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RANGELY | In Rangely the name Frank Huitt can bring a lot of things to mind. The big house on the hill with more animals than Cabela’s, airplanes and helicopters, donations and community involvement are all regularly heard in association with the name. However, what many don’t know is the hard work and dedication involved in his climb to the house on the hill, and the poverty he came from.
Frank Huitt grew up outside a little town in the Ozarks of Missouri. His father was a small farmer with 160 acres of land he worked with a team of mules. Frank, his three siblings, and parents lived in a 700 square foot home without indoor plumbing or many of today’s taken-for-granted amenities.
“I grew up dirt poor,” he said. “But I learned how to work and how to do any kind of work if I wanted something.” By 1972 Huitt had joined the Army where he served in infantry and reconnaissance for four years, including time in Panama. Two years after leaving the service he was wed to his wife, Grace. That same year— 1978—Frank and Grace relocated across the country to Rangely, seeking employment in the oilfield.
Grace remembers that first winter in 1978 as similar to the current one. “It was so muddy here,” she said.
But the town was booming and within a few days Huitt had a job. As is typical with Rangely booms, housing was scarce and the newlyweds wound up in a small rundown trailer. Grace still keeps a few Polaroid photos of that first house on hand, serving as a reminder of where they started.
By the early ’90s Frank was determined to start his own company. Grace however, was a little more timid about the idea.
“It really scared me,” she said. “We were doing well. I thought, why fix it if it ain’t broken?” Officially open for business in May 1994, KR Fishing and Rental experienced slow and steady growth. For several years Frank was the only employee with Grace managing the paperwork. If he wasn’t busy enough, in 2007 Huitt and a partner formed Uinta Well Service. Shortly after, in 2008, Frank was ready to sell KR. The sale of Uinta Well followed in 2013. During his more than 40 years in the oil and gas industry Huitt estimates he saw three to four booms.
“It was like a basketball, up or down. Not a lot of plateaus,” he said. Because of his experience with the Rangely boom and bust cycle Huitt was not surprised when the oilfield crash came in 2015. However, he believes that times like these can provide an opportunity for the entrepreneurial spirits.
“Now is the time a person could really get started,” he said. “If you have the capital, or access to it, now is the best time to buy equipment.” Huitt believes that current low prices and interest rates could allow someone to invest and enjoy success when the oil and gas market returns in a couple of years.
As his business grew Huitt found an increasing desire to get involved in local organizations and politics. This interest manifested in his election to the Western Rio Blanco Recreation Board where he served ten years before being elected to the Rangely Town Council. After serving eight years on the council Huitt sat two terms as mayor, where he served until 2016. Huitt says involvement was important because he wanted to help determine the direction the town was headed in and work towards continued growth, all while supporting local business. He believes deeply in the oil and gas industry and its importance to Rangely, a belief he tried to bring to his positions. “Extraction will always be the main driver of our economy. If that goes away, Rangely won’t survive,” he said.
Since retiring Huitt has opted to spend his time further enjoying the hobbies he has had all his life. The bulk of his spare time is filled with hunting. Huitt’s home boasts two trophy rooms filled with every type of creature. A veritable museum, the exquisitely prepared rooms document his hunting exploits around the world. Huitt, who has hunted every continent except Antarctica, delights in opening up his trophies for others to come enjoy. “I especially like showing it to young kids. Teachers or anyone with a group of kids are always welcome to bring their classes,” he said.
In the first months of 2017 Huitt has plans to hunt in Mexico, Argentina, Cameroon and Congo. When he’s not globe trotting for additions to his trophy room Huitt finds time to fly. Having both his airplane and helicopter pilot’s licenses as well as his own plane, Huitt enjoys getting behind the controls and above it all. His wife Grace remembers the time he landed his helicopter in their driveway, stirring up a ruckus, only to climb out of the pilot’s seat, pull out a hose and give the helicopter a good wash.
“The neighbors were taking pictures,” she said with a hint of a smile at her husband. After 39 years of marriage it’s clear how much the couple means to each other. “I’m proud of everything he’s accomplished,” Grace said. While Frank quickly adds, “It was we.”
The couple is happy to have retired in Rangely where they are close to family. Their son Ryan and his wife Dana also live in Rangely with their young son Easton, who Grace happily babysits regularly. Ryan owns Wildlife Expressions Taxidermy in Rangely. Christopher, the Huitt’s eldest son, also lives nearby in Fruita with his wife and three-year-old son Mason.
Huitt plans to remain involved in the community and says he’s even looking forward to getting back to town council meetings and seeing what they’ve been up to since his term as mayor ended.