Monday, March 30, 2020

Really stupid words, Chapter 11.

It has long been a curiosity why, when we have perfectly good words in our rich language, we are so eager to jump on the bandwagon of the latest Rube Goldberg-concoction and turn it into a buzzword.
A somewhat recent example: “Going forward.”
Now, I am a soccer fan. And, for as long as I remember, “going forward” is what a soccer team does when it is on the attack. It’s a simple, apt description of something or someone moving in a defined direction in the physical world.
Nowadays, it has become almost standard vernacular used to describe something else. And the description is not nearly so apt, if it is apt at all.
We used to say, “in the future” or “from now on” or, if you wanted to sound pretentious, you might say, “henceforth” or “hereafter” or “from this time forth.” All those words and phrases mean what they mean, cannot mean anything else, and are perfectly descriptive.
“Going forward”? Not so.
Then there’s the long-standing philosophical argument about whether time moves in a “forward” direction at all, or whether it moves around and around in a cycle. But we’ll leave that discussion to the philosophers.
Years ago, in a meeting at the office, a coworker used “going forward” when it was still fresh and new. Afterward, I asked him why, and he said he did not know any other way to say what he meant. I guess he forgot that, as recently as the day before, he would have been perfectly happy to say, “from now on.”
Stupid.





Friday, March 20, 2020

New news and newer news.

 


The release of my newest novel, Pinebox Collins, is days away. It’s about a one-legged itinerant undertaker in the Old West. In his travels from place to place, Jonathon “Pinebox” Collins sees the West grow and change. He spends time in cowtowns, mining boomtowns, small towns, and thriving cities. And he crosses paths with some of the wildest characters the Wild West has to offer, including “Wild Bill” Hickok.
Next in line, slated for release in late August or early September, is my newer novel, A Thousand Dead Horses. That’s the cover, above, seen here in public for the first time. Set in 1840, it is based on a historic horse-stealing adventure, when mountain men and Ute Indians followed the Old Spanish Trail to California and robbed ranchos there of some 3,000 horses and mules, many of which did not make it across the Mojave Desert alive.
These books are going to need shelves to sit on, so please make room on yours. Thank you.


Friday, March 13, 2020

Postponed.


In an abundance of caution, this post has been postponed.
Please make sure your anti-virus software is up to date. And if our inept administration ever gets its act together, scan for any infected files.
Be careful out there.


Friday, March 6, 2020

Listening to horses.


In days gone by, you heard a lot about “horse whisperers.” These trainers had developed a knack of communicating with the animals that revolutionized handling horses. It’s a good thing.
But some trainers go beyond merely speaking a horse’s language. Some, like Joe Wolter, are just as adept at listening to horses as talking to them. Joe Wolter learned from the best, including Ray Hunt and the Dorrance brothers.
But, mostly, he learned from horses. And he passes that knowledge along at horsemanship clinics across the country.
A friend of mine, Cameron Wilkinson, has put together Joe Wolter clinics at the Utah County Fairgrounds in Spanish Fork, Utah. If you’re within trailer-pulling distance of the place, you’d do well to load up your horses and hit the road.
The clinics are June 12 through 14. But the registration deadline is coming right up, so reserve your place by April 15. (It’ll be a much more pleasant experience than filing your taxes.) Space is limited, so don’t wait—contact Cameron by e-mail today (bronc.cw@gmail.com). 
Listen to your horses. They want to be there.


Monday, February 24, 2020

The week that was, Part Two.

As noted in the previous post, the week that turned January into February was a busy one. The morning after attending anniversary ceremonies at the site of the Massacre at Bear River, we packed up and headed to Elko, Nevada, for the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. Besides enjoying the poets and musicians from the audience, I was also gathering material for an upcoming feature story for Saddlebag Dispatches magazine.
The story focuses on the wide variety of cowboy music on offer at the Gathering, “cowboy music” being defined as any damn song a cowboy likes.
I had the opportunity to interview (or “sit down with,” in banal journalistic babble) several artists who write, compose, and/or perform music. That included Jessie Veeder (pictured), a North Dakota rancher who sings about the life with a contemporary twist; Andy Hedges, a songster who collects and sings old-time, traditional cowboy tunes; Dave Stamey, widely recognized as one of the best Western songwriters and performers on stage today; Geno Delafose and his French Rockin’ Boogie zydeco band from the Louisiana prairies; Denise Withnell of Canada’s Cowboy Celtic band that pays homage to the even-more-ancient roots of many old cowboy songs; Wylie Gustafson of Wylie and the Wild West—“wild” being the operative word; Montana poet, songwriter, and singer DW Groethe; and honey-voiced horsewoman Trinity Seely.
And that’s not even counting the many other artists I had neither time nor space to feature.
As you can imagine, the variety in the musical offerings at Elko, and everywhere else Western enthusiasts gather, is rich and varied—something and someone for every cowboy (whether cowboy in fact or in spirit) to enjoy.






Saturday, February 15, 2020

The week that was, Part One.











