A little over a week ago, at the Cowboy Poets of Utah annual
Symposium, the group honored me with the Pioneer Heritage Award “For living the
life, dreaming the dream, and telling the stories of Utah’s Cowboy Heritage.”
I have been involved with CPU since the inaugural meeting back in
2002, and I suppose the fact that there aren’t many other originals still on
the grazing side of the grass may have something to do with my selection.
The organization focuses on public performance of poetry, which,
as many of you may know, has never been of much interest to me except as an
enthusiastic audience member. But I am a writer, and writing poems about
cowboys and the West is some of what I do, so we have always shared a common interest.
In any case, I am both surprised at and flattered with the
recognition. Thank you, CPU.
American English is a rich
language. It’s always changing and evolving. New words and usages come and go.
Many that come along are helpful. They clarify, they improve, they enhance and
But some are just plain
They obfuscate, they
complicate, they confuse. They reveal a lack of understanding.
“Skill set” has become about
as ubiquitous as water.
What does “skill set” offer
our language that isn’t covered by “skills” other than the fact that it adds a
syllable? And we all know how some people will never use one syllable when
two—or three—or four—will do. All those syllables make you sound smarter, don’t
That question is easily
answered with a simple, one-syllable, two-letter word: no.
If you can think of a reason to use “skill
set” rather than “skills” let me know. The ability to change my mind is among
my skills—or is it within my skill set?
A “biographical novel” is a tricky undertaking. The author must
hold to the facts while, at the same time, delve into the deeper truths of the
inner workings of the subject. Over-reliance on one or the other can tip the scales
too much and render the work lopsided and useless as either history or
Win Blevins strikes a perfect balance in Stone Song: A Novel of the Life of Crazy Horse. Extensive research
into the history and culture of the Lakota is evident throughout the book, as
is his plumbing the depths of the recorded facts about and passed-down memories
of Crazy Horse. It all comes together in a striking and engaging portrait of a
great man. His strengths and shortcomings play out in a life torn between his duty toward his people, and obedience to the spirit that guides him.
While the well-known events of Crazy Horse’s life are included,
such as his leadership at the battle at the Little Bighorn and other fights,
Blevins does not hang his story on the extravagant or waste the reader’s time
rehashing history. Instead, he concentrates on how those incidents interplay
with the more profound and mystical moments in the man’s life that, taken
together, reveal his character.
In the end, we see Crazy Horse as a human being much like, and
very different from, ourselves. And we come away reminded that, as Blevins
renders it in the Lakota language, mitakuye
oyasin—we are all related.