ARCHIVED  January 1, 1997

Country charm flavors Fence Post publication

WINDSOR — If you want to sell a tractor or buy a manure spreader; sell a ranch or buy Laird steers; read a poem or stories about frontier families or an article about a new cow producers’ program at the University of Nebraska, The Rocky Mountain Fence Post is the newspaper for you.

This firmly packed little publication was started in 1980 by Don McMillan, a former Rhodes Scholar, and his wife, out of their home in Bellvue.

In 1984, the paper was averaging 16 pages and was losing money. It was purchased in ’84 by Terry Gogerty and John Walker, who increased subscriptions from 1,200 to 10,000. Swift Newspapers Inc. in Reno, Nev., a family owned newspaper group that also owns the Greeley Tribune, purchased the paper in 1990, and now The Fence Post has subscribers in all 50 states.

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While many newspapers have found circulation shrinking, The Fence Post has 22,500 paid subscriptions, double since 1990.

But the growing popularity of this 150-page weekly publication has little to do with what you can buy or sell — it has to do with the western mystique, steeped in heritage and tradition, and it has to do with values that have no price tag.

“The Fence Post celebrates the Western heritage, and a lot of people here have roots based in agriculture but may work at Hewlett-Packard,” said Warren Bridges, publisher.

Bridges says you won’t find articles in The Fence Post on how deep to plant corn seed, “but you will find classified ads on equipment sales, livestock sales reports, auctions and articles on new programs,” he said. “We publish a lot of humor, such as columnist Baxtor Black, cartoons and stories. We have no staff writers, but we have 150 freelance writers who contribute regularly.”

Most of these writers are ranchers, cowgirls, farmers, ranch hands, wives, growers, sowers and just anyone who might have a story to tell.

“We encourage our farmers and ranchers to write their stories for our newspaper, even if they have never written anything before,” Bridges said. “The vast majority of our writers are not really writers but are farmers or ranchers, and when others see their neighbors published, then they find the courage to tell their stories. A wife might write something down while she is waiting in the pickup truck for her husband who is buying some feed. We have very few writers who make their living writing, but sometimes we have started people on their writing career.”

Laurie Wagner Buyer published her first poem in The Fence Post, and she now has a book of poetry out called “Glass Eyed Paint in the Rain.”

Bridges said Buyer is one of their most popular writers. “Some of our writers outgrow The Fence Post,” he said.

These writers write about their lives, livestock and their land, which they love, and why they are drawn to the West.

“The style of writing is their own,” Bridges said. “It might be rough, but we work with it. This newspaper has less to do with agriculture than it does with country living. We run a lot of recipes. It surprises me how many people write things down — but that’s the beauty of it. It is really something that is heartfelt, and once they are published, then people feel more bold.”

Although the pay is minimal, there is no shortage of writers telling their stories about family, friends or things they encounter.

“We have few set fees,” Bridges said. “A feature might be $50 to $200, and a poem might be $7.50 to $25, but we reward our more prolific writers. We have been called a scrapbook by our writers. That’s what I think we are.”

A subscription to The Fence Post costs $27 a year for 52 issues and is mailed to subscribers in all 50 states, but most of the circulation is in Colorado, Wyoming, Kansas and Nebraska. There are 18 full and part-time employees but no staff writers. The popularity of the publication encouraged Bridges to start a second Fence Post publication in Ogallala, Neb. in 1995. He now publishes The Nebraska Fence Post and has 2,400 paid subscribers. The Rocky Mountain Fence Post operates independently and contracts with the Greeley Tribune for printing services.

WINDSOR — If you want to sell a tractor or buy a manure spreader; sell a ranch or buy Laird steers; read a poem or stories about frontier families or an article about a new cow producers’ program at the University of Nebraska, The Rocky Mountain Fence Post is the newspaper for you.

This firmly packed little publication was started in 1980 by Don McMillan, a former Rhodes Scholar, and his wife, out of their home in Bellvue.

In 1984, the paper was averaging 16 pages and was losing money. It was purchased in ’84 by Terry Gogerty and John Walker, who…

Christopher Wood
Christopher Wood is editor and publisher of BizWest, a regional business journal covering Boulder, Broomfield, Larimer and Weld counties. Wood co-founded the Northern Colorado Business Report in 1995 and served as publisher of the Boulder County Business Report until the two publications were merged to form BizWest in 2014. From 1990 to 1995, Wood served as reporter and managing editor of the Denver Business Journal. He is a Marine Corps veteran and a graduate of the University of Colorado Boulder. He has won numerous awards from the Colorado Press Association, Society of Professional Journalists and the Alliance of Area Business Publishers.
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