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Hauling the News to 11,000 feet

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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.

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.

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