M. John Fayhee, a longtime Colorado resident and editor-in-chief of the Mountain Gazette, will appear in Steamboat Springs on Thursday for a signing and reading of his two books, "Smoke Signals" and "The Colordao Mountain Companion."
Sunday, September 16, 2012
Steamboat Springs Why is it Pikes Peak instead of Pike’s? Was there once a 17,000-foot peak in Colorado? Why is it so darn cold in Gunnison? And what exactly do skiers mean when they call one another “brah?”
Looking at M. John Fayhee, his grizzled beard and his smile worn by high-altitude living, he would be the person to ask.
The longtime Colorado writer and editor of the iconic Mountain Gazette, which he helped re-launch in 2000, might not have known the answers a few years ago, but researching for his new book, “The Colorado Mountain Companion: A Potpourri of Useful Miscellany from the highest Parts of the Highest State,” he found all the information he was looking for on his home of 24 years — and some he wasn’t.
Just ask him about Steamboat Springs.
“Steamboat is one of the most interesting ski towns in the whole state in that has a ranching heritage instead of a mining heritage,” Fayhee said in a Friday interview with Explore Steamboat.
“It’s in the top five of political power, as far as defining what the ski experience is. It’s one of the heavyweights. It’s a place that’s a trendsetter, that defines what the modern ski area is as much as any ski area in the country.”
Fayhee will travel to Steamboat on Thursday for a free book talk and reading at 6 p.m. at Off the Beaten Path Bookstore.
The "Companion," which will be available for purchase and signing at the event, transcends typical facts and figures on our revered square state: It delves into the humorous and heartfelt tidbits that make the Rocky Mountains more than a geographical location for so many.
“If it were not for Google or Wikipedia, I could never have done this book,” he admitted, adding it was his favorite book he’s written so far. “It’s my homage to the Colorado mountains. It’s a style I wanted to pursue. … It’s not systematized.”
He said the encyclopedia-like collection of information is organized not by alphabet or chronology, but follows the hodgepodge path that the curious brain takes naturally.
“What I enjoyed most about it was where things led,” he said. “Sometimes one thing would lead to another so much that I forgot what … it was I was doing.”
In an unexpected twist of serendipity, Fayhee actually has two books coming out at the same time. The other book, called “Smoke Signals: Wayward Journeys Through the Old Heart of the New West,” is a collection of columns he wrote for the Mountain Gazette starting in 2007 in a meandering, first person account of the truths and nontruths of the life of a mountain man.
“Almost all the Smoke Signals are stories I’ve been telling for a while that got birthed in a bar or around a campfire,” said Fayhee, who now resides in Silver City, N.M. “They were born in the oral tradition and transferred into the written tradition.”
Fayhee said he didn’t jut re-run Gazette versions of the columns. He went back to the original drafts — sometimes 15,000 words long — and pared them down all over again. He said about 50 percent of the words in the “Smoke Signals” book haven’t yet appeared in print.
He said that as of last week, he still hasn’t figured out how to approach a book talk on two titles with such different personalities.
“'Colorado Mountain Companion' is a product of the brain, and 'Smoke Signals' is the product of the heart,” he said. “Hopefully, there’s some heart in 'Colorado Mountain Companion' and some brain in 'Smoke Signals' … it’s more of a visceral impressionistic recitation of my experience of the time I lived in the West.”
But Fayhee mused out loud whether that rugged underbelly of Colorado life he intended to capture in “Smoke Signals,” and to a lesser degree, “Colorado Mountain Companion,” is gone forever.
“I do wonder if the wild, unencumbered lifestyle of the West is still even possible,” Fayhee said.
But it will be preserved in his words.
“I hope it’s an inspiration for people to not just to follow their dreams but to follow their dreams crazily,” he said.
To reach Nicole Inglis, call 970-871-4204 or email ninglis@ExploreSteamboat.com