Friday, December 23, 2022

NFR Icons.

Like many of you, I suspect, I recently spent ten days in rodeo heaven watching the National Finals Rodeo. This year, the festivities included a new event: the naming of “NFR Icons,” honored with a banner hoisted into the rafters and their image enshrined in a bronze sculpture.

The first honorees were Ty Murray, Charmayne James, and Trevor Brazile. The reasons for honoring those three are many and well chronicled, so I won’t go into that. What I will mention is the bronze sculpture each received.

The sculptures are the creation of cowboy artist Jeff Wolf, a friend I have known since our boyhood days in the same hometown. Jeff’s work has been honored and exhibited and displayed and featured and awarded far and wide. And rightly so, as his depictions of Western life capture the soul and spirit of the people and the place, right down to the animals. His heart and hands find essence and energy in lumps of clay and breathe life into bronze.

I had the pleasure of seeing the NFR Icon sculptures in progress while visiting Jeff at his studio one day this past summer. That memory will be treasured as much by me as the finished works will be cherished by the recipients.

Jeff’s name as artist and creator was not mentioned in any of the reports I read about the NFR Icon honors. Shame. As well miss out a bronc, tip over a barrel, or break a barrier.

Monday, December 5, 2022

Four totally useless skills I have mastered.

For several years now I have been of an age that qualifies as old. I am not feeble as yet—at least not for very long at a stretch—and my health is generally good. But I am definitely in my dotage.

Among the things that often happen at this time of life is an accounting of what you have accomplished. My list is short. But among my accomplishments are a few things I was—or still am—good at that are completely useless outside of the possibility of providing fleeting enjoyment for those easily entertained.

1. Jump in the air and click my heels three times.
This one may have left me, but it remains a point of pride for someone (me) whose coordination and physical abilities are generally lacking.

2. Recite the alphabet backwards.
Although assembling the twenty-six letters of the alphabet has earned my daily bread throughout my adult life, I have seldom, if ever, been called upon to recite it in reverse. But I could if asked.

3. Flip a rope into a bow knot.
It takes no more than the blink of an eye. You would think this skill might come in handy for tying shoes, but I do not remember owning a pair of shoes with laces.

4. Hypnotize a chicken.
I have done this. I can do this. Don’t ask me why.   

There you have it. Four things I can do that matter not a whit. (It is, as they say, a slow news day.)

Saturday, November 19, 2022

Remembering 9/11.

September 11. A date burned into history like a brand. The date of the deadliest mass murder on American soil. But the 9/11 chronicled in With a Kiss I Die occurred in 1857 at a place called Mountain Meadows in Utah Territory—an evil deed unsurpassed in bloody violence until its one hundred and forty-fourth anniversary in 2001. 

With a Kiss I Die—A Novel of the Massacre at Mountain Meadows  is a love story entwined in the tragedy of the Mountain Meadows Massacre. Polly Alden, a young California-bound Arkansas emigrant, falls in love with Tom Langford, a Mormon boy she meets in the settlements of Utah Territory. Caught between the fear and hatred of the persecuted Saints for the emigrants, and the hostility of the emigrants toward Mormons who will not replenish their dwindling supplies, the young lovers defy mistrust and opposition as they aspire to a life together.

Animosity between the emigrants and the settlers grows as the wagon train makes its way south through the territory, culminating in the blood-stained soil of Mountain Meadows.

Follow the trail of the Arkansas emigrants and the blossoming affection of the star-crossed lovers in a compelling, engaging tale inspired by history—and the eternal conflict between good and evil, hatred and love—through the pages of With a Kiss I Die.


Monday, November 7, 2022

All about cowboys.

“Cowboy” is a word that implies much more than it means. To my way of thinking, one of the best definitions of the word is that applied by the late cowboy author Eugene Manlove Rhodes: “the hired man on horseback.” My dad used to say that the way to tell a real cowboy was by the cowsh*t on his boots. It all comes down to cows and horses.

