Letters – #177

Envelope: By M. Ward.

We’re in the market for decorative envelopes to help beautify our Letters pages. If you’ve got an artistic envelope bent, pull out your weapons-of-choice, decorate an envelope with our snail mail address on it, mail the resultant envelope to us, and, if we print it, we’ll give you a year’s subscription to the Mountain Gazette.

Bad trip
Hi John, Read “Bad Trip” (Smoke Signals, MG #175) with a sense of déjà vu.

After finishing training in family practice in the early ’70s, my then-wife and I were invited to look at small town practice in western Kansas, Oberlin to be precise. Like you, I figured not too far from Colorado, so we would give it a look.

So, on a cold November Friday, we headed east and lost sight of the mountains in the rear view mirror at Limon. There are two colors out there that time of year, grey and brown, which reflected our mood as we pulled into town. Oh yeah, the wind.

We were met by the “doctor search committee,” and I immediately sensed desperation on their part. The group of about five or six included the bank president, a Kiwanis leader, hospital administrator, board members and a very bedraggled looking physician who had lost his only partner six months ago to a Colorado mountain community. The town doc tried to put the best spin on the situation, but it was pretty clear from the onset that this place was meant for a physician committed to his patients but not much else, including family, recreation or sleep.

The next day was the town tour, which included prosperous farms, the grain elevator, Main Street and the hospital. Nice enough people, but we felt the pressure growing as the day progressed.

Scheduled that evening was the dinner in our honor. Held at the VFW Hall, my wife and I were a bit shocked to walk in to a room with about 30 citizens of Oberlin and environs. Unlike you, unfortunately, I had to face this whole ordeal sober. (I think Oberlin is dry). The search committee director gave a nice positive overview of a medical practice in western Kansas and abruptly asked for a decision yes or no will I come to Oberlin. I have no recollection of how we declined their kind offer, but I have ended up working in the mountains for next 35 years.

By the way, with age, I have learned to appreciate the wide open spaces and haunting beauty of the high plains and the kind, resilient people that live there.

Always look forward to the Mountain Gazette.


Jim Oberheide

Say what?
I’m hear [sic] at a bar. There is beer, and right now I’m too lazy to read, so thanks for these great photos … but if you ever have a little extra white space, maybe a crossword? And if you do, [sic] do a crossword, how about one that’s all about beer?!

Respectfully inebriated,

Reader Number 082568 aka, Tee from Denver

Hitchhike Hard with a Vengeance
Dear Mountain Gazette: I just finished reading “In Remembrance of ‘Boy’,” by Rosco Betunada (December 2010 issue). I have been hitchhiking around the United States for most of 14 years and it is amazing who picks you up.

Once I was hitchhiking in Idaho and this guy picked me up.  He told me that his friend was hitching north of Twin Falls. This old pickup pulled over and he got inside and looked at the driver. The driver looked at him, smiled and said, “Yup, I am who you think I am.” It was Bruce Willis.

One time I was hitching in western Nebraska and these three guys picked me up. I got in the back seat of the car and we were going down the road when the guy sitting next to me looked at me and asked, “Aren’t you from Ames, Iowa?”

“How did you know that?!” I replied totally surprised.

“I picked you up a few years ago and you gave me a copy of your book.”

That guy later told me that he got a ride from Missouri to Iowa in the late 1970s with a guy named William Least Heat-Moon. Least Heat-Moon later wrote the best-seller, “Blue Highways” (first published in 1982).

If you are interested in my hitchhiking travels, you can read my book “High Plains Drifter: A Hitchhiking Journey Across America.” It was published in 2008.

My home base is between the Missouri River and the Sierra Nevada Mountains.


Tim Shey, Bozeman, Montana

A Matter of Pride
Dear Editor: In MG #173, I find two new names on your masthead as senior correspondents — Richard Barnum-Reece’s and mine. On the behalf of now-dead Richard, I’d like you to know that he would be really pleased by this designation, as he and I always pictured your magazine as the ultimate in alpine truth-telling. This is the only publication we ever found that consistently understood what we thought it was all about.

