Dear Friends

  • Sketch of longhorn cow's head mounted on a pencil


Going with the flow

Locally, things are hopping. A cold snap wiped out up to half the fruit crop, and police say a "little old lady" mistook where the reverse gear was and plowed into the Paonia Post Office, demolishing three newspaper stands and a concrete wall. Both events were not novel. Fruitgrowers have always confessed their occupation is a lot like gambling, and postal workers here have been run-up on twice before. At least this time the plate-glass window held. The good news is the inexorable march of spring, witnessed by snowmelt filling up and flowing through irrigation ditches. On the face of the town's closest mountain, 11,000-foot Mount Lamborn, the line of white recedes daily, except when a cold front drops off new snow overnight. But the dusting doesn't stick; these days its pull is downward, toward rivers.

Potluck in Grand Junction

Board and staff of High Country News will join for one of our thrice-yearly meetings Saturday, May 18, in Grand Junction, Colo. Readers in the area are invited to a potluck dinner, beginning at 6:30 p.m., which also includes the board and staff of the Colorado Environmental Coalition. We hope interested readers will join us all at the newly renovated White Hall, 600 White Ave., across from City Hall. It's a former church, and it's also hosting a chamber music gathering that weekend. Please bring a dish to share; we'll provide everything else - except speeches.

Corrections and emendations

A Hotline April 29 mistakenly identified dams set for demolition on the Elwha River in Washington as built by the Bureau of Reclamation. Readers Ann Root and Tim Randle point out that the dams were privately constructed (69 and 82 years ago) to supply power to paper mills in Port Angeles; they are currently owned by the Daishowa/James River Company.

Words from the range

"Artistic geezer" and cowboy poet Cactus Chris Buethe of Las Cruces, N.M., tells us he was so inspired, or depressed, by our story about gambling's effect on Deadwood, S.D., that he composed a poem, "The Deadwood Cowboys." The last part goes like this:

"Ain't real cowboys that you see there by the gamblin's queen,
Pale dude fellers smellin" sweet and wearin" creased blue jeans,
No miners, "pokes, or ranchers or common folks cavort
with these new rich and famous who want "Deadwood Resort."
The city's change to be like Las Vegas makes me sore,
Why can't I find a cowboy in Deadwood any more?"

Speaking of cowboys, three poets who celebrate ranching, farming and other forms of hard physical work dropped in to tell us about the Grand Junction Cowboy Poetry Gathering, which drew close to 2,000 people April 19-20. Ronna Lee Sharpe, who helped organize the event for the Museum of Western Colorado, her husband, Tom, and friend Ray Lashley said essayist and poet Vess Quinlan was one of the standouts. Vess, a former truck driver who is back on the ranch in San Acacio, Colo., likes to tell the story of his rocky debut as a writer. A writing teacher told him: "This stuff is not as bad as it ought to be nor as good as it could be."

John Osborn isn't a cowboy exactly; he's a doctor in Spokane, Wash., an environmentalist and co-author of a book, Railroads and Clearcuts, that documents the transfer of railroad grants intended for homesteaders to corporations. When that book was published a year ago, Osborn stood in front of the Frederick Weyerhaeuser mansion in St. Paul, Minn., to call attention to Weyerhaeuser's role in the clearcutting of the Northwest's forests.

This April 16, Osborn got more personal. In Washington, D.C., he bearded the nine directors of the Weyerhaeuser Corp. at their annual shareholders' meeting. He told them that by clearcutting their corporate holdings so heavily they were in part responsible for the controversial "salvage logging" rider affecting public land. Then he handed each director a copy of his book and introduced a resolution requiring the election of directors each year - six directors serve three-year terms now. Osborn, perhaps resembling the lone cowboy facing a street full of better-armed opponents, lost. But not by much. The vote of shareholders was 62 million shares in favor, 82 million opposed.

We hear from Idaho reporter Rocky Barker that some word-packing Western residents have formed a group to "gently nudge the West, which they love, from a past of reckless land use, federal dependency and warring interests, toward a future of environmental responsibility, ecumenical self-governance and good neighbors." A tall order, but the group, Writers on the Range, includes Barker, Karl Hess, Linda Hasselstrom, Ed Quillen, Dave Foreman, Tom Wolf, Randal O'Toole, Bill Reibsame, Steve Bodio, Judy Blunt, Drum Hadley, John Baden, Penelope Reedy, Philip Brick, Christina Nealson, Don Snow, Mary Chapman, Gus DiZerega, Maria Varela, Dan Whipple and Ed Marston. One book is due to emerge from the group, another is expected next year and a syndicate, Range News Service, is under way. For more information write Writers on the Range, P.O. Box 2014, Idaho Falls, ID 83403 or e-mail: [email protected]

Odds and ends

We won't write someone smoked a "fragrant Havana," hewed to "dame fashion," or died when "a bullet crashed through his brain." We won't use these terms because we now possess Grant Milnor Hyde's Handbook for Newspaper Workers, and the textbook tells us to avoid these clichés, well, like the plague. We thank Jane Baxter, a reader in San Anselmo, Calif., for sending HCN this 1926 text, used by her father at the University of California.

We also thank reader Bob Stevens for sending us the Helena phone book.

Wildflowers, bats and butterflies all fascinate Kent Woodruff and others involved in the Methow Biodiversity Project. The group has just published the first edition of The Methow Naturalist, an 8-page newsletter in Winthrop, Wash. It's an all-volunteer effort, and Kent welcomes personal accounts of wildlife observations, art, poetry and news of events in the Methow Valley. Write The Methow Naturalist, Box 175, Winthrop, WA 98862.

- Betsy Marston, for the staff

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