They say it's your birthday


Two years ago I celebrated my 40th birthday. I wasn’t thrilled about turning 40 (who is?) and couldn’t convince myself that a celebratory shindig was a good idea (all that attention). But in her quiet way, a close friend convinced me it needed to happen. On an April evening, friends filled the upstairs of the Blue Sage, a bank-turned-community-center just down the street from the High Country News office. Home-cooked tapas covered the tables, sangria punch flowed, and salsa dancing ensued. I pedaled my birthday gift, a refurbished 1962 Ross bicycle, around the oak-floored rooms to the cheers of my friends. It was humbling, the sense of community.

Now, High Country News is celebrating its 40th year. The institution has a remarkable history, and in the weeks to come I’ll be sifting though four decades of feisty, independent, sometimes cantankerous, and often unpredictable reporting on the West.

High Country News' history isn’t just a chronicle of news-breaking stories or critical coverage of the political, environmental and cultural successes, battles and failures shaping the West. It’s also a story of a remarkable community. 

Tom Bell, an outspoken rancher, wildlife biologist and teacher, founded High Country News in Lander, Wyoming in 1970. He was a thunderous voice for the West, and was also charmed in his ability to create a community around his fledgling newspaper. Bell was the real deal, a man from generations of Wyoming ranching and mining stock. He instinctively understood the West's people and land, and his credibility cut across the political and cultural spectrum.

Ever since, many have felt a deep connection to High Country News, and in large part, this connection is what sustains us as an organization -- not just financially, but also in our desire to understand this complex region that shapes us. You encourage us and suggest ideas and respond to our stories with thoughtfulness and candor (and occasionally give us hell).

My personal sense of connection to HCN is hard to put into words, but it’s wrapped up in stints as an editorial intern and as a staffer, and also in the rugged, isolated, often abused Wyoming landscape, where High Country News was hatched, and where I grew up.

Certainly not everyone who reads High Country News, or clicks on an archived article, or scrolls through a blog shares this sense of community, but it’s one that’s worth getting to know. In the coming weeks we'll be feeding this blog with a stream of tasty bites and tidbits of history to celebrate the High Country News community and achievements. I invite you to join in the conversation by posting your comments as well.