For 29 years, the small meat processing shop on Maybell’s main street came to life every fall to accommodate the hundreds of hunters that call northwest Colorado their temporary home during hunting season.
“I employed almost everybody in Maybell at one time or another,” said Dar Haskins, owner and operator of the meat cutting operation that finally shut off the lights last year.
The small Colorado town was also his home growing up, unsurprisingly with a taste for deer and antelope.
“I went to school here until I headed to Craig for high school,” said Haskins, a former honor roll student. “We grew up on wild game. We never left anything on an animal.”
That lifestyle eventually led Haskins to the business of game processing. Cutting meat came naturally to him as he filled customers’ orders.
“The back straps and tenderloins we cut into steaks,” he said. “Shoulders and smaller pieces go into stew meat. Hind quarters are round steak and trimmings are ground into hamburger.”
His business was known for breakfast sausage made on request and his upbringing gave him an appreciation for some other “special cuts.”
“Liver is great – liver and heart,” Haskins said. “The way I was raised, you ate every part, right down to the bone.”
With the shop always hopping during hunting season, work started early.
“I would get up at 4 a.m. and round ‘em up,” he said, referring to his helpers. “Most were local ranch kids that I put to work.”
The business would process up to 600 deer and antelope during good seasons, employing as many as 13 workers at times. They could process an animal in about 20 minutes and have it in the freezer for the customer to pick up the next morning.
“One thing we preferred was to skin the antelope ourselves,” he said. “When they did it out in the field, they got hair all over the place. You can pull the hide off in one piece if you do it right.”
On his own hunting trips, Haskins’ choice of knives is his trusty folding pocketknife, which he proudly displays upon request. But the days of others retrieving their frozen, double-wrapped meat from the Maybell facility are now just a memory.
Haskins admits that not opening for the 2019 season was hard. But his sons Josey and Jessie are now grown and have other interests to pursue. So retirement calls to Haskins. Not always easy to face, he recalls fondly the life left behind.
“We used to have races …” he said, smiling. “But we did a good job.”
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