Good thing this writer’s got a lot to say

Courtesy of WestWinds Press

By Ted Holteen Herald staff writer

John Fayhee never is at a loss for words. But even for him, two books at once is pushing it.

“It’s awkward and weird to have two books coming out at exactly the same time,” said Fayhee, who is best known in Western literary circles as editor of Mountain Gazette. “I’m not the world’s best at putting the past behind me, but at this point, here I am.”

The timing of the simultaneous releases of Smoke Signals: Wayward Journeys through the Old Heart of the New West and The Colorado Mountain Companion, his 10th and 11th books, is not exactly the product of an overactive writer, though Fayhee undoubtedly is guilty of the charge. In this case, it was logistics and business snafus that delayed the release of the Companion, which is nearly 2 years old.

Both books reflect Fayhee’s love for and unparalleled knowledge of the Mountain West. He’s got the kind of personality that turns book tours into bona fide nights on the town, and Monday night at Maria’s Bookshop is the next stop. He’ll likely read more from Smoke Signals, which is a compilation of Fayhee’s previously published columns from the Gazette. But the book versions are more like essays, longer and more comprehensive than those shortened to fit into the allotted space in the magazine.

As for the Companion, it’s an almanac-style tome that was a longtime coming for anyone who’s spent any quality time in a Colorado mountain town.

“Even though it’s not a typical Fayhee book in the way it’s packaged, I still was able to be myself,” Fayhee said.

Fayhee described his inspiration for the book as an end-all way to end all those interminable barroom arguments that inevitably pop up in places such as the Bull Moose, the El Rancho and, once upon a time, the Hollywood (R.I.P.).

“I’m not what you’d call a primary researcher, and this would’ve been a life’s project before the Internet,” Fayhee said.

It’s a fun book, and Fayhee uses pseudo-scientific, but likely accurate, methodology to determine once and for all the highest and lowest towns in Colorado, how many Fourteeners there really are, and even what we’re supposed to call each other (Cortezians, Durangoans, Silvertonians and Pagosans, though Bayfield and Mancos are absent from the list.)

There are a slew of historical facts about skiing, biking, Olympics, movies and weather as well as explanations of how towns and mountains got their names. He even gives the names of the eight mountains alluded to in Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech – from the “mole hill of Mississippi (806-foot Woodall Mountain) to “the curvaceous slopes of California” (14,495-foot Mount Whitney).

Fayhee has earned the right to pen such an authoritative volume. He spent a quarter of a century in the Colorado Rockies, and probably has walked as many of its trails, climbed as many of its mountains and visited as many of its watering holes as anyone who’s ever lived in the Centennial State. And if his words, written or otherwise, ruffle a few feathers, he’s OK with that, too.

“I’ve had several of my writer brethren tell me I should be more brevitous in my writing,” he said. “It’s like learning to snowboard, something I just don’t have a desire to do. That’s one reason I don’t ride my mountain bike more – because I don’t want people to think I’m a mountain biker. I’ve set myself up in life where I have the opportunity to call the shots more than most.”

ted@durangoherald.com

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