An Index to the Website
may be found by clicking here.



New WordPress Blog!

I've set up a new WordPress blog (with the help of my web-wrangler) because it gives me more options than the blog on this website, including the ability to post more photos, the ability to link with social media across the web, and a subscription service that sends a dandy version of the blog directly to your email inbox. Try it out.

Notes from a Western Life at WindbreakHouse.WordPress.com

You can continue to read the blogs here, however a few of the very long blogs under the category of "Writing: Where I've Been" will only appear on the WordPress blog.



An Index of Blog Topics
may be found lower down in this left-hand column so, for example, you can search for all blogs with "Writing Suggestions."

A dated archive of blogs is also available below the index.

Click here to jump to the index, or scroll down to see a selection of photos related to the blog posts.






Blacksmith or Wordsmith

Iron legs from yesteryear.

Smaller iron items inside.

The scrap-iron table.



Dust, Grass, and Writing

Like the native grasses, the roots of writing go deep and reach out in many directions.

Tough prairie grass roots splitting open a rock.

Green life may be found under dry debris.


Fringed Jacket Foofaraw

Turtle carved from bone.

Turtle made of silver.

Warrior Woman pin.

George's grizzly bear claw earring.

Powwow jingle cones made of tin.

Brass bell.

A tiny dream catcher.

Harley Owners' Group pin in honor of Jerry.

Wally McRae's cufflink and tooth.





South Dakota Poet Laureate? Not Right Now, Thanks.


"An older writer, conscious of his or her limited life span, may have specific projects in mind to complete. Thus, requiring that the Poet Laureate travel and teach extensively may exclude older writers regardless of their worthiness to hold the position."



Don't just click "like" about some political story you read.


Pick up the phone or write a letter and make a difference.



Ah! The Bathtub.

A brass hook on a nearby wall to hold my robe or a towel.

A removable wire basket stretches across the tub to hold my soap and sponges.



Windbreak House
Now on Facebook.


If you Like me on this Facebook page you'll get notifications of my newly-posted blogs as well as announcements about my books, writing retreats, and other events to do with Windbreak House.

www.Facebook.com/​WindbreakHouse

No kitten videos, but I post Tuesday Writing Tips, Wednesday Word Posts, and various other writing-related stories, announcements, book reviews, photos and the occasional joke.



Ah, Spring!


Want to know more about this critter?

See the Gallimaufry Page for more about the bird, including more photos, and some odds and ends that don't fit anywhere else on this website.



More Stories and Essays by Linda
may be found on this website.

* Home Page Message archives
Many of these essays have writing advice. All have photos, some have recipes, a few have poems.

* Poetry Page essays
Read suggestions for writing and performing poetry and the stories behind some of Linda's poems.

* Critter Stories
Brief stories and photos of birds and wildlife seen on Linda's ranch may be found on this page.

* Gallimaufry Page
Stories and photos that don't fit anywhere else.



Linda on YouTube

Nancy Curtis, publisher and owner of High Plains Press, recorded a couple of videos of Linda reading her poetry and posted them on YouTube.

To see Linda read "Where the Stories Come From"
click here.

To see Linda read her poem "Make a Hand"
click here

Or go to www.YouTube.com and search for Linda Hasselstrom.

You may also want to visit the High Plains Press facebook page where you will find these two poetry videos and much more about the many great western books-- poetry and non-fiction-- published by High Plains Press.

Thanks, Nancy!

# # #





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Notes from a Western Life
Ranging Far and Wide on the High Plains and Beyond
Linda M. Hasselstrom's Blog

Grandmother's Rocking Chair

May 3, 2010

Tags: Rocking Chair, Furniture, Family: Grandmother, Family: Mother, Family: Grandfather, Family: Uncle George, Childhood, Oil Lamp, Living in the Country

Grandmother's rocking chair is in use at Homestead House, my writing retreat.
. . .
This essay was first published in Manoa, Summer 1997, Volume 9 Issue 1, pages 105-108.

* * *

When we moved into the four-square house on a tree-lined city avenue, I lugged the ugly oak rocker into the sun porch and covered it with grandmother's yellow quilt, just as I'd decently wrap an aunt caught outside in her undies.

