Dear friends

  • Sharon and Jon Denious of the Silverton Standard

    Josh Stephenson/Durango Herald

The contrary West

We won't regale you with old saws about weather, such as the one that goes, "If you don't like the weather here, just wait a minute - it'll change." But we'd like to, because here and in some places like eastern Idaho, where it's been so damp there are fears of a potato blight, all this moisture feels wrong. Pasture grass by now is supposed to have turned yellow and started crackling when you walk over it, but no, irrigation ditches are still running full, and every night it pours. Sometimes it even rains during the morning, and in parts of Colorado it has flooded, killing people. We know weather in the arid West isn't predictable, but this run of moisture worries us a little. Will it keep on, finally turning to snow in late August?

Read all about it

Reader Don Bachman told us about an entrepreneurial opportunity in a town he knows well from years of teaching courses there on backcountry avalanches. The opportunity is buying western Colorado's oldest newspaper, The Silverton Standard and the Miner, still going strong at 113. Owners Jon and Sharon Denious have published the eight- or 12-page tabloid once a week for seven years, but "now that we've taken the paper through the hard times' - the area's big taxpayer, the Sunnyside Mine, closed in 1991 - "it's time for someone else to take it on," he says.

Finding a taker may not be easy, perhaps because the town of Silverton houses just 550 people, down from 740 in 1990. But the downward trend is over, Denious believes, while tourism is growing. A narrow-gauge railroad brings 200,000 people through town each summer from Durango, Colo., and in winter there's a "little influx of extreme skiers."

With a circulation some three times the Silverton population you can make a living, Jon Denious says. He and his wife would love to give someone the chance to own a small-town weekly. To learn more, call broker Ruth Siegfried at 970/387-5883 or the owners at 970/387-5477.

Fun interruptions

You can get to wherever you're headed in the West without stopping at High Country News, but staff would rather readers figure a pit stop is handy. Recent visitors heading elsewhere included Catharine and Eric Walkinshaw, from Eatonville, Wash., along with their daughter, Camille, 7. Visitors from closer to home were Grand Junction Daily Sentinel columnist Henrietta Hay and her son, John and his wife, Ruth Murray, from Phoenix. Trudi Peet, a longtime subscriber from Sleeping Cow Ranch in Carbondale, said hello, while from farther away came Michael Pearce, chief counsel for Arizona's Department of Water Resources. A skilled birder, Myriam Friggens, was here from Boulder, Colo., to look for the purple martin on McClure Pass.

We talked the virtues of small towns with Bluma and Stan Kaplan, who live in Chicago, and who were traveling with their grandson, Tao Rosenberg, a resident of Israel. And from Martinez, Calif., came physicist Paul Craig, an activist on nuclear waste issues, and his wife, Kay.

Writer Rose Houk, a specialist in national park histories, stopped in with her husband, Michael Collier, who also writes when he isn't working as a doctor or photographer. Her latest project is a book about the small but delightful Homestead National Monument in Nebraska; his is a book, Embracing the Colorado: A River and its Basin.

Jed Little, the son of California freelancer Jane Braxton Little and a fairly recent Stanford University graduate, inquired in person about the paper's intern program. Former intern Glenn Levy stopped in to say hello while checking out Colorado colleges "to polish up his education." He was en route to Glenwood Springs, where he hoped some well-deserved soaking in a hot pool would help him figure out what to do with his life.

Awesome and other news

Freelance writer Steve Stuebner has a new book out, Mountain Biking in McCall, co-authored with Roger Phillips and featuring "over 20 awesome rides" through Idaho national forests.

Climbers really know their bolts. Several readers let us know that a technical climber pictured (HCN, 7/7/97) wasn't in New Mexico but on a rock face in California's Joshua Tree National Monument, now a national park. Photographer Steve Ryder says the NM on the back of his photo must have misled us. One of our correspondents on this matter, Thomas White of Charleston, W.Va., says, "I'm pretty much of a hack climber, but if you ask me there's nothing inherently evil about bolting in BLM wilderness areas." The debate continues.

We heard from historian T.H. Watkins, once an editor with The Wilderness Society in Washington, D.C., that he is now a real Westerner, having been invited to take a seat in the region. It is the new Wallace Stegner Distinguished Chair in Western American Studies, based at Montana State University in Bozeman. He will teach a course he calls "Wallace Stegner and the Western Dream of Place," which he describes as an exploration of Western identity and other matters, many of them environmental.

E-mail correspondents send us tidbits now and then, among them this East Texas rule of etiquette for entertaining in the home: "A centerpiece for the table should never be anything prepared by a taxidermist."

From reader Steve West in Carlsbad, N.M., an avid conservationist, came a sampling of bumper stickers he's seen on pickup trucks. One covers innumerable bases: "I'm white, male, straight, proud, a supporter of the NRA, and am of the opinion that spotted owl tastes like chicken."

Congratulations to Nancy Moran at the University of Arizona, for winning a "genius grant" of $265,000 from the MacArthur Foundation. A biologist, she researches the relationships between aphids and their host plants to find out the role of altruistic behavior in evolution. Of the 23 winning grants, six were Westerners, including Elouise Cobell, a businesswoman and activist on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation in Montana and Kathleen Ross, president of Heritage College in Toppenish, Wash.

Web site gets a makeover

HCN's Web site has a new look. Thanks to Alan Schussman, our summer Web intern from Whitman College, the site has new graphics and several new features: letters from readers, links to resources throughout the region, special collections of HCN articles and an updated topic index.

Of the six most recent issues, however, the new design offers only the lead article; our logic is that you still have these recent issues lying around your office or living room and don't yet need to call them up from the archive. Potential readers, on the other hand, will want to have them and won't want to wait until we post the full issue. So they'll subscribe. We hope.

We want this site to work for you. Please visit and send us your reactions or e-mail [email protected]

* Betsy Marston for the staff

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