HCN interns: city kids meet gritty rural life

  • Shea Andersen next to statue honoring coal miners in Paonia Town Park

    Cindy Wehling
 

As word filters in from former HCN interns, I'm beginning to understand my place in a long and distinguished line of grunt laborers. I see now that I'm riding a wave's crest, benefiting from past intern suffering. Compared to bygone days, my time is a cakewalk.

One change is that the town of 1,400 is ready to receive us. Earlier staffers talk about an out-of-the-way place without much entertainment. Nowadays I go to first-run movies at the Paradise Theater and get all the espresso I can drink at the Moonrise Cafe. Paonia is changing; residents look around warily for fear that Outside Magazine will send a reporter through, looking for another Dream Town candidate. A lot of us sneak around, smirking behind our collars, hoping we'll be the last one in.

After years of youthful influx, Paonia recognizes interns for what we are: city kids eager for a taste of gritty rural life. So when we walk into any store, or meet locals familiar with HCN, we get a knowing look. We can tell they're sizing us up, shuffling through their to-do lists for things we might take care of for them. I've gotten offers for housesitting, dogsitting, even chicken-feeding. Someone wants me to do her irrigating next week. I'll check my schedule.

We're relied on for anything. Recently, at an office party for a staffer's birthday, there was too much ice cream left over to fit in the tiny refrigerator. "Can't we just feed it to the interns?" someone asked.

What hasn't changed about the internship? As Kate Gunness Williams (fall '89) pointed out, we interns still find ourselves "engaged in a lively, real and powerful debate" just by being part of this paper. Suddenly I am in the thick of things, helping put out the paper, where before I had only been an avid reader.

Then there's editing: I re-wrote my intern bio four times. Bob Wilson (summer "94) joked with me about the sort of mixed pride he felt about seeing his byline in the paper. "Oh, there were some good pieces in there, I just wish I could say they were mine!" Sometimes I go home at night and write rambling, run-on letters with bad grammar to friends, just for the fun of it.

Interns are still part of the paper's backbone. I pick up and deliver the daily mail, but thanks to Gingy Anderson (spring '89) and later interns, I don't have to do the day-long mailing of the newspaper every two weeks. We still hole up in a cabin at Intern Acres above Paonia, for which we don't pay rent now, thanks to Anders Halverson and Ross Freeman, (winter '94), and still screw up morning public radio shows. We do a lot of house-sitting to get a flavor of life in the valley.

Summer internships go fast. I've got three more weeks to figure out how to write a Hotline without getting edited. My writer's ego is battered, but it will heal after I go, and hopefully I'll never forget "active verbs, check your facts ..." and I'll never forget Paonia or The Little Paper That Could. The little paper that changes lives, occasionally for the better.

Shea Andersen is a current HCN intern.

High Country News Classifieds
  • SECLUDED COLORADO HIDEAWAY
    This passive solar home sits on 2 lots and offers an abundance of privacy and views while being only 15 minutes to downtown Buena Vista....
  • COMMUNICATIONS COORDINATOR
    Introduction: Grand Staircase Escalante Partners (GSEP) is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization with offices located in Kanab and Escalante, Utah. We are committed to the conservation...
  • CARETAKER
    2.0 acre homestead needing year-round caretaker in NE Oregon. Contact [email protected] for details.
  • MEMBERSHIP MANAGER
    For more information visit www. wyofile.com/careers/
  • THRIVING LOCAL HEALTH FOOD STORE FOR SALE
    Turn-key business opportunity. Successful well established business with room to grow. Excellent highway visibility.
  • DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR
    For more information, visit www.wyofile.com/careers/
  • STAFF ATTORNEY
    STAFF ATTORNEY POSITION OPENING www.westernlaw.org/about-us/clinic-interns-careers The Western Environmental Law Center (WELC) is a high-impact, nonprofit public interest environmental law firm with a 27-year legacy using...
  • PROJECT MANAGER
    Position Summary Join our Team at the New Mexico Land Conservancy! We're seeking a Project Manager who will work to protect land and water across...
  • SEEKING PROPERTY FOR BISON HERD
    Seeking additional properties for a herd of 1,000 AUM minimum. Interested in partnering with landowners looking to engage in commercial and/or conservation bison ranching. Location...
  • DIRECTOR OF PRODUCT AND MARKETING
    High Country News seeks a Director of Product and Marketing to join our senior team during an exciting chapter of innovation and growth. This individual...
  • WILDLIFE HAVEN
    Beautiful acreage with Teton Creek flowing through it. Springs and ponds, lots of trees, moose and deer. Property has barn. Easy access. approx. 33 acres.
  • ARIZONA CONSERVATION CORPS PROGRAM DIRECTOR
    Arizona Conservation Corps is seeking a Program Director in Flagstaff or Tucson
  • COPPER STAIN: ASARCO'S LEGACY IN EL PASO
    Tales from scores of ex-employees unearth the human costs of an economy that runs on copper.
  • EXPERT LAND STEWART
    Available for site conservator, property manager. View resume at http://skills.ojadigital.net.
  • CONSERVATIONIST? IRRIGABLE LAND?
    Stellar seed-saving NGO is available to serious partner. Package must include financial support. Details: http://seeds.ojaidigital.net.
  • CANYONLANDS FIELD INSTITUTE
    Colorado Plateau Natural & Human History Field Seminars. Lodge, river, hiking options. Small groups, guest experts.
  • WESTERN NATIVE SEED
    Specializing in native seeds and seed mixes for western states.
  • CHUCK BURR'S CULTUREQUAKE.COM BLOG
    Change will happen when we see a new way of living. Thinking to save the world.
  • COMING TO TUCSON?
    Popular vacation house, furnished, 2 bed/1 bath, yard, dog-friendly. Lee at cl[email protected] or 520-791-9246.
  • OJO CALIENTE COMMERCIAL VENTURE
    Outstanding location near the world famous Ojo Caliente Mineral Spring Resort. Classic adobe Mercantile complete w/living quarters, separate 6 unit B&B, metal building and spacious...