Concerning That Fake Cop Car in Twin Lakes
Deputy Manny Quinn: Stiff Arm of the Law
Deputy Manny Quinn of Twin Lakes may be a soft-spoken, man-of-few words, but he is still the badge-wearing protector of Lake County’s southern portal along Highway 82. So, be sure to give him a wave if you see him in the village!
Here’s a story about this officer to keep you entertained while waiting for your racer to pass through! Thanks for your decades of service, Deputy Quinn, may you never retire or lose your head!
“Concerning That Fake Cop Car in Twin Lakes”
By Kathy Bedell © Leadville Today
Sometimes a great story comes along, but for one reason or another, it’s not ready to be told. Well, this interesting tale, recounted some years ago at a friend’s memorial service, is finally ready. And while there appears to be no social indicator concerning the proper amount of time to let pass before telling an “until one of us dies” story, this one has been approved: “Concerning that Fake Cop Car in Twin Lakes.”
There are many sentimental stories to be told at a person’s memorial service; it’s one of the reasons people gather. Especially, if the life being celebrated is one of Leadville’s legendary, redheaded bar owners, who left the corner of 7th and Harrison back in January 2014. As the man was honored, the whiskey and tears flowed along with the memories until someone told a tale that would make everyone 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 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 rabble-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 at the Hooker’s Ball, as the mountain village was shaking off a couple of nights of debauchery, 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. This dummy has been subjected to all kinds of unique names and can still be found today in various stages of (un)dress during its endless patrol shifts. So when Dave proudly professed to possess 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 town for greener pastures and work. For those who stayed behind, jobs were scarce.
So when a couple of up-and-coming Leadville entrepreneurs, who might just know some talented, organic farmers possessing a knack for harvesting a particular crop that was in high demand among Aspen’s rich and famous, had gained access to a new “storage” facility, they took advantage of the opportunity.
And thus began the nearly seven-year stretch of the two friends named Dave, using that speed decoy as a safe keep for their pot operations, which had them traveling back and forth to Aspen during the summer season when Independence Pass was open. The back seat to that fake cop car was popped out and became the vault for their weed stash. It was hidden in plain sight, in one of the most conspicuous spots in the county, just waiting for the next midnight run.
Now keep in mind, this was before Colorado legalized marijuana, before there was a dispensary on seemingly every corner. These two bud entrepreneurs were just a couple of pot dealers trying to make a living in a down and out mining town. They kept it simple which made operations successful, and no one ever suspected. Of course, each fall when the summer season wrapped up, the decoy detective was stored for the winter, and the back seat operations were cleared out 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, the Daves 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 on the red glow of brake lights from his next victim.
For years, their back seat operations continued, until some villagers “caught wind of” the situation and threatened a bust. It was time to find another storage facility which they did. Today, that fake cop car is still hauled out every season, to keep watch over the village and encourage tourists to pump their brakes when cruising through Twin Lakes.
But as for me, whenever I see Deputy Manny Quinn I think about that red-headed bar owner. He always had a good tale to tell, but this one, he left for someone else to share. So thanks to the Daves for the story! It’s the real deal!