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.

courtesy of Mayapple Press

Tessa Heinemann loves digging up history. On an archaeological dig in the old gold-mining town, Virginia City, MT, she discovered 150-year-old remnants of toys, jewelry, and medicine bottles. "I find it incredibly rewarding to transform the experience of casual tourists. They hold artifacts in their hands and begin to imagine the bustling streets of a real community."

courtesy of the University of Montana

Tamara Linse - "a writer, cogitator, recovering cowgirl" - grew up on a Wyoming ranch where adult women told dumb blonde jokes. Linse's book of short stories is called How To Be A Man. "They thought of themselves," she writes of the ranch women, "as profoundly set apart, a sort of third gender - not quite a man but definitely not a woman.

courtesy of the Hydaburg School District

Every year, Robert Lee spends time as a poet-in-residence at the Haida School of Hydaburg, Alaska. His students teach Lee as much about surviving the elements as he teaches them about self-expression. 

In 1913, Doug Midgett's grandfather gazed at the tableland around Sumatra, Montana and saw a hopeful future of verdant crops. Looking at the same land fifty years later, Doug's father, who grew up in Sumatra, saw perennial drought, searing heat, and stifling dust storms. Poet Gwendolyn Haste lived in Eastern Montana in the early 1920s and watched the losing battles of its farmers:

"...Seven full years, says the Book, and seven lean -

And we come in at the end of the full ones, I guess.

There ain't no crops where they's no rain.

"In this city dedicated to the bear, I haven't seen a bear yet. Except in the airport lounge, where one such specimen is stuffed. Do you know the story?"

In our Clip of the Week, Poet Eduardo Chirinos, a professor at the University of Montana-Missoula, writes about bears - real, symbolic, and stuffed.

Listen to the entire episode of "Reflections West" featuring Eduardo Chrinos and Linds Sanders. Or hear more on your radio every Tuesday 8:30 p.m. and Wednesday 3:55 p.m.

Bud Cheff, Jr.'s family has been friends with the Conko family of Montana's Mission Valley for over a hundred years. Bud recalls a reunion between his grandmother and Eneas Conko in the front pew of the St. Ignatius Mission church.

A pregnant Erin Saldin narrated the details of her winter walks to her unborn child, imagining him as a character in a novel. "That imagined child is nothing like my flesh-and-blood daughter, who was born late, blonde, and wide-eyed." Saldin pairs her reflection with an excerpt from Marilynne Robinson's novel, Housekeeping.

LaVerne Harrell Clark, The University of Arizona Poetry Center

When writing about literature, teacher and author Robert Stubblefield sticks to the present tense, since "great literature never slides off into the past, but remains with us in an eternal present." Stubblefield's friend and colleague, author James Welch, creates a world in his historical novel Fools Crow "as clear and present as the gray vapor of our breath against the darkness."

During summer trips in the Bob Marshall Wilderness, Tammy Elser, the daughter of an outfitter, learned to love camp coffee. Poet Luci Tapahonso's Navajo uncle drinks coffee from the red can, too:

Tom Mulvaney collection

Early in the twentieth century, long before Twitter, people sent snippets of news back and forth on penny postcards, sometimes transferring their own photos onto the front. In his book, Penny Postcards and Prairie Flowers, Philip Burgess has collected the postcards exchanged between his homesteading grandmother and great-aunt in Montana and their Norwegian immigrant family in Minnesota.

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