Monday, December 31, 2018

Back in the Saddle(bag).

The latest issue of Saddlebag Dispatches is now available. Dedicated to rodeo, this issue of the magazine includes three contributions from me.
First is a cover story, “The Man Who Invented Rodeo.” It’s all about Earl Bascom, whose inventions and improvements and developments back when make modern rodeo what it is today. Bascom is enshrined in numerous rodeo-related halls of fame recognizing his achievements. He was also an accomplished artist.
My regular “Best of the West” column features Larry Mahan, record-setting rough-stock rider and hero of my rodeo youth. Also included is a poem about the struggles of rodeo wives left at home while their cowboys struggle on the circuit. It’s titled “Nowhere Rodeo.”
Go online and take a look at Saddlebag Dispatches, or order a printed copy of the big magazine. If you’re a rodeo fan, you’ll be a fan of this issue.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

A song in my heart.

Brenn Hill, cowboy songster extraordinaire, just released his fourteenth album, Rocky Mountain Drifter.
There are sixteen songs to enjoy and, as with all things remarkable, it’s hard to pick a favorite. “Old Black Joe” and “Buffalo Beard” appeal to me for their originality. And I like “My Angel Wings.” It’s a sort of old-timey, touching kind of tune. You can’t listen to “Muddy Creek” without tapping your toes. Brenn does a fine job with one of my favorite Guy Clark classics (there are two tunes on the album written by someone other than Brenn), “Desperados Waitin’ for a Train.” I could go on and on, because everything on the album is good listening.
I confess I am drawn to one song in particular: “And the River Ran Red.” It’s a haunting, reverent song about the Massacre at Bear River, a tragedy I have written widely about. One reason I really like this song is that I had a hand in writing the words. Brenn makes those words sound better than they are.
It’s unlikely any more of my words will ever be set to music. But when it’s this good, once is enough.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Crass commercialism for Christmas.

Although it has nothing to do with the reason for the season, this is the time of year we shower one another with gifts. Books make fine gifts. They last a long time and the reader gets to open them again and again.
If you want my opinion (a big IF, I admit), books with my name on the cover make fine gifts. Poems. Novels. Short Stories. History. Humor. Adventure. Drama. Conflict. All set in the American West, the best part of the world. You’ll find enjoyable, engaging reading for anyone and everyone from junior high to geriatrics.
Visit and for information and links to people who will take your money (but not much of it) and send you books.
Thanks, and have a Merry Christmas—and all other gift-giving occasions.

Monday, December 3, 2018

My Favorite Book, Part 17

You’ll have to excuse me. I am not going to tell you about one of my favorite books this time. Instead, it’s an entire library of good reading from one of the finest writers of our (or any) time.
Wendell Berry loves the land. For years, he farmed the old-fashioned way in Kentucky, with horses and hand tools and husbandry that is about as far removed from modern “agribusiness” as you can get. He’s an outstanding poet, but we’ll leave that for another time. He writes some of the most incisive essays and social commentary you’ll ever read, but we’ll leave that for another time, as well.
His novels and stories of what he calls the “Port William Membership” are more than worth reading. Every one of them, and there are at least a dozen of them (I don’t have an exact count, because some of the novels stand alone but are also included in short novel collections), is worth reading.
Port William is a fictional small town in Kentucky, surrounded by land farmed through generations by the Catletts, Coulters, Penns, Feltners, and others. They are deceptively deep, touching, realistic stories of people and land, loves and friendships, work and play. Sometimes tragic, sometimes humorous, and always beautiful, Berry’s stories can make you wonder why we let the world change the way it has.
Read Wendell Berry. He writes every word of every book with pencil and paper—handcrafted prose in every sense of the word.