Granted, those definitions may be too limiting, especially today. But, thanks to the days when Westerns dominated movie and TV screens, “cowboy” came to be applied to too many kinds of people, most of whom had no idea which end of a cow gets up first, and had never had manure on their boots. Outlaws, lawmen, gamblers, gunfighters, and all manner of others who appeared in Westerns (except those gathered under the likewise too-broad term, “Indians”) were referred to collectively as “cowboys.”

A while back I was approached by, a web site devoted to readers, and asked to list five books I thought represented something important in the literature of the American West. I titled my contribution “The best novels about cowboys who are actually cowboys” and wrote a brief note about each of my five selections. Each novel on the list carries a storyline that revolves around cowboys doing actual cowboy work. While works of fiction, all the books feature an authentic look at cowboys, cowboy work, and cowboy life.  

Take a look at the list on See what you think. You may disagree with my selections or my premise or my reasoning. You may be inspired to read one or more of those books if you haven’t already. For more years than I care to remember, reading and writing about cowboys is as close as I have come to having cowsh*t on my boots. But I still haven’t forgotten which end of a cow gets up first.

NOTE: I borrowed the bronze sculpture pictured above from noted Western artist Jeff Wolf—he’s a cowboy born and raised, and knows whereof he sculpts.

Monday, October 24, 2022

The Return of Rawhide Robinson.

Rawhide Robinson is the star of three of my previous novels. Rawhide Robinson Rides the Range – True Adventures of Bravery and Daring in the Wild West won a Western Writers of America Spur Award. Rawhide Robinson Rides the Tabby Trail – The True Tale of a Wild West CATastrophe won a Western Fictioneers Peacemaker Award and was a Spur Award finalist. Rawhide Robinson Rides a Dromedary – The True Tale of a Wild West Camel Caballero was a finalist for both honors.

Now, after laying low for a few years, tall-tale-teller Rawhide Robinson is back. Speaking Volumes, publisher of the paperback and eBook editions of the aforementioned books, has just released the new, never-before-published Rawhide Robinson Rides a Wormhole – The True Tale of Bravery and Daring in the Weird West in paperback and eBook.

As you may know, extraordinary things often happen to ordinary cowboy Rawhide Robinson. In his latest adventure(s), while riding herd on a ranch in the remote Nevada desert a lightning strike zaps him into the middle of the twentieth century and the middle of Area 51, a top-secret experimental airbase where strange things are said to happen.

In a chance encounter, Rawhide Robinson meets young teenager Eric, who helps the discombobulated cowboy escape the clutches of military police, the CIA, and local law enforcement, and gets him mixed up in a kidnapping by Las Vegas mobsters. All the while, Rawhide Robinson entertains with his signature tall tales as he wonders if he will ever get out of the modern world and back to the Old West.

Learn more about Rawhide Robinson and his adventures on his very own website, The books are available at Speaking Volumes and from online booksellers listed below.

The sentiment author Ol’ Max Evans once inscribed in my copy of The Rounders certainly applies to Rawhide Robinson Rides a Wormhole: “Have fun here—I sure as hell did.”

eBook On Sale Now:
Amazon US
Apple Books
Barnes & Noble
Google Play
Kobo Books

Preview eBook Here:
Amazon US
Google Play

Print Book On Sale Now:
Amazon US
Barnes & Noble

Tuesday, October 11, 2022

City of Rocks.

In south-central Idaho, not far from the borders of what are now Utah and Nevada, is a monumental place called City of Rocks. Nowadays, it is a National Reserve overseen by the National Park Service and the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation. In times past, it was a landmark through which most California-bound travelers passed after leaving the trail along the Snake River to reach the Humboldt River.

Photographs do not do it justice, as they fail to capture the scale of the rocks that give the place its name. Suffice it to say they are—to use the word in its proper sense—awesome.

We have visited City of Rocks before, but this time we traveled the Backcountry Byway from Oakley, Idaho to enter from the less-traveled west side of the park. It amounted to driving forty miles of bad road (fourteen, really, but it seemed longer) to get there, but it was worth the trip.

