Musings on horseback
My intention was to spend a week without the Internet,
phone, text, television or Twitter. My wife and I were on a ranch
in southern Colorado where we have frequently gone to ride horses
in the mountains and relax. Not the end of civilization. Quite
comfortable, in fact. But purposefully remote.
A couple of years ago, though, the ranch had installed
wireless access in the cabins, if only to drive the compulsive
workaholics with their laptops away from the lodge. They were
spoiling the rustic ambience.
I don’t travel with a laptop any more. My
iPhone (no promotional fees have exchanged hands for this mention)
provides e-mail, calendar, text, phone and, since my watch broke,
a clock. On Friday morning, as we rode up above 11,000 feet,
high in the San Juans, I carried the iPhone because it also has
When we stopped for lunch in a high meadow with
forty-mile views, one riding companion, a veterinarian from Iowa,
exclaimed: “Hey, I’ve got four bars!”
Giddy, no doubt from the altitude, we snapped
each other’s pictures and e-mailed them.
Hours later and back at the cabin, having already
weakened, I peeked to find I had some 200 accumulated e-mail
messages. I answered three that seemed to have some urgency and
hit the trail again in the morning. I didn’t tweet until
we returned to Columbia.
The whistles and bells and tweets on our electronic
devices have become commonplace. With our youngest son now in
college, I’ve adapted to texting as the best way to keep
in touch. I’ve been on Twitter for a couple of months,
finding it not so much a social network as a headline news service.
My old colleague at the White House, CBS’ Mark Knoller
tweets a couple dozen times a day on the comings and goings of
the president. A link takes me to fuller stories, should I want
Twitter seems to be bifurcated by the newsy and
the inane. One well-known network news anchor even tweets when
she’s signing off for the night and going to bed. Twitter’s
not big with college students whose lifelines are Facebook and
At this writing, I’ve got 74 Twitter followers.
Larry King was all a-twitter the other day as he neared one million.
Just his close, personal friends. Much of what’s on Twitter
or YouTube and others should more properly be called marketing
or self promotion, rather than networking. I tweet perhaps every
two or three days to see if it tweaks any response. I might as
well float messages in bottles down the Congaree River.
Or Colorado’s Conejos River. Every couple
days a newspaper showed up at the ranch from Denver (it still
has one paper) or Pueblo. On Wednesday, the Valley Courier—serving
Alamosa, Antonito, Blanca, Center, Creede, Crestone, Del Norte,
Fort Garland (where Kit Carson served), Hooper, La Jara, Manassa
(where the “Manassa Mauler” Jack Dempsey was born),
Mosca, Moffat, Monte Vista, Romeo, Saguache, Sanford (no, not
that Sanford), San Luis and South Fork—arrived. The paper
serves all those communities and crossroads in the San Luis Valley,
as newspapers should and perhaps only newspapers can meet local
And there on the Opinion page was a Robert Ariail
(yes, our Robert Ariail) editorial cartoon of Gov. Mark Sanford
(yes, that Sanford) declaring he would “not be railroaded
out of office.” The idiosyncrasies of South Carolina politics
(isn’t that a nice way to put it) seem inescapable. We
spent a fair amount of time trying to explain it all to our friends
from Colorado, Iowa and points west. We left and were back home
before Congressman Joe Wilson lost his Congressional cool.
Even in this day when we lament the diminishment
of news, we were reminded that news travels. It’s out there,
no matter what means it takes to get it to you. Some of it was
in the haze we learned was drifting eastward from California
fires. Some was about the perplexity of public behaviors. Some
about the perils of today’s still struggling economy for
the tourism and hospitality industry. Some about the depressed
But don’t tell that last bit to “Tuff”,
the aptly named bay I rode up, down, on and off the mountain
trails that week. He probably wouldn’t give a tweet, anyhow.