Saturday, January 23, 2021

Where I’m going, Part Four.


 Way out in the far northeastern corners of Utah and northwestern Colorado, just south of the Wyoming border, a lonely valley stretches along the Green River: Brown’s Park, or Brown’s Hole if you prefer. Nowadays, it is a far piece from anywhere and not all that easy to get to. But it was a well-traveled place in the Old West.
    For time out of mind, it was frequented by the Shoshoni, Ute, and Comanche. Blackfoot, Arapaho, Cheyenne, Lakota, and Navajo also visited. Fur trappers set up shop there in the 1830s, and Fort Davy Crockett opened up to supply and defend them in 1837. Ranchers followed the mountain men, wintering cattle there as well as establishing ranches.
    One of those ranches spawned Ann and Josie Bassett, who collaborated with cattle rustlers, horse thieves, robbers, and other bandits who made Brown’s Hole an outpost on the Outlaw Trail that ran from Robber’s Roost to the south and Hole in the Wall to the north. Among the most renowned outlaws who hid out there were Butch Cassidy and his Wild Bunch and, later, the fugitive Tom Horn.
    Despite an enduring desire to go there, I have yet to set foot in Brown’s Park. One of these days…

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Rawhide Robinson gets a re-ride.

    Some of you will be familiar with Rawhide Robinson. He’s the ordinary cowboy who spins stories about his extraordinary experiences. He’s the star of three award-winning novels, Rawhide Robinson Rides the Range, Rawhide Robinson Rides the Tabby Trail, and Rawhide Robinson Rides a Dromedary. His outlandish tales are enjoyable for readers from junior high age to geriatrics. He even has his own website where you can get to know him.
    The news of the day is that Rawhide Robinson is once again riding into the literary world, in new paperback and eBook editions from the publishing house Speaking Volumes.
    Rawhide Robinson Rides the Range: True Adventures of Bravery and Daring in the Wild West is now available in paperback and eBook. That’s the handsome new cover above. The other two Rawhide Robinson novels previously published in hardcover will be along soon in paperback and eBook. And, somewhere down the trail, another Rawhide Robinson adventure will be available for the first time—Rawhide Robinson Rides a Wormhole: A True Tale of Bravery and Daring in the Weird West.
    For gifts, for yourself, or just for fun, when Rawhide Robinson rides into your life you’ll have a lot to laugh about. Stand by for crass commercialism. Here’s where the new edition of Rawhide Robinson Rides the Range is now on sale:

Sunday, January 3, 2021

The Bird has flown.


Back in our college days when all the rodeo bums who lived at or hung around the Rounder House were known by nicknames more than names, Marlowe Carroll was Bird, or the Bird Man, a moniker earned by long, skinny legs.
    More than anyone else I can think of, Bird was influential in my rodeo years. When I arrived at USU he ran the Rodeo Club and was the star of the Intercollegiate Rodeo Team, winning a bunch in both bareback and bull riding. He made sure I was involved in the club, and encouraged and supported and assisted my efforts as I earned a place on the team, eight seconds at a time. We spent a lot of time together, much of it involved in activities best unmentioned—but those days resulted in a lifetime’s worth of memories.
    A series of brain aneurisms and strokes while still a young man ended Marlowe’s rodeo career and landed him in a wheelchair, his agile mind betrayed by a mostly unresponsive body. Still, he lived for decades and never lost his sense of humor or happy outlook on life.
    Marlowe—Bird—left this life in late December, and made the whistle with the same grit and try that you see on his face in the photo of him aboard the infamous bucking bull Fuzzy 4.
    (The other fuzzy photo shows the USU Rodeo Club in 1971. That’s Marlowe in the upper right; yours truly is there on the left.)


for Marlowe

Two hearts. One beats steady
and strong. The other races by.
Confinement presses knee
against rib, back to thigh.

Sounds, muffled and distant,
penetrate. Irresistible, the urge.
Pull. Squeeze. Slide. Every muscle
tense, you nod and emerge;

delivered into chaotic glare
assaulted by motion and sound.
Bull bellows. Brain blows.
Body, unbound, seeks ground.

Face down in arena dirt
consciousness goes astray
as flooding blood erodes neurons
and synapses wash away.

Tucked, then, into the coffin of
a body cold and unresponsive;
rolling through years gathering
dust as memories weave

tapestries of Rounders and rodeo,
broncs and bulls—of life before
a hemorrhagic stroke of bad luck
drew you out to ride no more.

Monday, December 28, 2020

Really stupid words, Chapter 15

Whereas the beginning of a New Year is the traditional time for Americans to elect to pursue goals and objectives in order to improve their lives and the lives of others; and

Whereas speakers of American English routinely abuse, misuse, overuse, and exhaust words by excessively employing trendy usages and clichés in misguided attempts to sound fashionable and knowledgeable; now, therefore, be it

Resolved, that in the New Year of 2021 and forever after, speakers of American English will eliminate these tired, hackneyed, banal, threadbare, and altogether stupid word usages from their vocabularies:

·   source, when used as a verb (rather than its proper function as a noun) to indicate the location and acquisition of products or services or ingredients.