He and I were introduced to MG when we first saw Dick Dorworth’s ’70s article “Night Driving.” We held (still do) his writing and accomplishments in the same esteem as that of Edward Abbey, Yvon Choinard and other big mountaineering names of the time. Thirty-five years later, that same sense is still true for me. That you would name a dead guy “(RIP)” as a senior correspondent (maybe a first in magazine journalism) validates MG’s courage, sense of humor and sense of what’s right.

For my own part, this mention is going on my resume with a great deal of pride. To be listed on your masthead with Dorworth and the others there is a major milestone.  Thanks.

Dave Baldridge, Albuquerque, NM

To Human Companion Bob Welsh in Mountain Dog photo, MG #176: While a picture is worth a thousand words, the picture may not portray reality, but allow me to go off on my impressions of you and the picture you appear in on page 23. The photographer is identified as a woman. If she doesn’t love you, you are still lucky enough to have a woman who is gracious enough to at least put up with you AND your dog. Your dog loves you, is at ease and looks forward to working with you and is gracious enough to put up with you when your attention is diverted. The photo was taken at an out building. Its windows haven’t seen glass for a long time. These features, along with your clothes and complexion, mean that you work some land that comes with a personal history. The beautiful brace of birds came from that land, your land, from walking distance. You didn’t drive for hours on a Saturday morning to get in line at public land to chase birds that were stocked the day before.

Bob, if only so much as a word of this is true, your hat may as well be a crown. You are young and strong and king of your world. That’s what I see in that photo.

Charles Green, Boise

High Praise Indeed
Hey M. John: I just picked up the latest issue, #176, of the Gazette: “4th Annual Mountain Dog Photo Contest.” Actually, as always I picked up two copies. One to leave in the shitter at work in an attempt to spread some appropriate perspective to my co-workers during their otherwise busy days, and one for home, which, incidentally, often finds its way to my shitter as well. Mind you, this business about the Gazette finding its way to the shitters that populate my life is not meant as an insult. Quite the contrary. Only the best of the best makes the cut. In my world, there’s no greater status reading material can attain than to cross the carpet/linoleum boundary and find a home atop “the oval office.”

Bathroom talk aside, when I got around to cracking open this latest issue, I couldn’t help but notice the issue month read “February/March.” In a panic, I rushed to the computer (don’t worry … I washed my hands), to check and see if the Gazette is going to an every-other-month publication schedule. I just don’t think I (or my relaxing co-workers, for that matter), could go a full two months between each issue.

So, what’s the scoop? Have I just somehow missed that the Gazette combines a couple months as in years past or is this a new development in the publication schedule?

Thanks for any clarification and thanks again for the fantastic mag.

Mike Gerhardt, Boise

Editor’s note: We now publish 10 times a year, with double-month issues appearing February/March and August/September. This gives our staff time to hit the road for a spell without falling even further behind than we already are and always will be.

Little Dog #1
Dear M.J. Fayhee: I’m sure my email is one of the dozens you have now received regarding your heart-wrenching article in the latest Mountain Gazette (“Little Dog,” Smoke Signals, MG #176). You may have already relinquished Casey by now, but I’m writing to contribute my unsolicited two cents worth.

I too had a “soul mate,” my little Ute, a red Aussie mix, only 35 pounds. He died in my arms at age 2 1/2. There have been two dogs since: Harvard, who eventually stayed with the ex-husband, and my current dog of 10-plus years, Willow. There will never be another Ute, no matter how short our time together was. And while I have loved both Harvard and Willow with all my might, the relationship is not the same.

