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

Karin Schalm & Matthew Hansen: Building A Home

Feb 11, 2015
courtesy of the Wilderness Institute, University of Montana

Karin Schalm recalls: "I moved to Montana when I was 25, fleeing my grief. I was searching for a new sense of home. In the wilderness of the Rocky Mountain Front, I felt a familiar sense of belonging among the rocks, icy creeks and wind-bent trees.

Jordan Konkol got a summer job helping geologists explore for platinum in Alaska. He recalls a moment from that remote place, standing on a high ridge in summer daylight at 11:00 p.m., "...feeling silence extend in every direction. I recalled a line of Joseph Conrad: "this also has been one of the dark places of the earth.""

Regan deVictoria & Ed Lahey: Leaving Butte

Jan 28, 2015
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."

Stephen Behrendt: Early Morning Animal Tracking

Jan 21, 2015
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.

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.

Ken Egan & Granville Stuart: Manifest Destiny, 1864

Jan 7, 2015
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. 

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."

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

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

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:"