Reflections West

Wednesday 3:00 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.

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Reflections West
5:00 am
Wed January 28, 2015

Regan deVictoria & Ed Lahey: Leaving Butte

Ed Lahey
Credit courtesy of the Lahey family

"You come to Butte, Montana direct from seven exhausting years in the city, seeking solace, expecting blight, and finding home."  Missoula native Regan deVictoria fell for Butte "as you do a man with a harelip despite deformities, and later, because of them." Poet Ed Lahey was born to a family of Butte miners in 1936. From his adopted home of Missoula, he looked back at The Mining City:

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Reflections West
5:00 am
Wed January 21, 2015

Stephen Behrendt: Early Morning Animal Tracking

Credit University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Visits to poet Stephen Behrendt's favorite places in the West linger in his memory and imagination as "places of mind," where blue skies and the fragrance of sun-baked evergreen needles connect him more intensely to his surroundings than the "whitish Great Plains summer sky, heavy with humidity" of his home in Nebraska.

From Behrendt's poem, "Tracks:"

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Reflections West
5:00 am
Wed January 14, 2015

Catherine Melin Moser & Laura Hellenbrand: Montana Thoroughbreds

Spokane, winner of 1889's equivalent to today's Triple Crown of throughbred horse racing.
Credit Montana Historical Society

Thoroughbred horses are Catherine Melin Moser's passion, but moving to Montana, she discovered something she hadn't know: winners of several of America's preeminent horse races in the 1880s and 1890s were raised on Montana bunch grass. Racers Spokane, Ben Holladay, Tammany, and Scottish Chieftain were raised by Montanans Noah Armstrong, Samuel Larabie, and Marcus Daly, and were winners of the Kentucky Derby, the Belmont Stakes, and other races.

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Reflections West
5:00 am
Wed January 7, 2015

Ken Egan & Granville Stuart: Manifest Destiny, 1864

Granville Stuart, c.1900
Credit A Brief History of Butte, Montana

"In 1864, men in a hurry journeyed to the region known as the headwaters of the Missouri. Called by gold, they were in a rush to acquire and ascend, whether through gold-mining, freighting and selling goods to the miners, raising wheat and cattle, organizing and leading a new government, or other, less reputable means."  Ken Egan describes the collision between native cultures, with their traditions of gift-giving, oral history, and piety, and a burgeoning population of American opportunists. 

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Reflections West
5:00 am
Wed December 31, 2014

Lindsey Appell & Nancy Hunter: Boom And Bust

Lindsey Appell
Credit Lindsey Appell

"We were told coal would save us, the same year we learned about boom-and-bust economics in our social studies textbooks." College-bound Lindsey Appell couldn't wait to leave Roundup, Montana for Missoula, but soon she began to feel "the pull back to the prairie. The scent of wet sagebrush sends a shiver of longing through me now...There are no true sunsets in a bowl of mountains. No blood-orange autumn skies, casting harsh shadows across grizzled ponderosa hills and sandstone crags."

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Reflections West
1:28 pm
Fri December 26, 2014

Annick Smith & Pima Dog Song chant

Annick Smith's dog Bruno "rode shotgun" as Smith drove from Montana to the Midwest, visiting her ninety-seven-year-old mother in Chicago. That trip inspired a memoir featuring Bruno as a central character. Smith cites poet Mark Doty's thoughts on writing about animals: doing so is an attempt to "bring something of the inchoate into the world of the represented." The Pima chant, "Dog Song," begins at nightfall with a dog watching butterfly wings fall from the sky:

"Our songs begin at nightfall

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Reflections West
5:00 am
Wed December 17, 2014

Brenna Reitmann & Bill Kittredge

"My grandmother has no fingerprints. Her hands are lean, soft on the back, and wrinkled.

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Reflections West
6:02 pm
Thu December 11, 2014

Mark Gibbons & Ed Lahey

Mark Gibbons
Credit Mark Gorseth

Mark Gibbons began his "relationship with booze" at "watering holes, western bars, those dens of iniquity, as integral a part of the western landscape as horses or teepees...Fueled by alcohol late into the night, bars surely held unpredictable wildness, danger and vice; but in small western towns, the bar was the social center of the community." Poet Ed Lahey recalls a working-class Butte bar in "The Ballad of the Board of Trade Bar:"

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Reflections West
5:00 am
Wed December 3, 2014

Lynda Sexson & Gary Snyder

Gary Snyder. (CC-BY-2.0)
Credit Larry Miller

Lynda Sexson shares a Zen parable of the West, involving a baby and a pack of compassionate coyotes. Her tale mirrors Gary Snyder's "Smokey the Bear Sutra:"

"And he showed himself in his true form of

SMOKEY THE BEAR

  • A handsome smokey-colored brown bear standing on his hind legs, showing that he is aroused and
    watchful.

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Reflections West
5:00 am
Wed November 26, 2014

Stephanie Land & Judy Blunt

Stephanie Land

Stephanie Land grew up in Alaska and thought she was ready for anything the extreme climate could throw her way. She recalls the night in Gold Stream Valley when winter proved her wrong. Judy Blunt's memoir, "Breaking Clean," tells the story of "practical rather than humane" decisions that ranchers along Montana's Hi-Line had to make after the devastating 1964 blizzard.

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