This summer the Mountain Gazette, the region’s only mass circulation literary magazine, celebrated its 40th birthday. I have to disclose that I am a senior contributor to Mountain Gazette, and over the years have received hundreds of dollars in compensation. But last month I was compelled to travel to Summit County, Colorado, where contributors over four decades held a first-ever gathering. Around a snapping campfire, John Fayhee welcomed the assembled writers:
"Jan was the crazy bird lady. She sent me these stories that were astounding… Tara is also like a UFO crazy, she goes to the San Luis Valley to UFO conventions… This is Mark Fox, whose house we are in right now… This is Meredith, Meredith is the publisher of the Mountain Gazette… But the one that did the most was George Sibley. George worked for 20 years as a journalism professor, is that about right? And Mac, Mac is a Summit County resident, Mac Griffith, sitting in back of the shadows."
The Mountain Gazette began as the Skier’s Gazette back in 1968. Ed Abby is on cover of the August 40th Anniversary Issue. Abby is just one of the many regional literary lions and lionesses whose work has first appeared in the magazine. Whether you’re famous or not, Fayhee remembers every story in detail.
"One of his next two stories was called the Great Eyelash Caper. He’s sleeping, camping out, he’s wondering what that noise is. And what it is he’s blinking, and his eyelash is rubbing on the nylon inside of the sleeping bag…We had an obituary from a lady whose libido died, and it died in Shamus O’Toole’s Roadhouse Saloon in Breckenridge."
The next night, Fayhee gave his reading at the Moosejaw Bar. He was introduced by T. Alex Miller, a former co-worker at the local daily paper.
"John’s going to come up here and read from his latest collection of the Smoke Signals column, and he’s also got the new Colorado Mountain Companion out at the same time. Back in the spring of 1993, when I applied for my first job at the Summit Daily News, and interviewing me that day was M. John Fayhee, the editor at the time, but about five minutes into it, M. John pulled out a twelve-pack and offered me a beer. As a younger and less experienced writer and editor, at first I was sort of baffled by his writing style. You know, it would be like, okay there’s room for 600 words here, and you’d deliver 3,00. What I mistakenly saw as a lack of discipline, really was a very distinctive style, you know, it’s as distinctive as a Jackson Pollack painting."
With the help of a PA, Fayhee delivered readings in the packed and rowdy bar from his Smoke Signals columns, and from the Mountain Companion.
"This is my 10th book , it is the book that I am the most proud of that I’ve ever done. It’s an homage. Did I pronounce that right Alex? To the mountains of Colorado, and it covers everything from, what’s the highest elevation a snake has ever been found in Colorado. I used to live in Grand Lake, which is the largest natural lake in Colorado. Guess what I found out while working on this book? It’s not. So now I can never go back to Grand Lake, well there are a lot of reasons why I can’t go back to Grand Lake."
John Fayhee is reading on Friday at 7:00 p.m. at Ken Sanders Rare Books in Salt Lake, and in Moab, October 12, at the Library at 7:00 p.m.