Beloved Meeker outfitter killed in tractor accident
Gene Scritchfield told his wife every day that his life was too good to be true.
On Wednesday, the well-known, well-liked owner of Meeker’s Sable Mountain Outfitters was killed when the tractor he was driving veered off Rio Blanco County Road 41, throwing him from the tractor before pinning the 38-year-old Meeker native underneath, Rio Blanco Undersheriff Michael Joos said.
Melody Scritchfield, Gene’s sister-in-law, said the night Gene died, nearly 40 family and friends were packed inside Meeker’s Pioneers Hospital awaiting word about Gene.
“Our little town is kind of shut down,” said Melody, who added that hunters from across the country who have hunted with Gene through Sable Mountain Outfitters have passed along their condolences to the family.
Joos said he doesn’t know how the accident happened. Scritchfield’s family has no explanation either. There will be no autopsy, said his grandmother Arlene Fritzlan of Meeker.
What Ann Marie Scritchfield knows is her husband left behind family and friends who will remember how he loved to laugh, loved to ride horses and loved living in Meeker.
“He was a mountain man,” Ann Marie said. “He always told me I never had to worry about him on the mountain. He could handle everything on the mountain.”
Gene wasn’t on any mountains when he died. He was less than a half-mile from his home when the tractor accident happened about five miles east of Meeker, Joos said.
“He truly had a heart of gold,” Ann Marie said. “He always wanted to make people feel good. ... On a daily basis he said he was living a dream. He told me, ‘I love my kids. I love my wife. I love my life.’ ”
Gene leaves behind a son, Mason, who is 13, and daughter Eva, 2.
Gene and Mason enjoyed riding horses together, family said.
Gene Scritchfield and Ann Marie Nielsen graduated from Meeker High School in 1983. Ann Marie left for college and
Gene left for the Army shortly after high school. Both returned to Meeker at about the same time in 1997 when they began talking about spending the rest of their lives together, Ann Marie said.
In 1999, although they weren’t yet married, Ann Marie and Gene purchased Sable Mountain Guides in Meeker. In 2005, they purchased Marvine Outfitters, forming the Sable Mountain Outfitters company. They’ve been together for nearly a decade but only got married three years ago, Ann Marie said.
Gene’s love of outfitting began “when he was 7 or 8” when his grandparents paid him $15 a month to help run Fritzlan’s Guest Ranch, Fritzlan said.
“He rode many a trail with me,” Fritzlan said, adding it was difficult to refer to her grandson in the past tense. “He helped with packing when he was a little guy. He grew up in that business. He loved outfitting, and he loved his family.”
Bill deVergie, wildlife manager with the Colorado Division of Wildlife’s office in the Meeker area, knew Gene for nearly
12 years, he said. Although their relationship was mostly professional, deVergie said “a majority” of the 2,200 people who live in Meeker knew Gene.
“He’s just a good person,” deVergie said. “I spent some time with Gene on many rides. Gene just loved the outdoors. We talked about fish, deer, elk, all kinds of stuff. He was engaged in that part of the world.”
Funeral services for Gene will be at 11 a.m. Saturday at Marvine Campground near the Sable Mountain Outfitters stable. Arlene said Marvine Campground was among Gene’s favorite places to be.
“We loved being together 24/7,” Ann Marie said. “We were happiest that way.”