Dear Friends

  • Intern Dustin Solberg

    Cindy Wehling
  • "Whale" Hansen

    Raechel Marie Running

Utah in the news

Staff is still exhausted thinking about the trials of Utah Republican Rep. Enid Waldholtz. Her tears flowed copiously for almost five hours two weeks ago while she told the nation she was financially deceived by her husband. Retiring Democrat Rep. Pat Schroeder of Colorado minced no words in giving Waldholtz advice: "Resign ... If any American went out and procured items with illegally gotten money and it was discovered, they would have to give it back."

Meanwhile, the debate over designating wilderness on Bureau of Land Management lands in Utah grows hotter as Congress moves quickly. This issue, much of it by activist and writer Ray Wheeler, shows just how hot.

A whale of a man

He was a Grand Canyon boatman named Curtis Hansen, but everyone called him Whale. He was portly, liked to smoke and drink, and believed in having a good time ("You bring the backpack, I'll bring the six-pack"), recalls friend Bob Grusy, who is collecting "Whale tales" to share with the hundreds - maybe thousands - of people who knew him over the years. Whale resembled a great big cuddly bear, says Grusy, and he never talked much about his helicopter duty in Vietnam. Suffering from ulcers, Whale, 48, killed himself in late August; since then, two memorial services near the Colorado River have been held. There may be more.

Anyone who knew Whale wants to talk about him; to celebrate him, says boatman Steve Bledsoe. Not just because he was a Falstaffian character, but also because he embodied a way of the river that's now gone. That way was unencumbered by many regulations, for back in the late 1960s, recalls Bledsoe, just a "couple thousand" tourists signed up for boat trips through the canyon; now it's 25,000.

"We made the rules," Bledsoe says, "but now the rules have gotten out of hand." Popularity has changed the experience from rugged and unpredictable to something approaching tame. "Whale was the wild days," Bledsoe says.

If you have a whale tale, send it to the boatman's quarterly review, whose recent issue includes moving tributes to Whale by Brad Dimock, Earl Perry and Larry Stevens. The review's address is P.O. Box 934, Flagstaff, AZ 86002, or call Bob Grusy at 520/525-1250.

New winter intern

Colorado is the fifth state that new intern Dustin Solberg has called home in the last five months. Last June, he joined a harvest crew that followed the ripening wheat north from Oklahoma to Kansas, and then to South Dakota and North Dakota. His season of hot, dusty, 15-hour days ended a couple of miles shy of the Canada border, just as the snow geese and sandhill cranes began migrating south.

Before graduating from the University of Montana in geography and journalism last May, the Grand Forks, N.D., native spent summers leading teens with Habitat for Humanity projects in Colorado and on canoe trips through Minnesota's Boundary Waters.

He tells us his hands have adjusted to a Macintosh keyboard again, though they're still callused from gripping the wheel of a truck during trips from the field to a grain elevator. After his internship, Dustin says he'll finish building a 17-foot cedar and canvas kayak and begin searching for a job in journalism.

Colorado Springs, here we come

The board and staff of High Country News invite readers in Colorado Springs and towns nearby to a potluck get-together Saturday, Jan. 20, from 6-9 p.m. We'll be at Colorado College in the Gaylord Hall of the Worner Campus Center, 902 N. Cascade Ave. Please call Linda at 970/527-4898 to confirm. We spread the word early because our next issue, after a winter break, emerges on Jan. 22, 1996.

Drop ins

Thanks to Steve Graham, who works with the nonprofit Community Resource Center in Denver, HCN has a hefty 407-page Colorado Grants Guide, just published by the center. Steve is working with three field representatives in the state to help grassroots groups divine ways to apply for money - no easy feat - and the guide is part of the expertise he offers. He can be reached at 303/860-7711.

Kathie Wasserman, an archaeologist in Sitka, Alaska, population 8,000, dropped in to talk and look at back issues of the paper. On their way to Utah, Val and Leslie Veirs stopped to talk to staff about the HCN board meeting and reader potluck set for their town, Colorado Springs. Val teaches physics and a new environmental science course at Colorado State University; Leslie coordinates a program for talented and gifted children in public schools.

We heard from Bill Schneider at Falcon Press in Helena, Mont., a major publisher in the West. He strongly suggests we revisit the issue of guidebooks and their role in the region (HCN, 9/4/95 - -I came, I saw, I wrote a guidebook." ) His position: Books that draw people to this rugged land and its rivers turn people - almost always - into advocates; the few bad apples in publishing are overwhelmed by the responsible ones.

In any case, Schneider adds, "The answer to overusing a wilderness is more wilderness. We can deal with overuse more than non-existence."

- Betsy Marston for the staff

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