Despite other sightseers and several rock climbers scaling the monoliths, City of Rocks is so quiet and isolated and so little changed from days gone by that one can still imagine the wonderment of the Shoshoni and Bannock Indians who frequented the area, and the emigrants who scratched their names in the granite.


Thursday, September 22, 2022

Eastern hospitality.

Writers conferences are making a comeback now that the scourge of covid is somewhat under control. You may recall my recent report on the Southern hospitality I enjoyed while speaking at the White County CreativeWriters Conference in Arkansas. Since then, I was treated to some Out West “Eastern” hospitality while speaking at the Eastern Idaho Writers League Conference in Idaho Falls, Idaho.

A few years ago, the statewide Idaho Writers League disbanded, and with it went the regional conferences around the state. But writers in Eastern Idaho weren’t content with inactivity, so they formed a new organization and this year sponsored their first conference. I was fortunate to be invited as a presenter. I renewed acquaintances with writers I had met at earlier conferences as well as met others for the first—and I hope not the last—time.

Having spent five years or so living in the Idaho Falls area, we also visited some old haunts from our time there as well as visiting family and friends still in the neighborhood.

All in all, as Jim Stafford would sing under different circumstances, it was “A Real Good Time.”

Tuesday, September 6, 2022

Southern hospitality.

It took a lot of walking through miles of airport concourses, late flights, missed connections, and hours and hours sitting on airplanes.

But it was worth it.

Last weekend I had the pleasure of speaking at the White CountyCreative Writers Conference in Searcy, Arkansas. They are a fine group of fine writers, and they host a fine conference. I got to meet a lot of folks—most of their names, unfortunately, soon leaked out of my porous brain—and talk with them about poetry, fiction, history, and every other kind of writing you can think of. My fellow presenters, Laura Castoro and Michael Claxton, were informative and entertaining and it would have been worth the trip just to listen to them.

With the nasty coronavirus more or less at bay these days, it is a pleasure to see writers conferences once again show up on the calendar. And if they are all as good as the White County Creative Writers Conference, the writing world will be a better place.

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Really stupid words, Chapter 20.

A reader (and legendary writer) friend pointed out after one of these complaints that there are no stupid words. I suppose he’s right, mostly. But, as I said when I first started posting these whiny gripes, people have an annoying habit of taking perfectly good words and using (misusing) them in stupid ways. The result is communication that is imprecise and often incorrect, all from feeble attempts to sound important or clever or trendy.

I continue, then, to test my curmudgeonly conviction that by pointing out stupid words—or the stupid use of words—that we all might think more carefully about what we say and write.

Imagine yourself at a restaurant. The kind with tables and chairs where someone shows up and says, “May I take your order?” Almost without fail, someone will respond, “I’ll do the (enter selection here).” Then, more likely than not, someone else will say, “I’ll do the (enter selection here).” The trend may well continue around the table, with everyone (except me) saying they will “do” their choice of food.

“Do?” What are they going to “do” to it, or with it, other than eat it? I guess you could “do” other things with the food, but few of them seem appropriate in public.

People used to say “I’ll have” or “I’d like” or “I’ll try” the menu item of their choice. Those phrases make sense to me, they mean something. “I’ll do,” on the other hand, sounds stupid.

Maybe I’ll feel better after I eat. I guess I’ll “do” a burrito and see.

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Coming Attractions.

This Thy Brother, sequel to my earlier novel, Father unto Many Sons, is slated for release by Five Star later in August. The book picks up the story of the Pate and Lewis families as they work to establish themselves in a new land in New Mexico, and follows the wayward Pate brothers who left the fold in the earlier book.

A few months later, in October, Five Star will release With a Kiss I Die. This love story follows an emigrant girl leaving Arkansas and a Mormon boy in Utah Territory as they attempt to find a life together despite opposition from all directions. This Romeo-and-Juliet-like story ends in southern Utah at Mountain Meadows.

Shortly after the first of the year comes a collection of my short fiction from Five Star, Black Joe and Other Selected Stories. Included is the Western Fictioneers Peacemaker Award-winning title story, two Western Writers of America Spur Award winners, and several other new and used stories.

