MTPR

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

Ways to Connect

"The man I fall for can be hard to reach," writes author and creative writing professor, Rachel Toor. "When he goes out, he goes far. He fills his bottles, stows food he’s prepared, some of which he’s killed and cured, makes sure his skis are waxed, bike tires filled, boat leaks plugged. He brings extra batteries, toilet paper, and some weed. Some of his clothes and gear, worn but trusted, have outlasted his dogs. He always has a dog, named Rio, or Bridger, or Finn, usually a Lab.

"The year before I started middle school, my parents made me watch a videotape of a professor talking about problem students who engaged in “'negative attention-seeking,'” writes Melissa Stephenson.  "I didn’t understand why my teacher had sent this video home. Mrs. Dolk had short blonde hair like Princess Diana, and sometimes I imagined what life would be like if she adopted me. I tried to impress her with jokes and high test scores. But as we watched the video, I realized my favorite teacher didn’t much like me.

David Allan Cates

"Sixty years old and riding my bike no-handed across the Higgins Street bridge into downtown Missoula, feeling my stomach churn with the anger and fear that has choked our civic air — but also the with the miracles of hot wind and flowing water," writes poet, novelist and teacher, David Allan Cates. "Despite my spread-arm victory pose, I carry a feeling of lost-ness—of emptiness that’s also a kind of balance—a wound, that’s also, somehow, a spring.

"I grew up in Tacoma, a port city on Puget Sound," writes poet, essayist and co-owner of Missoula's Montgomery Distillery, Jenny Montgomery. "We lived on Puyallup Indian reservation land, but there were few signs that this was so. Our neighborhood overlooked ancient salmon fishing waters but was completely inhabited by whites.  There were no Native kids among us at school yet our mascot was the Warrior—a childlike, cartoon brave who wore a single feather on his head and a floppy loincloth.

Martin Klimek (CC-BY-4.0). Courtesy of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

"One of the central tenets of collaborative comedy writing is the rule of “Yes, and,”" writes freelance writer and occasional standup comedian, Sarah Aswell. "The concept is simple: when someone has an idea, you should not only validate that idea no matter its absurdity (by saying “Yes”) but you also add something new to the scene (by saying “and”).

Mariana Cook

"When I meet strangers deep in rural white settings, perfect and polite English rolls easily from my face and I watch their eyes and brains appraise me," writes Alex Alviar, who teaches at Salish Kootenai College and with the Missoula Writing Collaborative. "Where is he from? Indian? Tourist? Mexican? Their eyes are like fish in the murk considering the fake fly tied and cast through the ripple before them. What is he? Can we trust him?

"Like many today, my troubled inheritance is the great wave of settler colonialism that washed from Europe over the Americas for the last five centuries.  I carry its invisible weight when I walk these Rocky Mountains and when I drive America’s freeways—all on stolen Indian land," writes "Reflections West" co-host, David Moore.

Larry Miller (CC-BY-2.0)

"A decade ago I packed everything I owned into my little car and drove across the country to Montana, in part because of a few poems," writes essayist, poet and two-time winner of the Obsidian Prize for Poetry, Melissa Mylchreest.

Large ponderosa pine tree.
(PD)

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.

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.

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