·   pivot, unless specifically referring to rotation around a fixed point (and not in reference to any and every change or adjustment).

·   curate, when used outside its common meaning pertaining to museums and exhibits (more precise but less trendy words such as choose or select are preferable for other uses).

·   unpack, when referring to discussion or explanation of a complicated subject (rather than when removing items from a crate, suitcase, or other container).

·   surge, to describe any increase of any size (rather than the intended meaning to indicate a rise or movement of remarkable strength or speed or force).


Saturday, December 19, 2020

The Big Rodeo.


    For ten nights in a row recently, we sat in front of the TV watching the National Finals Rodeo. We were especially impressed with how well the cowboys from Utah did, bringing home several world championships.
    For years now, the saddle bronc riding at every level in rodeo has been dominated by the Wright family of Milford, a small, small town way off the beaten path in southern Utah. Before this year, six Wright brothers had won among them five world championships and more other accomplishments than you can imagine. The oldest of the brothers, Cody, won two of those world titles.
    Now, it’s his sons who are in the limelight.
    Back in 2018, I wrote a magazine article about that next generation of Wrights. I spent an afternoon and evening with two of the boys at the Utah State High School Rodeo Finals. The picture above is from that day—that’s father Cody in the middle offering advice and encouragement to his sons Ryder, on the left, and Rusty on the right. Too young for high school rodeo at the time was another son, Stetson.
    All three are now full-time professional rodeo cowboys, and proved themselves the best of the bunch at the recent NFR.
    Rusty, the oldest at 25, tied for first (with his brother) in a go-round of the saddle bronc riding, placed in seven of ten go-rounds and fifth in the average, and came away ranked fourth in the world standings.
    Ryder, at 22, placed in nine and won or tied for first place in five saddle bronc riding go-rounds and won the average, and walked away wearing the World Champion belt buckle (for the second time).
    Stetson, at the ripe old age of 21, won one saddle bronc riding go-round and tied for first in another and ended up seventh in the world standings. Stetson also rides bulls and won four go-rounds at the NFR and was crowned world champion. He entered the National Finals Rodeo second in overall winnings for the year in the All-Around Cowboy race, but passed the leader and left him more than $158,000 in the dust, bringing home his second All-Around Championship.
    The Wrights are a wonderful family, making history in more ways than one, both in and outside the rodeo arena. It has been a pleasure to know them over the years, and we’ll be hearing more of them in the future.
    It also bears mentioning that Kaycee Feild—son of the late Lewis Feild, five-time world bareback riding champion—matched his father’s accomplishment by winning his fifth world championship in my favorite rodeo event.  

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Where I’m going, Part Three.


    For several years now I have wanted to visit Las Vegas.
    Not that one.
    I have been to Nevada’s Sin City more times than I care to remember, and only revisit when there’s a reason—say a rodeo, or a conference, or, in the past, family. The city’s main attractions hold no attraction for me.
    I’m talking about the other Las Vegas.
    Las Vegas, New Mexico, is of interest to me for its historic importance. It was a waystation on the Santa Fe Trail, for example, and played a role in the Mexican-American War and the Taos Revolt. And over time it has hosted Indians, Spanish colonists, cowboys, outlaws, lawmen, railroaders, and other pivotal figures in the history of the West.
    Later, movie and TV folks showed up, and still do from time to time.
    I once got within about 100 miles of the place when approaching from the north, but took a left turn for Amarillo. I once got within 50 miles when approaching from the south, but took a left turn for Albuquerque. When visiting Glorieta Pass while doing Civil War research I came within 40 miles, but u-turned for an engagement back in Santa Fe.
    One of these days, I will make Las Vegas my destination, and I will see the sights on both sides of the Gallinas River.
    And the city lights, such as they are.

Saturday, November 28, 2020

My Favorite Book, Part 24


There’s a common belief about Western novels, practically a law, that the hero always saves the day and good always triumphs over evil. And, truth be told, that’s the formula behind most, almost all, Western novels.
    But there are books that defy the doctrine and go a different way, presenting a more nuanced—you could say more realistic—way of seeing things. Some of them become classics.
    One such is The Ox-Bow Incident by the late Nevada writer Walter Van Tilburg Clark. There is no hero in its pages, the day is not saved, and there is no triumph of good over evil—just the opposite, in fact. And yet upon publication in 1940 the novel achieved eminence, and has maintained its place among the best Western novels of all time, widely considered a masterpiece.
    It just goes to show, I suppose, that while there is safety for Western writers and Western novels in following the herd, there is more than one trail that leads to success.
    And, to my way of thinking, to better books.