give me a hard time, but I really enjoyed it,” she said.

Scott began volunteering when her three children finished school. Some of her fondest memories include 25 years volunteering with the local and national Little Britches Rodeo Associations.

Her volunteer work now includes helping out at the Maybell Cemetery and Nondenominational Church, occasionally driving the senior bus, which takes Maybell seniors to Craig for doctor’s appointments and errands and working with the Northwest Colorado Cultural Heritage Tourism program.

Playtime for Scott includes hunting – especially for cotton tail rabbits – gambling trips to Mesquite, and Wendover, Nev., and hosting visits from family and old friends.

“I’ve got a carload coming in this weekend,” she said.

As seniors begin filtering out of the community center, Dave O’Conor, 71, reflects on the 36 years he’s spent living in Maybell.

He talks of the peace he feels among caring neighbors and the tranquility of hearing coyotes howl at night and the hoo, hooing of owls in early morning.

“You ain’t lived until you’ve come to Maybell to live,” O’Conor said, his quiet appearance brightened with openness and wit. “I haven’t missed anything, except a gallon or two of gas.”

O’Conor is among volunteers who ensure the Maybell area has fire service. Traces of black ash line creases in his face – remnants of the 52 hours he spent fighting a brush fire started by lighting.

Fighting fires may be exciting, but O’Conor’s eyes light up when he talks about racing his Chevrolet light pickup at the Hayden Speedway.

“It’s just a good fun sport,” he said, adding that he enjoys the camaraderie with other drivers, the family-oriented environment and even the ongoing battle to keep his car in racing shape.

O’Conor’s three daughters and grandchildren live in Craig and Meeker and sometimes come to watch, yelling, “Go, Pa Pa, go!”

It’s clear that Maybell life – the quiet landscape and friends and neighbors quick to help each other – has been generous to Scott and O’Conor. They cherish their town and have no expectations beyond keeping busy and enjoying another day.

“At my age, any time you can put on a clean dirty shirt, it’s the start of a new day,” O’Conor said.

Maybell senior luncheons

Maybell senior luncheons are held at noon the second and fourth Thursday of each month at the Maybell Community Center. A covered dish and $1 donation are appreciated.