Bill Kittridge RIP

Just received word that Bill Kittridge died –

He was a mentor to than one of my friends at the University of Montana.

He grew up on a ranch in Eastern Oregon memorialized in his book, “Owning it All”. Then he became a professor for many years at the University of Montana, Missoula where he mentored more people in the west than anyone before or since, writers as diverse as Terry Tempest Williams, Rick Bass to Gary Nabhan, and Robert Michael Pyle. 

I think it will be no insult to his memory to say he will be remembered best as a mentor and teacher. His writing was good, but his mentoring was unparalleled and is exemplified by the collection “The Last Best Place“.

Gary Nabhan wrote in “Twenty-Five Authors Pay Tribute to William Kittredge’s Passing.”

Bill Kittredge will remain among the giants of fiction and nonfiction writing in American West, up there with McCarthy, Hugo, Welch, Silko, McGuane, Austin, Ehrlich, Cather, and Harrison in our pantheon of poetic voices from rural America’s scrappy, roughed-up, and wildly imaginative towns and ranches. But anyone who conversed, traveled, ate, or drank with Bill no doubt remembers his unswerving warmth, hilarious humor, poignant commentaries, and deep commitment to make life in the boonies more memorable, compassionate, morally fierce, and ultimately, culturally richer. He gifted us a New Story for the West, one most of us are still trying to live up to, and in. In the last three decades of his life, he also took on the voice of a prophet and sage, as stunning in his place-based pronouncements as Wallace Stegner, Wendell Berry, Charles Wilkinson, Terry Williams, John Nichols, Annick Smith or Winona LaDuke. He made you feel deeply comfortable, but he also challenged us to think beyond the horizon of our own messy lives to forge a West that would be more inclusive, reflective, and refreshing. The twinkle in his merry eyes will never die, but will arch over us like a meteor of hope.

He will be missed.

Steve

Joseph Paul Summers Brown 2021 RIP

Joe Brown

I just received word that Joe Brown died; he was 90. I did not know him well, but I knew him and enjoyed him.

He was the often-unsung BEST of all the cowboy writers, certainly of the border writers. He could throw a rope and tell a story. He bought ranches on both sides of the Rio Grande – sometime in cash (gold coins!) He was down and out and sometimes got moving money. With the last, he once bought an airplane that he used to clip the radio mast off a whore house of a Madam, who had offended him, on the border.

When I first met him, he told me a long-winded story about he and old cowboy from Magdalena, Fred Martin, had paused at a whorehouse on the boarder, when they were smuggling cattle across in WWII. He said, the girls called him in, because “the old son-of-a-bitch wouldn’t take off his boots.” I told this story to his great granddaughter, she said, “that’s so grandpa, that’s so cute.”

He wrote the best boarder novel ever, “Forests of the Night”, about a cattle-killing jaguar, its English is fascinating, written entirely in Spanish syntax. It’s a chilling novel besides.

In my opinion he wrote the best working cowboy novel, “The Outfit.”

Jim Harrison said of him, “JPS Brown is the great restorer of the great American quest.

That will stand.

Steve

Goddess

The goddess has been here about six months now, but we met her several years ago at Jim and Phoebe Caldwell’s – she stood above our bed there, when we visited, for two week. By then I was in love with her. She is imposing, a vaguely disapproving look on her face – and two immense hounds, resembling the cross between stock protection dogs and tazis used to kill wolves in Asia. One of them is looking right at you.

They are obviously the hounds of Diana, so who could she be but the goddess? Or so I thought, until Penelope gently told me she had another name, “Mail oder Brides come with Baggage.”

That will do, too.

Steve

Malpai News

Anyone who read this blog is familiar with the Malpai Borderland Group.

Anyone who receives their mailer got shocking news. While their program continues to work fairly well north of the border, there’s a real threat from the south. The new Great Wall promoted by Trump and his friends. Their Great Wall might as well be designed to decrease wildlife diversity and end the kind of policies that have made the Borderland Group so successful. It is a little ridiculous to cut off the flow of animals to the south. Under such policies such creatures like water glens’ jaguar, would never find their way to the US. If this goes on the very rational for the Borderlands existence will vanish.

Steve

Still fighting my way back.

Hi,

We’ve made a lot of progress, completed a few articles, and am working with my assistant Tess to finish my second Book of Books – but the blog is aloost defeating me. The changes in my voices’ pitch and volume throughout the day are simly too much for the dictation programs I’ve tried so far. The can’t understand what I’m saying consistently enough to make it anything but frustrating.

I will keep trying.

Thank you for all the support I’ve received from friends and blog readers. Bear with me while I find a way back to posting regularly.

Steve

Steve at work at table with computer
Steve at work in better times

New – a Donate Button & more…

I’m not proud. I’ve spent my whole life as a writer and now, at 71 with Parkinson’s it is tougher to get the words on paper.

I’ve added the donate button and have linked (well, Tess* is linking) my books, and books I’ve reviewed to Amazon, where I will be getting a small amount for each purchase you make. (Tess calls this having multiple income streams.) Apparently I have to let you know the following…

“As an Amazon Associate I earn money from qualifying purchases.”

If you love my writing, help me make more of it!

– Steve

*Tess is the fingers I was able to hire with your donations, thank you.

Return, Version ?

I am coming back. My reasons are many and various; i STILL CAN’T TYPE, but Jim Caldwell is trying to design me custom software, and it seems I can’t wait; I am bursting with news and ideas. In the added isolation of the virus, I get bored since I don’t yet have a typist for my next two books; I need to talk about them to keep them alive, at least the ideas in them. Mainly there are too many things going on for me to stay away.

Be patient with me because I intend to start slowly. I need to go to the doctor’s in Albuquerque tomorrow so I’ll likely not post anything. But I am determined to build this site up again.

