The staff at High Country News does the trivial part of producing a newspaper: We contact writers and photographers, we edit, we lay out, we haul the papers back from the printer, we slap on 21,000-plus address labels, and then we truck the ton or so of forest product over to the post office.
Then begins the important part: physically delivering the paper into your hands. Unfortunately, delivery isn't going well at the moment. The Postal Service tells us that papers heading for California could take seven to 10 working days from now until the system clears itself after Christmas. Then we'll have a few days of normal delivery, at which point Y2K glitches will shut down the airlines, and all bets will be off.
The problem, of course, is the Postal Service tradition of delivering the mail through rain and sleet and snow. California is sadly deficient in rain, sleet and snow, and so the agency, bereft of inclemency, has difficulty functioning.
As an electronic stopgap, until Y2K, California subscribers can read each issue on the publication date at www.hcn.org.
Jean Hocker, who heads the Land Trust Alliance, in the Washington, D.C., area, visited Paonia, fresh from her group's annual meeting at Snowmass, Colo., which attracted 1,250 people intent on saving land. With her was spouse Phil Hocker, who founded the Mineral Policy Center, and now heads the Potomac Conservancy in Annandale, Va.
Paul and Maryfrances Offermann flew in from Buffalo, NY, to visit daughter Betsy Offermann, who is in charge of making HCN's direct mail letters, renewal cards, Research Fund letters, annual reports, and the like, look as good as possible.
Vada Sandes of Gardena, Calif., came by to say hello to us and to a town she is attached to through her great-great grandfather, Samuel Wade. Wade founded Paonia in 1888.
Another former Paonian - Cora Sue Johnson of Walla Walla, Wash. - also came through. Her family started Howard's Cash Hardware on Paonia's main street. It was a wonderful store - high, pressed-tin ceilings, wooden cabinets, and every hardware part you could hope for. And if your woodburning cookstove broke, owner Shorty Hunten would get a new part cast for you. The business is gone now, of course, courtesy of the global economy and its Big Box retailers.
Melinda Kassen, who is with Trout Unlimited in Denver, and husband Bill Goelz stopped by with 6-month-old Benjamin. The trio were on their way to Durango, where Melinda was going to talk to water officials from the point of view of streams and fish.
Clay MacDonald, formerly of Basalt and now of Paonia, came in to subscribe. He was ecstatic over his first Paonia haircut, which he says will last him six months.
Reader Dennis Hall of Crested Butte came by to get directions to the Chaco Sandals factory. He had brought along seven pairs of sandals for repair. Dennis is with the High Country Citizens Alliance and the Southern Rockies Ecological Project.
John Drake, a retired railroad worker from Estes Park, Colo., said he was curious about how this valley's organic farms coexist with the local coal mines.
Staffer Michelle Nijhuis ran into former intern Chip Giller at the recent Society of Environmental Journalists conference in Los Angeles. Chip is doing something subversive: publishing an environmental magazine with a sense of humor. You can check Grist out at www.gristmagazine.com.
* Ed Marston for the staff