Also lurking, with publication dates pending but uncertain, are two original novels from Speaking Volumes, Rawhide Robinson Rides a Wormhole—A True Adventure of Bravery and Daring in the Weird West, and a novel set in the mid-twentieth century, Silver Screen Cowboy. 

More to come.

Friday, July 1, 2022

One man's opinion.

My latest novel, All My Sins Remembered, has been reviewed by readers a number of times, with generally positive comments for such a gritty, violent story. One review in particular examines the novel in depth and offers incisive analysis—well beyond what I, as the author, could offer. The reviewer is Charles E. Rankin, and he is widely experienced in reading, evaluating, editing, and publishing books about the American West. Mister Rankin is the retired Associate Director and Editor in Chief of University of Oklahoma Press; former Director of Publications, Montana Historical Society Press; and former Editor of Montana: The Magazine of Western History.

Here's what he has to say about All My Sins Remembered:

It is not by chance that, in his latest novel, Rod Miller has taken his title, All My Sins Remembered, from Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Comparable to the Bard and to Cormac McCarthy, this book is about madness. It is also about good and evil in contention, and the road this story travels leads to both. The protagonist—an unnamed roadhouse operator—extorts, murders, and robs from those who have things he wants or who anger him or who become innocent victims of his haunted dreams. Yet he also bestows unprovoked kindness, seemingly without recompense, to those most in need. Others, he leaves alone. Like Hamlet, he dreams, his dreams bring further madness, and they lead to his undoing.

The story takes place at a roadhouse, a western-styled Bates Motel. It sits somewhere in the desert along a dusty road that leads to California and its dreams of renewal in one direction and to some far off, nondescript valley settlements in another. A mining camp that vacillates between lingering death and renaissance is located somewhere not too far up the road, and an impoverished Paiute band ekes out existence somewhere in the surrounding hills and canyons.

At the roadhouse is a windmill and a well. Together, they constitute the story’s fulcrum. The windmill furnishes life-giving water aplenty but at a cost. The well, made unproductive by the windmill, is a sepulcher. It smells like death, as well it should. Many bodies lie at its bottom. For the life-giving water from the windmill, the roadhouse operator charges exorbitantly. All travelers protest the unconscionable cost, but almost all pay it. They are often invited in for a meal, cooked by a Paiute woman who lives slave-like at the roadhouse. If travelers come in to eat, they are directed first to a bowl with water and a towel, but no soap. Soap is for sale, but only one traveler—the photographer—buys it. He will trade images for its cost. Otherwise, the travelers’ hands, like their sins, remain unwashed.

The protagonist controls both the windmill and the well. He is an evil, violent man who commits eleven murders on stage and is undoubtedly guilty of others. The Indian woman who lives with him is silent. He likely cut out her tongue, but we never find out for sure. She is not without heart, however. She is kind to those who deserve it, especially women.

Despite remoteness, many wayfarers arrive at the roadhouse. The cast is as diverse as those in Bret Harte’s Outcasts of Poker Flat. But only two besides the protagonist are particularly important: the Paiute woman and a mail carrier who travels the road every few days on his way from valley towns to mining camp and back again. Both are symbolic. The Paiute woman, like so many Indian people in American history, has no voice. But she perseveres. Often abused and beaten terribly, she is a survivor. The man who carries the mail is a Shane-like character. He functions as fate, conscience, justice, the means to resolution. Like Shane, however, he cannot remain and must ride off into the sunset at the end.

The story is told in the first person from the viewpoint of the roadhouse operator so, like it or not, we come to identify with him. At times, he is a sympathetic character. He does not murder everyone who comes to his roadhouse. In fact, he gives kindly aid to two Mormon missionaries who make him think on religion, to three destitute children who win his father-like sympathy, and to two families so honest, yet so pathetically down on their luck, they gain his help. Other vignettes are equally curious: the three ladies of the night who barter their pleasures for his exorbitant charges; the photographer who does similarly but trades knowledge and photographs of the roadhouse grounds, including the windmill and the well, for what he owes; and the freighter who brings him much desired vegetables and foodstuffs.