The week that turned January to February was a busy one around here. Or, not around here, as the case may be.
On January 29, we boarded a bus with a group from Utah Westerners and traveled north on the more-or-less same trail Colonel Patrick Edward Connor took with his cavalry troops in 1863 on a mission to seek out and destroy a Shoshoni winter camp—and the people there.
Every year, the Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Nation, descendants of the few survivors of the massacre, meet on the killing field to remember the fateful day. And they gracefully host all interested parties who care to join them. One newspaper report estimated this year’s crowd at 500. Larry Echohawk (pictured), former United States Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Indian Affairs, offered the keynote address.
I have written widely about the Massacre at Bear River, the latest effort being a novel based on the horrors of the day. When released in 2021, It will carry the same title as a song I wrote the lyrics for, “And the River Ran Red,” by the great Western singer Brenn Hill. Brenn was at the ceremony and, as he did last year, sang “And the River Ran Red.”
The Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Nation, under the direction of tribal chairman Darren Parry, is in the process of creating the Boa Ogoi Cultural Interpretive Center at the site. Your financial support will help. Donations of any size are welcome.
Thank you.


Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Dispatches from the West.


Saddlebag Dispatches has a new issue available. As always, it’s big and colorful and filled with all things Western. A few of the items in the magazine have my name at the top.
A new short story, “Black Joe,” is about a wild mustang stud and his clashes with a rancher. There’s a feature article about the PBR Ty Murray Top Hand Award, and the collaboration between Ty Murray and the designer and sculptor behind the award, Jeff Wolf. My rodeo poem about how the Star Spangled Banner affects bareback riders, “Long May It Wave,” is given a beautiful presentation. And, finally, my regular “Best of the West” column features what must be the oldest of the Old West’s best towns, Taos Pueblo.
If you don’t read Saddlebag Dispatches, you’re missing out on a fine publication, offering a lot of variety in its presentation of the American West, old and new. Follow the link and take a look.


Sunday, January 26, 2020

The whistle has sounded.


Bob Schild’s ride is over. He left us January 20. And, no matter what criteria you use for judging, Bob made the whistle on a winning ride.
The years found Bob in a variety of arenas. He was a rodeo cowboy of the first order, successful in all the rough stock events with numerous championships to his credit. He was a businessman, establishing and operating B-Bar-B Leather for decades, building and selling saddles, rodeo gear, and providing all manner of horse equipment; a business passed down to his sons. He was a poet, long before cowboy poetry became the thing to do.
When I first thought to pen poetry, I looked to Bob’s work for inspiration and an education. Beyond mere rhyming stories, Bob’s verse showed literary technique, deep thinking, and attention to craft. I wanted to meet him.
I tracked Bob down at the National Circuit Finals Rodeo one year, where I found him sweeping up under the grandstands. That’s the way Bob was—always willing to lend a hand and do any job that needed doing. He was happy to make my acquaintance and willing to talk poetry and rodeo anytime, any place.
We became friends, and for years engaged in a one-sided admiration society. I had little to contribute to the relationship. Bob gave it his all. I wish time and distance hadn’t gotten in the way of my spending more time with him.
A few magazine articles focusing on Bob found their way into print, and it was difficult for me as a writer to maintain any semblance of objectivity when writing about him. 
I will never forget Bob Schild. Even though the whistle has sounded, his winning score is permanently inked in the record books.








Monday, January 20, 2020

One sitting each.


A “short story” has been defined as one that can be read in one sitting. That being the case, Hobnail and Other Frontier Stories, a new anthology from Five Star, is good for seventeen sittings.
Some of my favorite Western writers, including Loren D. Estleman, Johnny D. Boggs, and John D. Nesbitt are featured here. And there is a story by yours truly.
“The Times of a Sign” is about mules and jacks and horses and thievery, as it tells of a young man who takes part in a horse-stealing expedition to California, which leads to establishing a mule- and oxen-breeding operation in Missouri. As he explains to a questioner the absurdity of the sign advertising his enterprise, he relates the adventure of establishing the business.
The sign reads:
for sale
mules and oxen
breeding stock
     
What could possibly upset him so? One sitting with Hobnail and Other Frontier Stories will answer that question.



Thursday, January 9, 2020

Really stupid words, Chapter 10.


As you know, American English is a rich language with enough words and phrases to tell about anything and everything. And yet, rather than just use words as they are meant to be used, we abuse them and misuse them. Usually, in feeble attempts to sound more important. But those efforts fool few of us, and are just plain stupid.
Then there are simple, ordinary, everyday words that get thrown into sentences where they serve no purpose whatsoever. “Different” comes to mind. It has a distinct, clear meaning to describe things that are not alike, or dissimilar, or, sometimes, unusual.
For example: “I talked to three people and got three different answers.” It is clear that each person’s account was unlike the others.
But I hear people say things like, “I talked to three different people,” or, “We visited six different states.” What purpose does “different” serve in those examples? Surely you couldn’t talk to three “same” people, or visit six “same” states.
On the other hand, considering the first example, you could talk to three people and get the same answer.
As far as I know, economy of language requires not wasting words by using them needlessly. Like “different.” You may have a different opinion.