This has not been a typical New England winter, and I am not complaining. But my boys have been. Where’s the snow? they want to know. Some arrived yesterday, so a day off school meant sledding and hot chocolate. I love this view from my back window, with the two side-by-side chairs, as if awaiting a conversation.
Peace (in the still beauty of winter),
This is my third poetic “discovery” from the historical archives of a famous woman of the “Wild West.” I have been writing a digital poem for each, trying to capture their voice and their story, with the writing superimposed on an image of the woman (I can’t 100 percent vouch for the historical accuracy of each photo).
I have explored the lives of Etta Place and Stagecoach Mary.
Today, I look at Cathay Williams, a former slave who pretended to be man so that she could fight in the Civil War, and then was discovered to be a man, so she went West to continue to make a life for herself in the White Man’s World (my emphasis).
Peace (in the forgotten),
I brought the idea of a Folded Story to my Western106 folks, hoping to create a 25-fold story (one piece at a time, as exquisite corpse) with a Western theme. I had a good handful of folks participate, so I was happy to be collaborating.
Here is what we ended up with. Strange, yes? But centered on a sort of Western theme? Yes. Success! (The word cloud is the text of the story. I guess we like our coffee, and the sheriff made a late but regular appearance.)
Everything is West of Here (A folded story of the West) by KevinHodgson
Funny how it ended on a cliffhanger … Where does it go from here?
Peace (beyond the fold),
I’m just exploring some famous women of the West who may have been lost to the history books (written by us white men). I’m using some biographical material to write poems, layering the poems on an image (as best as I can verify), and hoping to expand the narrative of the Wild West. The other day I wrote about Stagecoach Mary.
Here is a poem for Etta Place. She apparently was part of Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid and all them others, but when they were either captured or killed, Etta disappeared.
Peace (in the shift),
(This is a post for Slice of Life, a weekly writing activity hosted by Two Writing Teachers.)
Sunday was unseasonably warm, and so we took our kids and dog on a forced march through the woods and river near our house.
Someone had been up to their artistic tricks again, making sculptures out of found wood and rocks and objects washed downstream in the river.
I once used some of these community sculptures for a backdrop to a welcoming video to Making Learning Connected. But the city highway crews redid the bike path, and took away all of the sculptures. They have been “returned.”
A wander through our woods is like a walk through a fresh air art gallery. You never know what you will find.
Peace (in the found),
My editor at Middleweb, John, saw some of my tweets about #Western106, so he sent me a collection of Western magazines (how cool is that?) and an interesting book by Stephanie Bearce entitled Top Secret Files: The Wild West. It’s a non-fiction book for middle school readers that has some cool information in it and some fine myth debunking, too. Bearce also gives over quite a few pages to the forgotten Women of the West. As I read these profiles, I got inspired to write some poems about these woman. I used Canva to create these as digital static poems.
I intend to share one every day or two this week. The first poem is about Stagecoach Mary (Fields), a black woman who worked hard to gain respect and used her physical strength to silence those who would question her.
I gathered the images online, and given the time period we are talking about and muddy history of these women (a mix of those who followed the law and those who broke the law), I can’t vouch for the accuracy. I did my best to use the pictures of these woman from Top Secret Files with the images I found online.
Peace (in the rememberin’),
We’re still hoping to do a Tall Tale radio project for some of us stragglers on the open range of #Western106 but, as Alan Levine noted, since we are A Course with No Course, there’s no time rush on it.
Still, I was listening to a Tall Tale the other day, and thinking of the narrative arc that such a story of hyperbole often follows. The diagram above is my attempt to make sense of the story form, knowing that not every Tall Tale follows this pattern.
If you want to join in on the collaborative Tall Tale story venture we aim to cook up, add your name to this open document. We’re going to keep entry point low and simple, but hope to have fun spinning a tale or two around the campfire.
Head to Tellin’ Tales (a working title for now) to get involved. We’ll be in touch.
Peace (everywhere, all the time, and that’s not telling tales),
The other day, I shared out the song that I wrote and recorded as part of inquiry with #Western106 open storytelling adventure. I thought it might be interesting to share out my notebook page, showing the scribbles as the song took shape. I can read it. Can you? (I did a little filtering in Flickr, to spice up the image).
This is pretty typical for me, crossing out words and using arrows to show where things might go. I’m working out structure with my pencil as I play the guitar and sing.
Peace (in the writing),
The Carolina Panther’s star quarterback Cam Newton is called a “gunslinger.”
The meeting between Patriots (Tom Brady) and Broncos (Peyton Manning) was a “showdown” or predicated to be a “shoot-out” (it wasn’t) between the two great athletes.
Manning says his visit to the Superbowl might be his “last rodeo.”
Reading the sports page these days under the lens of the #Western106 reminds us how the National Football League has co-opted the violent language of the Wild West for entertainment value. Just think of some of the team names: Cowboys, Broncos, and more.
Even when team owners meet, the media uses the Wild West as its central anchor point.
I get why this language has seeped into the culture of the National Football League. It is a violent sport, and the violence is part of the entertainment value. By connecting the language and rhetoric of the Wild West to the NFL, the media and NFL support a narrative, particularly that of the Lone Quarterback who leads his team/town to Victory over the Enemy in a time of great need.
It’s Clint on the football field. Or Shane. Or ….(insert hero) The language creates a story that people can connect with, and that the NFL can “sell” as a brand to its audience and the world.
I get it, but I remain fascinated by it, and worried about the violent nature of the rhetoric, too, and I know I will be more attuned to it now.
Peace (on the field),
flickr photo shared by dishfunctional under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-SA ) license
I helped co-write an article over at Middleweb about the development of a summer youth program through our Western Massachusetts Writing Project that explored a relatively unknown resource in our backyard: the Springfield Armory. The summer camp brought middle school students from urban Springfield into the only National Park site in our region, and it is quite an eyeful to walk in and see walls and walls of guns and munitions, let me tell you. The Organ of Muskets will make you pause, I guarantee it.
Read Writing the History in Your Backyard at Middleweb
The article provides resources for connecting with local National Park sites. The camp was funded through a grant by the National Writing Project and the National Park Service. My role was as a documentarian, not a leader of the youth program.
Peace (in innovation of industry),