NEDERLAND, COLO. — Guy Newton, wearing jeans and a red flannel shirt, is perched on a stool, smiling.
"I've got everything I aspire to," he says. "Eventually, I'll retire and go fishing. Every day." Mr. Newton falls silent, contemplating his outrageous good fortune, then asks, "How can I complain when I'm here?"
Indeed, "here" is a wonderful, weird, and wacky Colorado mountain town.
Example: The grandson of one late resident has kept his grandfather's body in ice in a local cabin, pending advances in cryogenics that he believes will allow Grandpa Morstoel to be thawed and returned to life.
A long-ago silver and tungsten boom town, Nederland is located at an elevation of 8,236 feet, tucked among the Rocky Mountains. There are plenty of mountain men and dirt roads. Newton, his wife, Leslye, and two children, Ashley and Christopher, live on one of them. It is a classic village (pop: 1,099) that time has forgotten. Any resemblance to modern life is slight, accidental, and resented.
There are, for example, no fast-food outlets. Says Newton, "If you get hungry after 10 p.m., you better have what you want in your refrigerator."
Nederland is 17 miles west of Boulder. But it's light-years away from urban experience.
The Newtons are here because nearly six years ago, they did what millions of city dwellers spend lifetimes fantasizing about: They risked everything to put the chaos and congestion of city life in their rear-view mirror and move to their vision of paradise.
A minor storm with a light flurry of snowflakes has slipped into town. Newton looks out the window of the small veterinary business he purchased - the vehicle he needed to make his sweeping life change - and smiles some more.
What if the business failed and left Newton in a financial mess?
"No matter what happens, we're here, and they're there," he says as he gestures to the east, the general direction of Denver, Chicago, and New York City.
When he bought the business, it had two computers. Newton, naturally, has no use for computers. He gave one to a school, put another in a closet. Pen and paper work fine.
What the Newtons are doing is living the kind of life Norman Rockwell painted. It's Ozzie and Harriet, the Waltons, and "It's a Wonderful Life" all wrapped in one.
"I'm plugged into an old-style theme that works," Newton says. "This is the way it used to be - and the way it should be. But it takes a little bit of the pioneer spirit."
Newton rises mornings and builds a fire in the fireplace. Then he begins his four-and-one-half-mile drive, featuring mostly dirt roads and not a single traffic light. He is delayed only by slowing for deer. Above all else, he encounters no traffic: "I hate traffic," he declares.
He doesn't even want to see other cars. As Newton comes down Hurricane Road in his old pickup, he marvels: "I can see the town, the ski area [Eldora], and all these mountains. It's like a picture on a postcard. It's unbelievable I get to live here."
If one of the kids is in a school play, Newton closes the office so he can attend. Why? "It's important," he says.
What the Newtons have done is construct a life that is a joy to live rather than a troublesome mystery to be solved. Nothing festers. The other morning, the power in town failed shortly before the start of the business day.
So what did Newton do? "I built a fire, then sat around and waited for the power to come back on." And if a power outage lasts all day, Newton says, "We go home early."
That allows him to settle in and tie fishing flies. He's been tying flies since he was 12 years old and growing up in Houston. It is a passion.
If things get quiet at the office, he'll tie a few flies. On a cold winter night ("We have two seasons up here," he says, "winter and July.") he gets lost in his flies. "I think about fish I caught, fish I could have caught, fish I didn't catch. [Tying flies is] the perfect connection to fishing when you can't be out fishing."
Newton also teaches a fly-tying class in town. A few years ago, he tried to figure a way he could change occupations and be a professional fly-tyer. But as he crunched the numbers, Newton concluded he couldn't earn any more than $28,000 a year - what with a profit of only 30 to 40 cents a fly.
Sunday night is family game night at the Newtons'. They play Yahtzee and Clue. They sled on a hill behind their home. "It's good, ole-timey stuff," says Newton, "but it's everyday stuff we enjoy doing."
"This is just normal family life," says Newton.
A moment's pause makes him think again. "No, it's not," he concludes. Not in most parts of the US, anyway.
The suburban experience he and his family were living before the move to Colorado might have been more typical of "normal family life." But it had its perils.
One day an incident hit so close to home it couldn't be ignored.
Newton and his wife were sitting on their front porch in a nice Fort Worth, Texas, neighborhood when the police stopped a car directly in front of them. Soon, a man was being spread-eagled on the hood, and an officer was unloading a stash of automatic weapons from the back seat.
"That does it," said Newton. "We're moving to Colorado."
One of the best parts of the move, he says, is what the mountains do for all of the family: "They slow you down."
And Mrs. Newton adds, "We don't have a lot of murder going on here. I want my children to learn you can coexist without killing each other."
But she frets about the future: "Maybe when the kids are grown, we'll get 35 acres in the middle of Wyoming."
They better beware. The US Census Bureau figures Wyoming will be the 11th fastest-growing state over the next 25 years. The Newtons could end up with neighbors as close as three miles.
(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society