A Northwest Colorado century: Dorothy Gray reflects on 100 years of life on Christmas
Dorothy Gray likes to laugh.
At 99 years old — notably 100 come Christmas Day — Gray, born Dorothy Scott, can’t help but chuckle as she thinks about the changes she’s witnessed in Northwest Colorado, a place she’s lived all her life.
It was snowing 100 years ago on Christmas, Dec. 25, 1921. Gray doesn’t remember the snow, of course — she was busy being born. But she knows it was snowing, because the story of her birth involves a doctor dispatched from Craig to her mountain home near Trappers Lake south of Hayden. The doctor never made it.
“We lived in the mountains and there were no cars, no vehicles to get around,” Gray said Wednesday in her Craig home. “There was just horseback or a sled. The doctor lived in Craig and he was supposed to be there when I came, but he got in a blizzard on one of the passes and never made it. My dad and the younger of my half sisters delivered me.”
As a child, Gray’s family moved around a bit as her father followed the work, but eventually primarily settled near Pagoda and then after that close to the current site of the Hayden airport.
“In those days, there was no industry of any kind,” Gray said. “You just lived in the mountains, and everybody was a friend. You had some cattle, some horses, and you lived off the earth. Once in a while you’d go into town — Yampa, Oak Creek, one of those places — to get your groceries. Only went to town maybe every other month.”
Throughout Gray’s young life, Yampa Valley towns and cities were growing up too. But, at least in her early youth, Gray said, she had no idea.
“We lived too far out,” Gray said, laughing. “We didn’t even know.”
Coming of age during World War II, young Dorothy Scott got a job in Steamboat Springs in an office. She was ready to find a husband — but until the war ended, there were none to be found.
“There was nobody around,” Gray said, another chortle escaping her lips. “We couldn’t find anybody to get married to, because nobody was there.”
When Mr. Gray came back from the South Pacific after the war, that changed.
The couple was married in 1947. They moved around a bit, living at times in Great Divide, Hayden, Steamboat Springs, and eventually Craig.
“We moved to Craig, must have been 1955,” Gray said. “My daughter was born in Hayden in 1953, so it must have been 1955. We’ve lived here ever since.”
The Grays had two children, a boy and a girl. The boy died 15 years ago. The daughter lives in Ohio.
Life has changed. So has Craig.
“It’s a lot busier here,” Gray said, a bit ruefully. “Nobody’s friends anymore like we used to be. People come and go, and you never meet your next door neighbor. It’s gotten much bigger, really informal. It’s not just Craig, that good old country town anymore like it used to be.”
She’s still chuckling as she says it, but it’s clear she misses the way it used to be.
“You know, even with all the work, all the problems, I’d still go back to the old days,” she said. “Everybody was friends. Of course there was so much distance between families but you appreciated them because you didn’t see them very often.”
The favorite activity in those days gone by? Just being with people.
“I liked being able to do whatever you wanted to do because your friends were all doing the same thing,” Gray said. “We were all friends.”
But it’s been a heck of a Northwest Colorado life, nonetheless.
“Everybody wanted to be in the mountains,” Gray said, smiling. “Every weekend, we’d be going fishing, and then the kids got older and into high school and we had friends every weekend — some of the boys, our son’s friends — and we had a little boat, a ski boat. We’d go skiing on one of the lakes or ponds. There were always a bunch of kids around.”
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Since Christmas, about 6% of all Routt County residents have tested positive for COVID-19. About a quarter of all cases locally since the start of the pandemic have come since Dec. 26.