Two years later, I carried the rocker into the back yard. Sunshine outlined the shape of the back, graceful as a handmade fiddle, but shiny gray paint masked the chair's oak skeleton, and the seat was a slab of three-quarter inch plywood.

First I yanked off the seat cushion, remembering when Mother bought the oatmeal-colored wool speckled with red and green, on sale of course. I hated the ungainly skirt she made for me to wear to high school. Thriftily, she turned the leftovers into a pillow stuffed with odd pieces of foam. She used roofing nails, driven crooked, to anchor the ugly contraption. When I yanked at the cushion, powdered foam drifted like pollen into the breeze.

I stared at the chair, thinking of better jobs: cleaning house, revising an essay. Stripping this relic would take hours. No wonder my ancestors slapped on a dozen layers of paint. I could paint it in an hour, park it on the porch to decay in peace, if not dignity.

Instead, I attacked with rough sandpaper on an electric palm sander. Gray paint dribbled down as powder, revealing raw oak etched with dark lines from the original stain. Probably the chair fell prey to my mother's infatuation with the 1950s craze for blond furniture, called "limed oak." When she married a rancher, she bought a massive dresser, double bed, and two dressing tables heavy enough to be real oak. The unnaturally pale finish made them look, I thought, remarkably like plastic.

Determined everything would match, she stripped a Mission Oak buffet, smeared white paint over it, then rubbed until the surface was dingy gray.

The buffet loomed over my childhood, half-filling our narrow dining room. Before family dinners, I knelt before it to get out mother's china and silver, while she scurried around the kitchen reciting the names of the patterns and promising that when I married, I'd choose my own. Drying the china after Sunday dinner, I'd kneel before the gray hulk again, vowing to restore its golden youth with oil rubbed gently into pure unvarnished wood. Some evenings, I'd open the bottom drawer and stare at Grandmother's crocheted tablecloths, wondering how her gnarled fingers could weave such loveliness.

Neither of my marriages produced china, so mother begged me to take hers when she moved to the nursing home. When I cleared the house for renters, I left the buffet and table in the house. An expert says the white paint penetrated the grain so deeply it can't be removed. My partner and I already had furniture.

But I couldn't leave the rocker. Each time I looked at it, I saw Grandmother's brown fingers curved around the knot of oak at the end of arm rests bulging like her muscular arms. During the summers I stayed with her, she'd sit in the rocker on the screened porch before she fixed supper. I sat on the slab of sandstone she used as a step, listening for bobcats and trying to catch toads. Grandmother said if I picked them up I'd get warts. I was looking forward to the experience; I'd never seen warts.

The chickens hurried to catch every bug in sight before the world went dark. I looked across the valley at the shadows running up the cliffs, plunging into the crevices like dark coyotes. The cliff tops shone gold for a moment, then went dark. The air chilled, tasting dusky and wild. A sliver of deep red appeared above the cliffs, swelling until I took a deep breath to scream, "Fire!"

"Red moon," Grandmother said. "Feels like fall all right, doesn't it?"

"Yeah. Can't I stay here instead of having to go back to town? I could go to school with John and Susan, and then maybe they wouldn't close the school."

"Oh, your mother wouldn't like that. She don't think our little school is good enough for you."

"Did you ever go to church, Grandma?"

"I wanted to go when the children were small, but it was such a trip with the buggy that we hardly ever did."

"It seems like church but different when I'm out here. God must really like the world."

She chuckled. "Walt always said he served God by taking care of this land, and I served Him by taking care of the children. Since Walt's been gone, when I walk around the hills here, I feel close to him and God both." Darkness wrapped comfortably around us. "About time to light the lamps I expect," she said as I jumped up, ready. "Be careful with the chimneys, and don't set your hair on fire."

I left the door open to help my eyes adjust, and felt around on the cupboard for matches. The dark smelled of fried chicken. A row of jelly glasses gleamed with white paraffin on the counter beside the wood stove.

I gently lifted the lamp chimney, turned the blackened wick up a little. Then I inhaled, struck the match on the side of the box, and ran it along the top of the wick. It caught at once and the blue flame flickered up into yellow. Eyes on the wick, I blew out the match and delicately turned the brass knob until the flame danced along the edge of the brass.

