Hauling the News to 11,000 feet
I WOULD agree: There's more truth to walking along a mountain ridge, arms out like an angel, as sun, snow, and wind rifle you with shooting crystal, than to watch it from below through the windows of a country club. It was on the ridge that I discovered my friend's ability to do his job. We had been driving below those mountains all night, on a grimy paper route that took us from a plains city across two passes in dark, cold fog to towns scattered across the San Luis Valley, so that morning residents could feel connected to the world by a fresh paper with that day's date on it.Skip to next paragraph
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Three o'clock in the morning towns, asleep, turned off, except for an occasional leftover holiday home with a string of colored lights in front of snowy elms. Towns with small showy high schools boasted turrets or a sign that said, ``Jack Dempsey passed through these halls,'' - perhaps he had had to fight his way out of this freezing agricultural high plain that could produce a fog below zero from geothermal holes.
I mused that if a car left you off among the great distances between Manassa and Hooper, or Center and Antonio, in this one place in the inner Rockies where roads are geometric, the brown, boiling, freezing ground clouds would leave no trace of your attempt to walk to safety, in winter.
My friend did this route for minimum wage and no perks but the use of a truck, an old hand-me-down that leaked freezing air on my side. The heater was great if you intermittently cut it off for half an hour so it could build up heat again.
I went along to meet my friend's friends of the night, the people who manned the presses at the city journal, enjoying their 1 a.m. esprit de corps, the grumpy post-office workers who rolled up their dock doors long enough for us to swing the heavy bundles up on the cement, the evangelical women who ran an all-night caf'e to catch the bar flies at closing 2 a.m. The women alternately read their Bibles and did crosswords, kept a place with clean curtains and warmth and nutritious food. We also met those guardians of the night, the dogs of sleeping children in neighborhoods where we were considered invaders.
But our steady fellowship of the night was the Denver Post truck, an enormous modern luxury liner, which we kept meeting at lonely field crossroads, so that it made us feel proud that our little mission was in an area important to the big boys too.
``If we had a truck like that..., '' I said to my friend on a heater break.
``It's a monster,'' he replied. ``A wind would blow it off the pass.''
I went along to see all this, but also to see how my friend did it. His wife worried about his doing a 400-mile run six nights a week, trying to sleep in the day, especially after six months into it a train had demolished one of the company's earlier tin lizzies at a poorly marked crossing. My friend came out in one piece and went back at it. It seemed a good idea that he have someone with him out there.
``How do you keep doing this?'' I asked him. He had taught history at a local community college. Now he ``subbed'' when he could at a high school, sometimes going two days without rest. No, he didn't point to his wife and six-year-old boy, he said, ``Come along. I'll show you.''