And special to Wally Soroka who just got in touch. For years I had a picture of you in a sailboat named Querencia reading my Querencia on the deck. it disappeared and I’d like a replacement. My snail mail is PO Box 709, Magdalena, NM 87825. I’m sure you remember the night of the great alpine slide race down Mount Tom. Since then, my partner at the Peregrine site, John Tobin, has both become a Massachusetts game warden and retired from the department. God we were tough when we were young, and thought we were immortal.

STILL STAGGERING, STILL WRITING, AND STILL HAWKING

Writing goes well, if slowly. I’m walking badly, sleeping worse, and not typing. I need some light guns- maybe one of those pseudo- Italian Turkish autoloaders in .410 — I don’t do heavy any more. On the other hand, I’m flying a goofy Harris hawk and have acquired several new, old guns.

Libby needs new knees, and is having trouble hearing me. And Ataika has died of cancer at 17. Life at seventy in the time of the Plague…

The death of dogs

On a Good Dog

O, my little pup ten years ago
was arrogant and spry,
Her backbone was a bended bow
for arrows in her eye.
Her step was proud, her bark was loud,
her nose was in the sky,
But she was ten years younger then,
And so, by God, was I.

Small birds on stilts along the beach
rose up with piping cry.
And as they rose beyond her reach
I thought to see her fly.
If natural law refused her wings,
that law she would defy,
for she could do unheard-of things,
and so, at times, could I.

Ten years ago she split the air
to seize what she could spy;
Tonight she bumps against a chair,
betrayed by milky eye!
She seems to pant, Time up, time up!
My little dog must die,
And lie in dust with Hector’s pup;
So, presently, must I.

Almaty Ataika died last night, in my bed, worn out from her cancer but peaceful. She was just short of 17, She had been my best dog, hound, pack leader, bird dog, and companion, and I’ll never have one better.

I read 2 passages from my late poet friend Tim Murphy’s Hunters Log: “the last look in her fearless eyes was trust” and “Vaya con dios, love, you were the dog of God”. Terri, who had also attended Lashy and Plummer, brought her to my bed to be kissed.

BOOK SUGGESTIONS

Recently Tom McIntyre asked several of his friends to recommend books for a young woman who had not encountered them in college. My list follows.

I once said that in my school the curriculum would be Classics, poetry, history, evolutionary biology, and how to run a chainsaw…

Politics and philosophy. Sorta…..

John Gray: Straw Dogs, John is a calm erudite calm nihilist and perhaps the most original mind in England today. He wrote a book on atheism in which he held that faith is dumb, then proved atheism is at least as…

Michael Oakeshott: Rationalism in Politics (he’s agin it)
An immense detailed scholarly book that in the end shows that the best society was in the English countryside before WWI, and that all deliberate change however inevitable is bad, by an old English small l libertarian who lives in such a village and likes to swim naked.

Prince Peter Kropotkin: Mutual Aid . Mutual aid! As far as I am concerned all political wisdom resides in these books.

Art etc: Camille Paglia, Sexual Personae. Her later ones are pretty good but she gets caught up in her schtick

A couple of uncharitable (but funny) Catholic novelists; my favories among their books

Evelyn Waugh:
A Handful of Dust
Scoop (The Daily Beast!)
Black Mischief
– Redemption? Brideshead Revisited

Muriel Spark:
A far Cry from Kensington
Loitering with Intent — woops, an autobiography but still , “I went on my way rejoicing.”

A charitable Catholic (redneck academic): Mary Karr. The Liars Club, Lit: the one about writing biographies. I have it lent out to a cowboy right now — I can’t remember the name .It covers everybody from Nabokov to Frank Conroy ‘s Stop Time.

A little natural history — Ed Wilson‘s Biophilia; Berndt Heinrich‘s Mind of the Raven.

Ted Hughes: The Collected Poetry — accessible, memorable, mostly nature poetry that stays in your head.

Possibly, the LOA edition(s ) of Nabokov. One contains Lolita (the ultimate motel road novel), Pale Fire and Pnin . Another contains Speak Memor and the good butterfly stuff ((see my next book).

Imperialism: nothing better than Heaven’s Command, Jan (James) Morris‘ trilogy about the British Empire, also containing Pax Britannica, and Farewell the Trumpets

Two great books of American History: Empire of the Summer Moon by S. C. Gwynne and Blood and Thunder by Hampton Sides. The first is more or less about the Comanche Empire, which actually was one. The second is about Kit Carson. Both are full of blood and guts and heroism; neither have easy villains.

Can you bring yourself to read someone as unpopular as Kipling? Every sentence in every one of his books, especially when he gets on his feet and gets going (which happens remarkably early –HENRY JAMES was calling him a genius at 20 I think) contains its opposite, as only happens in the greatest art. The Jungle Books are kids’ books. Sure. I read them when I was four and have read them every year since. They contain the world. Kim is the best adventure story ever told with its utterly ambiguous boy hero, and Tom; Libby sat on the great guns Zim Zimmah!

If you enjoy these kind of things — I do very much — you will doubtless enjoy Anthony Powell’s Dance to the Music of Time. But there are twelve frickin’ volumes and I doubt there’s enough time in a lifetime to read them twice. So why not read instead his autobiography? The four titles tell it all: Messengers of Day; Infants of the Spring; The Strangers are all Gone; and Faces in My Time (“I have seen better faces in my time/Than stands on any shoulder that I see/Before me at this instance”– Lear). They are short enough that you can read all of them every year. And they contain everybody that was anybody in British literature for fifty years.

You can help support me by using one of our affiliate links above! I will be getting a small amount for each purchase you make. Thank you, Steve