With both hands, I picked up the chimney by its fat belly and placed it on the lamp, holding my breath. Often the fire flared up and sooted the clear glass. Then I had to get out my polishing rag and start all over.

Instead, the flame fluttered into a soft radiance, so the eyes of the cookie jar squirrel glistened. The light brushed the brass bedstead. Above it, pictures of Grandmother's children and their children watched me like ghosts.

Sanding in the sunshine, I find circular scars under the gray paint, where someone removed the original finish with a drill sander. Maybe my uncle, who worked Grandmother's ranch. Suddenly he stands in my back yard as I first remember him, laughing with youth nearly fifty years ago. I hear this is the year he'll sell his cows, give up the ranching that has been his life since he came home from war to help his mother.

After the first day's sanding, my shoulders and wrists throb for hours. But the chair rocks lightly when I carry it outside the next day. Sanding, I lecture my grandmother for letting this travesty happen to a lovely piece of furniture. Grinding deeper into the chair's history, I uncover a dozen nail holes around the seat, evidence of several replacement cushions after the original disappeared. I notice the chair's feet do not quite fit the curve of the rockers, which aren't oak but softer pine.

Getting a sunburn I won't notice until evening, I study the chair, deciding it was not originally a rocker. Perhaps my Grandmother got it from her mother when she went West with her young husband to work for a logging company in Oregon. I'd seen a faded photograph of her at sixteen, just before she married Elmer Harry Baker, who became my grandfather.

For a moment, I can see a dark-haired girl sitting in a stately oak chair in my sunny yard. She holds a baby with golden ringlets-- my mother-- and gazes up at her husband, the grandfather I never knew. Beaming, he says, "Cora Belle, I can make that chair rock for you."

Elmer died when he fell in front of a moving logging train in 1913. Not long ago, I found his obituary in a couple of papers of the time, saying he was beheaded by the train. Just twenty-four, he left grandmother a widow with a four-year-old daughter and an infant son. She rode the train to the home of his relatives in Wyoming, a few miles from where I live now. I can picture the rocker swaying with the train's motion among her few possessions. She must have repaired its worn cushions, keeping the chair to grace her household as she married again, and bore two more sons.

Rocking gently through long summer evenings, crocheting and listening to her granddaughter read aloud, maybe she saw her young husband's face, recalled past joys. That’s what I plan to do, now that the rocker looks as I remember it from my childhood.

# # #

For more information:

Website for Manoa: A Pacific Journal of International Writers
Published by the University of Hawai'i

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Saving Craven Canyon

March 17, 2010

Tags: Craven Canyon, Black Hills, Pictographs, Archaeology, Indians, Family: Grandmother, Family: Uncle George, Writer: Linea Sundstrom, US Forest Service, Uranium Mining

. . .
This March the Black Hills National Forest asked for public comment on their recommendation to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to withdraw approximately 3,957 acres of National Forest System land from mining, to protect "cultural resources of significant interest" within and surrounding Craven Canyon in the southern Black Hills-- meaning the ancient pictographs carved and pecked into the canyon walls and the other archeological sites surrounding the canyon. The mineral withdrawal would also protect the plants and animals in the area.

Here is what I sent:

Thank you for sending the draft environmental impact assessment. I have studied it at length.

Some of my earliest memories are of walking down Craven Canyon to “the writings” with my grandmother, Cora Belle Hey. As we sat in the sun on a flat rock to eat lunch, she’d talk about the ancient people who once sat where we were. She came from a poor Ozark family and attended only a few years of grade school; I’m sure she never heard the phrase Mitakuye Oyasin ["We are all related"], but she knew those carvings were old and important, and she taught me to look but not touch. For hours, we’d speculate about the artists, who they were, what they were thinking as they chipped and painted. They were like us, she always said. I nearly became an archeologist because of those visits; instead I am a writer, an excavator of words.