The story almost seems Manichean, but it is too complex for that easy interpretation. Rather, as with Shakespeare’s Hamlet, dreams haunt the protagonist’s sleep. Interludes of flashbacks indicate a violent past not of his doing. So, we are not without sympathy, but we are morbidly intrigued. Like a disaster unfolding in real time, we cannot look away.

It is a cliché, but this is the kind of book you cannot put down. It is lean; Rod Miller does not waste words. Yet the story abounds with detail—about food and cooking, about how liquor coats a glass, about how people look—and don’t look—at each other, about how wagons are pieced together and taken apart, about how horses and mules are constituted and act, about telling silences amid edgy conversations. Told with such verve and knowing detail, the story brings characters without names and distinct faces clearly to life. The action is swift, the western scene spare and tense, the whole, as Loren Estleman says, remarkable in its historical accuracy and stunning in its immediacy.

Friday, June 3, 2022

At the Utah Arts Festival.

Every summer (pandemics permitting) some 70,000 people make their way to downtown Salt Lake City for the Utah Arts Festival. On display is art of every kind, from sculpture and painting to music and dance to film and photography and more.

There’s literary art as well, and that’s where I come in. Or go on, if you’d rather.

On Friday, June 24, at 4:00 p.m. I’ll be reading selections from my writings about the 1863 Massacre at Bear River, the bloodiest encounter between the US Army and Indians in the history of the American West. It’s a tragedy largely forgotten and ignored in our collective memory, and that needs to change.

Selections from song lyrics, poetry, short stories, a novel, as well as a nonfiction book and magazine article are on the agenda.

If you’re anywhere near Salt Lake City from June 23 through June 26, be sure to visit the Utah Arts Festival. I’ll be there, and watching for you.

Monday, May 2, 2022

My Favorite Book, Part 28

Here’s a book that I had not heard of until the movie came out, but I did read News of the World by Paulette Jiles before I saw the movie. And, as is usually the case, even though I liked the movie when I finally saw it, the book is better.

The premise itself is an unusual one—a man, Captain Jefferson Kidd, wanders around the isolated settlements of Texas reading from newspapers he collects when possible, informing people—at a price—what is going on in the world beyond the borders of their limited experience. His life gets complicated when he agrees to take on a passenger, a young girl who has been held captive by a Kiowa band and has, for all practical purposes, become Kiowa herself. Kidd is to deliver her to her only surviving relatives, an aunt and uncle.

Along the way, among other adventures, they confront a trio of bad men attempting to steal the girl for nefarious purposes and violence ensues. The delivery to the girl’s relatives doesn’t work out, and the Captain’s and the girl’s lives take an unexpected turn leading to a satisfactory conclusion to the story.

The book is engaging and well written, and is one of the few Western novels nowadays to make its way to the big screen. I liked it. However, even in a novel from a major publisher and as well written and meticulously edited as this one, mistakes sneak through. As an inveterate nitpicker, I scoffed when one of the characters said, “This ain’t my first rodeo,” a phrase completely anachronistic to the time and place. And the author repeatedly refers to a part of a printing press as a paten (which is a little tray used in the Eucharist) when what she means is platen.

Picky, picky, picky.

But we all make mistakes, and News of the World is still a fine book.

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Where I’ve been—out with the Pony Express.

Not long ago I wrote here of a desire to visit the Pony Express Station sites in Utah’s west desert. That’s one I can check off the list.

With the able guidance and expertise of Patrick Hearty, former president of the National Pony Express Association as well as the Utah Division, Utah Division Historian, and the author, with photography by Dr. Joseph Hatch, of The Pony Express Stations of Utah and The Pony Express in Utah, we drove the trail and stopped at all the Pony stations out to the Nevada border. The road was laid out by army engineer James H. Simpson, and served the Jackass Mail, the Overland Stage, freighters, the US Army, and emigrants as well as the Pony Express.

