Dear Friends


Snow time in the Rockies

Winter has crept up on us, even though the town of 1,400 where we work boasts "banana belt" status. Avalanche reports take the place of weather or traffic bulletins on KVNF, our public radio station, embellished by personal accounts from disc jockeys. Here are a few of the mishaps that can happen to anyone leaving the house before dawn: deer bounding across the road or into your vehicle, black ice, icy hills, vehicles sliding off the road ahead, ground fog, unlighted stealth trains hauling coal in 100 creeping cars that block intersections for six minutes and 15 seconds (we've timed it), cranky defrosters, puny heaters, and snow that seems to drive right into your eyes. A new one is doors frozen shut from a night of snow mixed with rain The upside? Nothing becomes a mountain more than snow.

Skipping an issue

During the winter High Country News takes a break, allowing readers to catch up on their reading and staff to recharge its batteries and think about hot stories coming up in 1998. The next issue should be in mailboxes Jan. 19.


Thanks to rancher David M. Salman, a Las Vegas, N.M., contributor to this paper's Research Fund, and apologies for mangling his name and address in ways we won't go into here, again.

Two readers sent comments and or corrections about Mark Matthews' story about bringing back black-footed ferrets to the prairie (HCN, 12/8/97). It is the Forest Service at its Buffalo Gap National Grassland that runs a program for getting ferrets ready for life in the wild; after their orientation, the animals are released at several sites, including Badlands National Park. The story also failed to mention that Montana rancher Darlyne Dascher, an opponent of ferret reintroduction, is a commissioner for the state Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks. Thanks to Peter McDonald of Rapid City, S.D., and Jonathan Proctor of Bozeman, Mont., for getting in touch.

Join us in Tucson

The board and staff of High Country News meet all day Jan. 24 in Tucson, Ariz., to talk about the paper's new project, Writers on the Range, a new budget and other matters.

But the evening before, Friday, Jan. 23, a potluck is scheduled. Subscribers within a two-hour drive of Tucson will be receiving an invitation in the mail. Anyone else interested in attending should call Linda, 970-527-4898, after the first of the year.

Skip school, says John McPhee

In some colleges these days, courses in "creative nonfiction" are the rage. Should would-be journalists take such courses? Yes, says two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Jon Franklin, who teaches creative writing at the University of Oregon; not necessarily, advises John McPhee, author of 24 books, including classics about the West. Both spoke out in the Nov. 28 issue of the magazine, Chronicle of Higher Education.

Franklin says you can teach students writing the way the craft of furniture-making can be taught. McPhee's answer is a surprising and delightful plug for this paper's internship program:

"I didn't go to journalism school. I never went to any graduate program in writing at all. If I was starting out now, I'd go to Colorado and work for High Country News. I'd try to get writing somewhere for somebody, get paid for it, and see what went on. My inclination would be to grow on the job, but not to the exclusion of these programs. Writing teaches writing. The doing of writing develops the writer, and the teacher coaches." Thanks to Colorado State University journalism professor Garrett Ray for sending us the tear sheet, and, thanks to John McPhee!

* Betsy Marston for the staff