My most recent visit was in November of 2008 with my uncle, George Hey, now 91. My grandmother Cora, his mother, taught him to protect those carvings. And on that trip, as on every single other trip I’ve made to the canyon, he pointed out carvings I’d never seen before. After living nearly 90 years in that canyon, if George is still finding new rock art, it’s hard to imagine what treasures may still exist in more remote spots in the proposed withdrawal region.

The Craven Canyon Mineral Withdrawal document notes, “The purpose of and need for action is to protect and preserve existing Native American cultural resources . . .” and later, “The most appropriate use for Craven Canyon and the purpose for its withdrawal from mineral activities are . . . to continue to serve the religious and cultural needs of Native Americans.”

George Hey told me about a time when a Native American encampment was created in the canyon. He went down to welcome the campers, including members of AIM, and found young Native Americans scrawling on the walls declarations like, ‘I AM AN INDIAN.’ He protested, and the mood of the people turned hostile.

My little white-haired uncle drew himself up and said, “That’s not right, to write on these walls. Those were your ancestors, and they were my ancestors. This place belongs to all of us.”

Those scribbled writings still deface one of the rock walls of the canyon, but my uncle is vigilant, and no new ones have appeared in years without his reporting the desecration to the proper authorities.

And that’s the important part of this irreplaceable cultural resource: it belongs to all of us. We have no idea what we might learn from what these ancient ancestors left behind. This is the Sistine Chapel of the Black Hills, of South Dakota, of the Great Plains. We wouldn’t allow mining exploration into our most sacred tabernacles, and it doesn’t belong here.

Every single person admitted to the region increases the risk of damage and loss. Both my uncle and Linea Sundstrom have mentioned several incidents of damage, in spite of the locked gates, my uncle’s vigilance, and heavy fines.

I first saw the drawings when I was five years old, sixty years ago. I remember the vividness of the colors, and the way the walls looked. I was once in the canyon, sitting below the big green floating antelope, when a pickup drove in and a man fired a high-powered rifle into the wall. I took a photograph in which his license plate was visible, but the local law enforcement officers weren’t interested in pursuing punishment. Only the Forest Service has been able to offer a measure of protection.

Every year, a few ignorant people manage to damage more of the art. Mining this region would create more roads, more access, and inevitably more damage of this kind. The area is remote; most access is still by gravel roads. And it’s broken and rough, so that even exploring with vehicles would do irreparable damage to the grass, the sparsely-covered hillsides, and the areas that might hold more caves, art, and camp sites. Extensive road-building would be required to mine anywhere inside the proposed closure, and once those roads were in place, they would allow public access into canyons, caves, and other secret spots still unexplored by archeologists.

As my uncle ages, it’s time for more formal management to protect this region. If funding does not allow for study at this time, I hope the site can be made as secure as possible, closed to public access. Limited public access might be possible after professionals have surveyed the area for more archeological sites, studied those sites already found, and provided for security for the archeological treasures that may exist.

Please choose Option 2, the only alternative in the draft environmental impact assessment that provides protection to all the cultural resources thus far recorded in the area, and new ones as yet undiscovered.

# # #

For more information:

Look for Linea Sundstrom's books, including Storied Stone: Indian Rock Art of the Black Hills


Some background information:

According to the draft environmental impact assessment:

There is a high potential for uranium and vanadium, a moderate potential for oil and gas, and a low potential for subbituminous coal in the proposed mineral withdrawal area. There is also a low potential for the mining of sand, gravel, clay and building stone, mainly because of the distances involved from Craven Canyon to a market for these products.

Alternative 1 -- do nothing. This would leave only 160 acres protected from a previous minerals withdrawal.

Alternative 2 -- withdraw 3,957 acres which would protect 100% of 46 known archeological sites of cultural and historical interest and would protect 621 acres of culturally significant viewshed. This would include 100% of the existing mining claims in the area in the withdrawal.

Alternative 3 -- withdraw 2,649 acres which would protect only 67% of 46 known archeological sites of cultural and historical interest and would protect only 473 acres of culturally significant viewshed. This would exclude 100% of the existing mining claims in the area from the withdrawal.

Once the Forest Service collects the public comments (the comment period closes in late March, 2010), they will make a recommendation to the BLM as to which alternative they suggest. The BLM will make the actual decision later this year.


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