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  • WEB MASTER: Chris Wehner wants you to check

    Cindy Wehling photo

Welcome, Chris Wehner

High Country News welcomes Chris Wehner, who will manage the newspaper's home on the World Wide Web. Originally from Rockford, Ill., outside of Chicago, Chris lives an hour's drive from Paonia in Grand Junction, Colo., with his wife, Paula, and their blended family of five children. He'll split his time between working at the office and home.

Chris started working with computers in the seventh grade, writing programs for a predecessor to the Internet, BBS, the bulletin board system. "It was crude by today's standards," he says, "but it was interactive and pretty cool."

After earning a degree in history at Mesa State College in Grand Junction, Chris decided to try his hand at screenwriting. "At one time, I had a Hollywood agent who promised to make me big," he says with a laugh. That didn't pan out, so Chris found a job as a parole officer, and in his free time, he created an Internet site for aspiring film writers called "Screenwriters' Utopia," which hosts about 1,000 visitors each day. Without planning it, Chris became a Web-meister.

Chris says his first mission for High Country News is cleaning up the Web site, which has been patched together over the years. Chris will also work with editorial staff to redesign the site and make it easier to use and more interactive. The goal is a virtual home where readers can search the newspaper's archives and read about current issues. The site can also become a gathering place, he says, where people return regularly to see what's new and meet one another.

"I want my Columbine back"

We all reacted in our own ways to the attack and murders at Columbine High School. Writer Ed Quillen, who lives in Salida, Colo., had a visceral response:

"On a personal level, this tragedy hit home in a strange and perhaps unique way. Our older daughter is named Columbine, and her name has become a synonym for horror.

"When she was born in 1975, we lived in Kremmling, Colo. - a little mountain town along the Colorado River, where we owned the weekly newspaper. Kremmling was, and still is, a rather obscure place. As we settled in, though, we learned that there was a novel set near Kremmling.

"It was The Mysterious Rider by Zane Grey, and the heroine was named Columbine. Colorado's state flower is the columbine, so it was a familiar word, but we'd never thought of it as a person's name before.

"We were more or less hippies - flower children as it were - living in the mountains of Colorado, and the columbine was a mountain flower. It's also a beautiful flower, as anyone who's seen columbines in bloom will attest.

"So we named our daughter Columbine. As she grew, we presumed she'd establish a nickname along the way - Colly, perhaps, like the heroine in the novel - but she always preferred the full Columbine.

"For the past few days, every time I've been exposed to the news, I encounter phrases like "hate produces Columbines," "Columbine massacre" and "the horror of Columbine."

"I called to ask her how she was handling it. "At first, it was just one of those things," she said, "but after a day or two, it starts to wear on you. Before, people would say "Oh, what a pretty name," and now my name isn't a mountain flower. Overnight, it quit being a pretty name. It's like being named "Kosovo" or "Wounded Knee." "

"I want to shout to the world that Columbine isn't a tragedy. She's an intelligent, energetic and attractive young woman who climbs mountains and speaks three languages, who will graduate with honors from Western State College this spring.

"As a father, I want my Columbine back. As a Coloradan and resident of the Rocky Mountains, I want our columbines back. Media of the world, please find another byword for the horror."

Potluck in Helena, Montana

The board and a half-dozen staff members of High Country News head for Helena this month for an all-day meeting. Before the talk gets heavy, readers are invited to an informal get-together Friday, May 21, at 6:30 p.m. at the YWCA, 501 N. Park Ave. RSVP, please, to Michelle Allen, 970/527-4898. Please bring a potluck dish to share; we'll provide the drinkables and promise no speeches.

* Betsy Marston for the staff

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