The desert out there is still an empty place, with few—most of the way, no—residents outside of wild horses and antelope for a hundred miles. But the isolation is beautiful in its way, with blue sky and mountains and plains that stretch as far as the eye can see and beyond. The view is not much changed from what the Pony riders saw as they raced through there in 1860 and 1861. All the stations are marked, some with interpretive information. Some still show ruins and fainter traces from the stations that once stood. The photograph above shows the station site at Simpson’s Springs, where you’ll find a monument erected by the Civilian Conservation Corps and a replica of a station building erected years ago by FFA students, as well as interpretive information posted by the Utah Division of the National Pony Express Association.

The original Willow Springs Station building still stands—barely—at the Willow Springs Ranch in Callao, and houses a number of artifacts and collections from the history of the Pony Express as well as local history. Besides a tour, the owners of the ranch offered help and assistance of another kind—but that’s a story for another day.

Thursday, March 31, 2022

Next, please: Father unto Many Sons and This Thy Brother

Father unto Many Sons, released in hardcover by Five Star Publishing in August 2018, was a finalist for the Western Fictioneers Peacemaker Award for Best Western Novel. Any day now, Speaking Volumes will release Father unto Many Sons in paperback and ebook. That’s the cover of the new edition, above. In related news, come August, Five Star Publishing will release the sequel to Father unto Many Sons.

This Thy Brother picks up the story where we left the Pate and Lewis families, newly arrived in New Mexico. Watch as the members of the families attempt to build new lives in a new land in This Thy Brother.

Also in the pages of This Thy Brother, you’ll find connections to yet another of my novels, A Thousand Dead Horses.

If you missed Father unto Many Sons or A Thousand Dead Horses, you still have time to get the stories started that will make reading This Thy Brother much richer and more enjoyable.

On a personal note, I never intended a sequel when I started—or finished—Father unto Many Sons. But my brother, Zeb Miller, said there should be one. I wrote This Thy Brother for him. I only wish he had lived to read it.

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Pairs of Aces.

In a recent post I mentioned the on-screen chemistry between Paul Newman and Robert Redford in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and The Sting. Some readers wrote to say they agreed that it was a fine pairing. That set me to thinking about other pairs that, together, made their characters and the movie better than they would have been otherwise. Here are some that are embedded in my memory as winning pairs—pairs of aces, if you will.

At the top of my list has to be Tommy Lee Jones and Robert Duvall in the television mini-series Lonesome Dove. Both these actors are favorites of mine, and together they made one of the best duos ever.

Going back a few years, there’s the unforgettable combination of Glenn Ford and Henry Fonda in The Rounders.

Ed Harris and Viggo Mortensen were outstanding in Appaloosa. An altogether different kind of movie, a hilarious spoof of Westerns, teamed up Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson in Shanghai Noon. In the category of remakes that improve on the original as well as demonstrate the importance of casting, don’t miss True Grit with Jeff Bridges and Matt Damon (and, of course, Hailee Steinfeld).

Finally, there’s a movie on my list far removed from a Western—but it stars two old cowboys who can’t help but be cowboys. Wilford Brimley and Richard Farnsworth were a pair of aces in the baseball movie The Natural—two actors I liked in any role, and especially enjoyed seeing together. They also co-starred in a short-lived TV series, The Boys of Twilight. It was set, and shot in part, in my home state of Utah. I didn’t see it (me and everybody else, it seems) but I hope to find it somewhere, somehow. Those two old codgers make a good pair to draw to.


Thursday, March 3, 2022

Where I’m Going—Part 7


One of the most famous high-speed roads in Western history passes a few miles from where I live: the Pony Express Trail.

The trail passed through the middle of Salt Lake Valley from roughly north to south, then headed west across the desert until reaching what is now Nevada, leaving a string of swing stations and home stations in its wake. Monuments mark most, if not all, their locations and there are traces of some still standing.

Sad to say, I have yet to venture out into the sagebrush, shadscale, and greasewood to visit them. Not that I haven’t wanted to. It’s just that I haven’t made a definite plan to do so and carried out that plan. Thank goodness the pony riders weren’t as remiss in their travels on that road.