I’ve also had some experience in the Land of Enchantment, which is not very enchanting for many of our canine friends. Notoriously the opposite. I lived for a short time in the village of Corrales, and heard various stories of how folks came by their pets.  One fellow that I dated briefly got his dogs on one of the local pueblo lands where he was doing work. He coaxed the smaller, more feral one, out from under her bush and was successful at grabbing her after various attempts over a period of time. She domesticated somewhat, but once chased my neighbor’s cherished little brown hen and yanked out several tail feathers. Running down birds was probably a staple of hers out there on the res. Another woman had rescued her dog when she spotted it trapped in an irrigation ditch (luckily dry at the time) with the chain around its neck. No collar, mind you, just the chain. No one ever claimed him, so she kept him.

The fact that your Casey has still managed to maintain her sweet disposition after her eight months of wide-ranging experiences speaks volumes to her inner nature. She has not tried to viciously attack your cat, plays with other dogs and is up for new adventure.  Can you teach her to stay closer on your forays to the woods, your deal-maker? That could take time.

I got my Willow when she was “3-5 months old.” Again, it was questionable. I adopted her from the Clear Creek Animal Shelter in Dumont, though she has a chip in her head from Denver Dumb Friends. My guess is that her original litter went to Denver and she was adopted out from there. For whatever reason, that lasted only a few months, and she ended up in Dumont. She has always gotten along well with other dogs, and even had a little cellmate at the overcrowded Dumont Shelter. Perhaps her other little incarcerated comrades had been more of a staple in her life than people had.

I adopted her on Halloween, 2000. She was my reaction to cancer — not mine, my friend Karel’s. Karel had died just two weeks before on October 19th. I had just moved back to Summit County after a six-year hiatus and was living in Wildernest. I wanted a dog to hike with me, though I had just bought a townhouse with almost white carpet. Not the most practical decision I have ever made. Karel had been 49 when she died. My mind set was, “Life is short. If you want a dog, get a dog.” So I did.

Unfortunately, Willow and I did not immediately bond, even though I was rather devoted to her. Had to be, actually.  If she needed to go out, so did I. But there was something rather distant and standoffish about her. She didn’t need my constant attention, didn’t beg to be petted, didn’t really crave it. She tolerated it, but didn’t seek me out. I imagined that I had adopted a dog with attachment disorder like those sad eastern European orphans that can’t stand to be touched. She has always cowered from an outstretched hand, and still ducks her head when you want to stroke it. She especially hates the big gloved hands of winter, and it has been with constant vigilance that she does not bite those fingers. One very short-lived boyfriend once reprimanded her and she immediately squatted and peed on his polished wood floor.

Regardless, we became good roommates and pals, though she slept alone on the landing where it was tiled and cool, and I snuggled under my down comforter alone. We explored the trails of Summit County, played in Lake Dillon, but still, there was this gap. She would have gone along with anyone who had a dog, often did. Almost jumped into strangers’ cars. Anyone else with a dog was a good as me. Then, the following summer, June I remember, she suddenly seemed to look at me, really look, and I became hers. I have no idea what triggered it. It had been almost eight months since we met, and by my best guess, she was almost a year old. A gestation period, perhaps? I had outlasted the other humans in her life twice over by then.

She’s still my dog and the devotion goes both ways. We now have a man in our lives, have had for eight years. She’s always liked Alan. He ignored her growling when he first folded himself into my little Mazda, and fed her cheese from our trail lunch. He gives her confidence, and they’ve hiked many miles together without me.

I think Cali has spoken, you just haven’t quite gotten it. Your instincts led you to this New Mexico orphan. She’s not a Colorado dog — she won’t have Mayflower Gulch in her backyard. She’s in YOUR backyard, and feels safe there. So … I hope you will give Casey a chance. It sounds like she has so many good attributes that can be worked with. You’re right that she needs time to become her own dog. Then she’ll have the ability to become your dog. She’ll give you her undying loyalty, when you give her yours.

Best of luck with your decision.

Lynn Fox

Mountain Gazette welcomes letters. Please email your incendiary verbiage to: mjfayhee@mountaingazette.com.