The foundation of the Fence Post
He saw there was a need going unfulfilled – a community of farmers and ranchers on a regional level that were not connected in any way – an auction barn that had no real way of reaching them – and that was the beginning of the Fence Post. Don McMillen began the paper in Bellvue, Colo., in 1980. He had started a Fort Collins weekly, the Triangle Review, on May 5, 1973, so he knew what work was involved.
Don graduated with a degree in political science from the University of Idaho. He went to Washington, D.C., and did some graduate work and worked for a congressman on Capitol Hill. He and his wife decided they wanted to raise their family in a small western town, and Fort Collins, Colo., was it. He was a journalist for the Fort Collins Coloradoan in the late ’60s and early ’70s.
Don had a special place in his heart for the 4-H and the youth. His mother, Ethel McCurry, recalls that the paper still reflects Don’s image. “Whenever I see the cover and it has children on it, I know Don would approve.”
“He loved journalism,” says his daughter, Ruth McMillen. “The Fence Post was his way of sharing with the farmers and ranchers. My grandfather was an extension agent for Larimer County, and I always figured dad inherited his principles and values from him.” Ruth and her sisters, Suellen and Gennie grew up with the paper. Ruth and Suellen worked in the circulation “department.”
“Every Saturday morning we would get up at the crack of dawn and load up or Fiat,” Ruth recalls. “We drove out the Bellvue, stopping in LaPorte for donuts. We went to the Bellvue Store and, using an ancient machine from the 1940s, we would address those papers. This monolith thing had metal plates with ink running across it. We would press a pedal on the floor, like a piano pedal. It would imprint the address on the newspaper. It took until noon and we would spend the time trying to memorize the different zip codes.” The girls continued the Saturday tradition into their college years. “It was a family endeavor and we spent this time with our dad, which was very important to us,” said Ruth.
Within the first year of publication, Don’s wife, Anne Lennox, purchased the Wild Rose – an acreage in Bellvue that was home to a variety of critters, including ducks, sheep, and dogs. “I remember one of my Golden Retrievers had gotten hold of a duck,” recalls Anne. “It was production day and I was in the darkroom developing page negatives. I was bellowing out of the darkroom for someone to save the duck.” Another time Anne was in the darkroom, she heard the lilting soft voice of Dawn Goto coming through the closed door. “Anne – are the sheep supposed to be on the front lawn?”
“When I look back on running the newspaper and running the farm – it was fun,” says Anne. “We had professionals in production and advertising – everybody on the staff felt free to make their contribution.”
All that dedication paid off. Anne, Ruth, and Ethel still get warm feelings whenever they see a copy of the Fence Post. “My dad would be real happy,” Ruth concludes.