Still, I am determined to do it. I will see what there is to see at places like Simpson’s Springs, Fish Springs, Boyd’s Station, Willow Springs, Deep Creek, and places in between and beyond. I will see sights and sites that are much the same as those seen by the brave boys of days gone by.

One of these days. For certain sure. You can count on it.

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

My first rodeo.

I don’t remember my first rodeo. Or my second rodeo. While I have memories of many, many rodeos over many, many years those memories are somewhat muddled and there are no numbers assigned.

Most likely, my first rodeo was a hometown Pioneer Day affair during which little kids like me were screwed down onto the backs of Hereford or black bally calves, with two hands in a death grip on a loose rope, then turned out into the arena for a few (very few) frantic seconds of jolting and jarring and jerking before landing in the dirt with a better than even chance of getting a mouthful of the stuff.

The first rodeo I have record of was a Little Buckaroo Rodeo in Orem, Utah, on Friday, May 31, 1963. On the printed program, right after “Specialty Act—Trampoline” came Section III of Pony Bareback Riding, and there I am, in black and white, with my age listed as 10. Next to my name, in my dad’s handwriting, is my score: “0.” I learned nothing from the experience. For several more years I kept getting on bareback horses that didn’t want me on them—through high school, amateur, college, and pro rodeos.

 When circumstances require, I can honestly say (for what it’s worth), “This ain’t my first rodeo.”

I am now of an age that my last rodeo, like my first, is so long ago that any memory of it has leaked out of my porous brain. There may be a connection.

P.S. My latest novel, All My Sins Remembered, is now available in hardcover from Amazon and other online booksellers. Your local bookstore can order it, and it should be in libraries soon.

Saturday, February 12, 2022

At the movies.

One of my favorite movies, and certainly one of my favorite Westerns, is Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

I am fully aware that it bends and twists history until reality is unidentifiable, and faithfulness to actual events is lacking. Still, it does have some basis in fact. And, let’s face it, it’s not as if even the most studied scholars and historians agree about the exploits and adventures, the villainy and vices, the lives and deaths of Robert LeRoy Parker and Harry Alonzo Longabaugh.

What do I like about the movie? For one thing, it’s funny, and humor is one thing that’s sadly lacking in Old West film and fiction. The picture above portrays the climax of one of the movie’s most hilarious moments, Butch and Sundance’s escape from a persistent posse by leaping from a cliff to a river below following a furiously funny debate. Then there’s the fact that the actors, Paul Newman and Robert Redford, are masters of the craft and their partnership here, as well as in The Sting, is inspired given the on-screen chemistry between them. And it’s well written and well-directed. Finally, much of the movie was shot in and around my home state of Utah, showcasing the wild beauty of our varied landscape.

I don’t know how many times I’ve watched Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. I last loaded up the DVD a few months ago. And it won’t be too many months before I see it again.


Tuesday, February 1, 2022

Old poem.

You can’t live without ageing. One day it dawns on you that you are no longer young. Then, someday, it occurs to you that you are old.

We all know it’s coming. Still, we are often surprised and sometimes shocked at the realization. Despite the passing years and the accompanying changes we can’t ignore, there are many, many other things inside us unchanged since our salad days. And that, I believe, is behind the bewilderment of finding yourself old.

The bewilderment of finding yourself old is the inspiration behind “Through a Glass Darkly,” a new poem built around a bunkhouse cowboy’s wonderment at what has become of him.

And what comes next for all of us. Live well.

Through a Glass Darkly

Chipped and cracked, fogged
by seasons and dimmed by years,
the face in the glass confounds;
furrows deepen, wrinkles ridge.

He turns away, hand wavering
unassured, touches tousled
sougan and sits, head in hands,
eyes shut but unsettled.

Stands again to stare into the glass
at creases and canyons and crags
and coulees cut by wind
and sun and snow and smoke.

He reads the lines that tell
of blisters and burning hair
and the bloody blades
of a hundred branding fires.

Wan forehead marked by hard line
over tangled brow bristles shading
whiskers whitened on wizened
chin and cheeks burnt brown.

How the hell has it come to this?
he will wonder, till one day he looks
in the mirror and there’s no one there
to look back.