Dear friends

  • One Man's West (book cover)

  • A LOT IN COMMON: Conservationist Tom Bell, left, andInterior Secretary Bruce Babbitt

    Mike McClure
 

Stop the presses!

Sometimes the forces of sprawl get beaten by determined community opposition. That rare story about a small town's successful campaign to stay small is reported in this issue by associate editor Greg Hanscom. What was almost as startling was the timing: This issue was 99 percent finished, and as far as we knew, the chances of tiny Tome, N.M., defeating a planned bridge were slim to nonexistent. Then a fax arrived from the New Mexico State Highway and Transportation Department. The fax said the bridge was dead; in other words, "David" had beaten "Goliath." Suddenly Greg had phone calls to make and rewriting to do before heading for a family Thanksgiving in Park City, Utah. "It was exciting, sweaty work," he tells us, and you can read all about it in this issue.

Literary legend celebrates 90

Though he only worked as a gold miner at the Camp Bird Mine near Ouray, Colo., for one year, David Lavender's vivid memoir about going underground 70 years ago will live forever in his book, One Man's West, reissued by Nebraska University Press.

Born in Telluride in 1910, Lavender acknowledges that he didn't know a thing about gold mining when he got the job, but he learned fast and kept safe, just as he easily picked up cowboying on his stepfather's ranch.

This account of early manhood is just one of many books Lavender has written through a six-decade career of documenting a region he loves. Just turned 90, Lavender was honored recently by members of the Western Slope branch of the Colorado Mountain Club, who were also celebrating their own beginning, 50 years ago. Lavender, it turns out, was also a prodigious climber in his youth, though climbing equipment back then, he said, was whatever stuff you could throw together.

In Carbondale, Colo., to give three cheers to Lavender and to talk about the early days of climbing were Gudy Gaskill, who made sure the 500-mile Colorado Trail got built, Bob Martin, who has climbed 5,000 peaks in his time, Bill Hamann and Bob Beverly, who helped the western Colorado group get going a half-century ago, David Lavender's wife, Muriel, and the historian's grandson, also named David, who heads the English department at the Colorado Rocky Mountain School, along with his wife, Karen.

The get-together was organized by the Western Slope group's outgoing president, Mark Schmalz and his wife, Terry, both teachers, history buffs and, of course, avid climbers. These days, David and Muriel Lavender live in Ojai, Calif.

Like a bulldog ...

Tom Bell, founder of this newspaper in 1970, and members of the Wyoming Outdoor Council - a nonprofit also founded by Tom in the same year - have fought for decades for preservation of Wyoming's Red Desert. Recently, they convinced an ally at the top: Bruce Babbitt.

The Interior secretary flew to Riverton, Wyo., in late November to say that the federal agency under his jurisdiction had to think again before deciding the Red Desert was appropriate for oil and gas drilling.

Babbitt was met at the airport by dozens of protesters, some of whom carried signs reading "Babbitt Go Home," but the soon-to-be-former Interior czar didn't budge.

He said the BLM must offer a "preferred alternative" that emphasizes the protection of wildlife and scenery, as well as cultural treasures such as the Oregon and Mormon pioneer trails and South Pass mining camps.

Babbitt said it was necessary to assure consideration of a new alternative because most public comments among the 12,000 weighing in stressed protection, not development.

For Bell, a bulldog on the issue of Red Desert protection, and other grassroots activists such as Mac Blewerat the Wyoming Outdoor Council, Babbitt's visit was a great day.

Mysterious no more

Those visitors whose names we misplaced wrote to tell us they are Mark Miller and Sue Samuelson from Seattle, Wash., and that they hope we continue to try to pierce the "Cascade Curtain."

Dropping in from Frisco, Colo., were Rachel and Jim Pokrandt, who are both in the same field; she teaches journalism at Summit High School in Breckenridge, and he publishes the Ten Mile Times in Frisco.

Bombardier executive Oakley Brooks came from Washington, D.C., to visit his son, intern Oakley Brooks. Confused? You're not the only one: A few weeks ago a congressional staffer stopped the elder Brooks on the street and asked him when he started writing for High Country News.

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