Reflections West

Wednesday 4:54 PM

Reflections West is a weekly radio program that presents the thoughts of writers and scholars on the American West. These thinkers pair their own thoughts with a passage from literature and history.

Reflections West podcast

Large ponderosa pine tree.

Historian Ellen Baumler recalls a stark piece of Montana’s haunted history, Helena’s Hangman’s Tree.

John Keene was the first recorded victim who breathed his last on Helena’s infamous Hangman’s Tree. The Murderer’s Tree, as it was first known, stood at the head of Dry Gulch. Those who knew it well recalled that the ancient ponderosa pine had massive lower branches that tangled in weird contortions. The branches, bleak and devoid of foliage, protruded some twenty feet from its gnarled, moss-covered trunk. Miners, needing to cut smaller logs for cabins, let it stand.

Murray Hotel in Livingston Montana
Flickr user Carol Vinzant (CC-BY-NC-ND-2)

To Toby Thompson, the Christmas spirit is really just the warmth of community, something we can find any time of year.

Tess Fahlgren & Richard Hugo: Montana's Other Face

Jun 26, 2015
Richard Hugo
Poetry Dispatch

Tess Fahlgren knows that art can thrive in the isolated prairie towns of Eastern Montana. "Driving Montana," by Richard Hugo, is a poet's tribute to Montana's small towns and open vistas, and the creativity that connects them.

Hannah Bissell & Victor Charlo: Days Worked And Reworked

Jun 16, 2015

As Hannah Bissell watches her neighbors tinker with a tractor engine late into the evening, she wonders about the connection between shared memories and hard work:

Damon Falke Unwraps Memory's Gifts From The Past

Jun 9, 2015

Poet Damon Falke remembers the day when a mentor handed him a sack and said, "Read these, man. They'll change your life."

Marjorie Snipes & Flannery O'Connor: Immersion

Jun 2, 2015

Marjorie Snipes and her family live in Georgia but spend vacation time near Seeley Lake, Montana:

"It is amazing that while the world around us turns spring, the lake in front of our rented cabin remains frozen with snowpack. It is a diorama where foreground is spring and background winter, and some mornings I can’t decide which stage to occupy or how to be properly shod.

Tasha LeClair & Beth Loffreda: The Invisible West

May 26, 2015
Nick Romanenko

After a lifetime of hearing about the American West's preferred myths, Tasha LeClair, who grew up in Wyoming, tends to feel invisible:

 “When I write about the West I feel as though I'm poking around the perimeter of a vast blank place where words don't live.

Joseph Grady & James Welch: Building A Face

May 19, 2015

Joseph Grady, who is Blackfeet, was adopted and raised by a non-Indian family near Seattle:

"I went to school to learn that I was brown, because skin color was not a concept nurtured by my adoptive parents. I wasn’t confronted by race as a child, not directly at least until I started school.

Milkweed Editions

Archaeologist Sara Scott is fascinated by the petroglyphs of the West:

"The crunch of limestone under my boots echoes up the canyon as I walk through its narrow passage in the Big Belt Mountains near Helena.

Megan Calvert, an undergraduate at the University of Montana-Missoula, grew up in the shadow of Montana's Mission Mountains. The gothic influence of 19th century American poet Edgar Allan Poe underlies this reflection on mountains, solitude, and comfort: