Visitors, after hours

  • After-hours visitors Dave Morgan and Bobbie Sumberg.

    Denise Massart-Isaacson

It's been cold, snowy and oddly humid here in Paonia, Colo., but a few intrepid souls still ventured out to visit us. Longtime subscribers Dave Morgan and Bobbie Sumberg dropped by our office while on a trip from their home in Santa Fe, N.M. Unfortunately, by the time they reached HCN, we'd already closed for the day, but later that evening, while enjoying a local-foods dinner at Fresh & Wyld Farmhouse Inn, they bumped into our business manager, Denise Massart-Isaacson, and her husband, Bob, who were also out on the town. Later that weekend, they did some backcountry skiing, and then it was back to work -- river restoration for Dave, textile exhibits at the Museum of International Folk Art for Bobbie.

Reader Anne Little of Missoula, Mont., recently sent a note to author Brian Doyle, whose prose poem "What's It Like To Live In The West" appeared in HCN in October 2007. "That poem was the tipping point for my husband and me to finally pull up stakes in Seattle and move to THE WEST," wrote Anne. "We've been here nearly a year and, although some people would argue that Missoula, being a ‘blue' neighborhood and all, isn't really the West (with a capital W), I've just had the best year of my life. My challenge now is to not be so enthusiastic about my new home as to entice all my friends to relocate as well. I expect someday the honeymoon will end and you may receive a different letter, but right now it's 32 degrees and raining and I don't mind a bit." Glad we could help motivate your move, Anne!


Ten years ago, an architect named Malcolm Wells got in touch with us after reading about High Country News in, of all things, People magazine. He said he liked the sound of a little paper based in a small town that tackled big environmental stories about the West, and -- surprisingly -- he offered to help us with some illustrations.

You bet, we said, and in 2000, Mac, as he liked to be called, traveled to Paonia, where, for a week, he helped us perk up the paper's design, spending most of his time illustrating a special issue called "Beyond the revolution," about Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt's attempt to diversify the West's power structure.

We quickly learned that Mac, who recently died, age 83, at his home in Cape Cod, was extraordinarily modest. He was a pioneer architect in what he called earth-sheltered architecture, but we could never get him to talk much about his long and distinguished career designing buildings that blended with the landscape. He wrote many books, but one of his favorites was the whimsical Sandtiquity: Architectural Marvels You Can Build at the Beach. It was written in collaboration with his daughter, Kappy Wells, and friend Connie Simo, and it featured perfectly rendered miniature landmarks you could create on a beach, using just a straightedge -- think pyramids or a sandy Machu Picchu.

Mac was one of the few people we know who wrote his own obituary, in 2006. In it, he described himself as "an atheist, a Democrat, a skinny old bearded guy" whose luck in life never failed. We were extraordinarily lucky to have worked with him.


In the Jan. 18 issue, in "Heard Around the West" we stated that San Joaquin County was in Southern California. We meant to refer to the city of San Joaquin. Our review of The Wilderness Warrior credited President Richard Nixon with signing the Clean Water Act. Nixon actually vetoed it at first and was overridden by Congress. We regret the errors.

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