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.

"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.

Joy Harjo

From her home in Pennsylvania, Toni Truesdale has never heard the call of the West. But her sister has. In spite of geographic separation, they re-create home around the kitchen table, wherever they are. Poet Joy Harjo's poem, "Perhaps the World Ends Here," sings of the kitchen table:

"Our dreams drink coffee with us as they put their arms around our children. They laugh with us at our poor falling-down selves and as we put ourselves back together once again at the table.

James Davenport grew up in Deer Lodge, MT, at a slower pace than his urban peers and without the surfeit of pop culture that informs their language. In his 1962 bestseller, Travels with Charlie, John Steinbeck observes that Montanans seem unaffected by television and the homogeneity overtaking other rural places:

Caroline Keys

Among the jobs Caroline Keys has held since moving to Montana: driving a tour boat on Flathead Lake.  Recently, she arranged a gig for her band on the boat she used to captain. She's reminded of a Salish story about ingenuity and re-arranged roles, collected by Bon I.

Paul Theobald admits he's tired of the pressure to remain rootless in order to "go far" in his teaching career. Wendell Berry names this cost of this pressure:

"That teaching is a long-term service, that a teacher's best work may be published in the children or grandchildren of his students, cannot be considered, for the modern educator, like his "practical" brethren in business and industry, will honor nothing that he cannot see."

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