“Concerning That Fake Cop Car in Twin Lakes”
By Kathy Bedell © Leadville Today
Sometimes I hear a great story, but for one reason or another I can’t tell it for awhile. Well, I finally get to tell this interesting tale, recounted at a friend’s memorial service some years ago, now.
While I’m not sure what the proper amount of time is to let pass, before telling a “until one of us dies” story, but here’s one I believe has pass theat test of time: “Concerning that Fake Cop Car in Twin Lakes.”
You’ll hear lots of sentimental stories at a person’s memorial service. Especially if the life being celebrated is one of Leadville’s redheaded bar owners, who left the corner of 7th and Harrison in January 2014. As you can imagine, there was plenty of liquor flowing along with the tears, which eventually leads someone to say something that makes you sit up and take notice:
“Well, I have a story that Dave and I promised we would never tell anyone . . . until one of us died,” said his Long-time-friend with the same name. “It’s concerning that Fake Cop Car in Twin Lakes.”
The story opens on the front porch of the Twin Lakes Inn, also known as the Nordic Inn back in the late 1980s, when John Slater owned it, the first time.
Back then, to break up the long cold winters, the Inn would host an annual Hooker’s Ball, bringing all the Leadville rebel-rousers south to Twin Lakes for a weekend of boas and holsters. The weekends were legendary, and the pictures would make you blush!
One Sunday morning many years ago at the Hooker’s Ball, as the mountain village was shaking off a couple nights of debauchery, the two, young friends met up.
“So, I had come out to the front deck in the morning to have a smoke,” said Long-time-friend. “And there is Dave, swinging a set of keys around his finger with the biggest grin on his face. So I said, ‘Hey what’s up buddy. You got a set of keys there? Maybe to one of those rooms upstairs with the feather-beds? Did you get lucky last night?’”
“Nope,” said Dave, “It’s much better than that. These keys are to that Fake Cop Car across the way.”
Now for those who may not be familiar with the Fake Cop Car in Twin Lakes, it’s been used for decades to slow down motorists speeding through the tiny village on their way to and from Independence Pass. Over the years, this law enforcement decoy has served its purpose for visitors, especially as county budgets tightened and patrols were streamlined. It was – and still is – helpful in reducing traffic speeds.
But for locals, it’s always been the butt of many practical jokes. The male mannequin inside the vehicle has been subjected to all kinds of unique names, and could be found in various stages of (un)dress throughout its endless summer shifts.
So when Dave proudly professed to possessing the keys to this kitschy speed trap, Long-time-friend knew that his buddy had a plan. Now, keep in mind, this was back when the mine had closed, in the late 1980s, when many Leadville residents had left. For those who stayed behind, jobs were scarce.
So when a couple of up-and-coming Leadville entrepreneurs, who might just know some talented local “organic” farmers who had a knack for growing something that was in high demand among Aspen’s rich and famous, come across a new, more centrally located “storage” facility, they take advantage of the opportunity.
And thus began, Long-time-friend explained, the nearly seven-year stretch of the two friends named Dave, using that speed decoy as a safe keep for pot-running operations back and forth to Aspen during the summer season when Independence Pass was open. They would pop out the back seat and stash their weed in one of the most inconspicuous spots in the county, and wait for their next midnight run.
Now keep in mind, this was before Colorado legalized marijuana, before there was a dispensary on seemingly every corner, and before the hybrid bud dominated the weed scene with names like “atomic energy “ and “fruity pebbles.”
They were just a couple of pot dealers trying to make a living in a down and out old mining town. Their operations worked well, and no one ever suspected. Of course, when the summer season wrapped up, the decoy detective was stored for the winter, and the back seat operations were cleared as well.
But every spring, when Independence Pass opened up, Long-time-friend explained, that Fake Cop Car was put back out onto Highway 82 by local officials. And every year, Dave would buy that decoy deputy a new shirt. He’d pull him out of the car and give him a good talking to: ‘Hey buddy, you’d better be keeping a good eye on our stuff this season. Don’t let nobody steal nothing.” Then he’d rough up that “dummy” a bit, slap a new baseball cap on him, and shove him back into the front seat, casually leaning one arm across the steering wheel, waiting for the red-glow of brake lights from his next victim.
For years, their back seat operations continued, but like I said it was the late 1980s, and times and patrols were a bit leaner back then, after the last mining bust. Today, that fake cop car is still hauled out every season, keeping watch over the village and getting toursist on the #AutumnAspenAutobahn to pump their brakes a bit when hauling through Twin Lakes.
But as for me, whenever I see that Fake Cop Car make its annual appearance on Highway 82 in Twin Lakes, I can’t help but think about that old red-headed bar owner friend of mine from the corner of 7th and Harrison Avenue, downtown, In The ‘Ville. He always had a good tale to tell, even one “Concerning that Fake Cop Car at Twin Lakes.” Thanks for the story, Dave(s), it’s a good one!
Kathy Bedell owns The Great Pumpkin, A Media Company located in Leadville, Colorado which publishes LeadvilleToday.com and SaguacheToday.com.