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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.



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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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Linda M. Hasselstrom's Blog



The Pipestone Meat Cutters Cap

January 22, 2012

Tags: Pipestone Meat Cutters, Public Appearance, Southwest State University, Friend: Dave Pichaske, My Poem: Butchering the Crippled Heifer, Poetry, My Book: Land Circle, My Book: Dakota Bones, Butchering, Beef, Meat

Linda wearing the Pipestone cap.
. . .
Folks tend to stare when I wear my black corduroy cap labeled PIPESTONE with the crossed butcher knife and sharpening tool on the front. Of course, the cap came with a story.

The occasion was one of the many readings I’ve done at Southwest State University in Marshall, Minnesota. The reading took place after 1991, because the poem that occasioned this story was first published in Land Circle that year, and in 1993 appeared in Dakota Bones, published by Dave Pichaske, who still teaches in Marshall.

The poem I read that evening was “Butchering the Crippled Heifer.” This is not an easy poem to read or to hear. I consider it an important poem because it raises difficult questions about meat-eating and expresses the ideas in graphic images. I love to read the poem because it is dramatic; several people who have commented on it mention its strong religious overtones. Still, before choosing to read it, I try to determine if I will have the kind of audience that will appreciate the poem’s complexities.

At the end of my reading for the evening, people gathered around me to comment and to have their books signed. I noticed the quiet man wearing the Pipestone cap, but I couldn’t make out the insignia. Finally he was able to approach and did so with his cap in his hand.

He really appreciated the poem, he said, because very few people, even or perhaps especially people who eat meat, understand what it’s like to kill a bovine and to butcher it. He believed that I understood and respected the process-- as he did, because he was a professional meat cutter, his skills represented by the symbols he pointed out on the cap: a butcher knife and a sharpening steel. And then he said that because I understood, he was naming me an honorary professional meat cutter-- and he gave me the cap.

I wore it the rest of the evening. Sometimes I wear it when I’m reading the poem, and tell the story with pride.

Here’s the poem.

Butchering the Crippled Heifer

First:
           aim the pistol at her ear. Stand close.
           She chews slowly, eyes closed. Fire.
           She drops. Kicks. Sighs.
           Cut her throat and stand back.
           Blood bubbles and steams.

Then:
           wrap chain around each ankle,
           spread the back legs with a singletree.
           The tractor growls, lifting;
           the carcass sways.

Next:
           drive the knife point in,
           open the belly like tearing cloth,
           the blade just under the skin.
           Cut around the empty udder.
           Don't puncture the stomach.
           Sheathe the knife and reach in.
           Wrap your bare arms around the slick guts.
           Press your face against warm flesh.
           Find the ridge of backbone; tear the
           membranes loose. Hold the anus shut;
           pull hard until the great blue stomach bag
           spills into the tub at your feet.
           Jerk the windpipe loose with a sucking moan,
           her last sound.

Straighten.
           Breathe blood-scent, clean digested grass.
           Plunge one arm into the tub, cut loose the heart,
           and squeeze the last clots out; slice the liver
           away from the green gall, put it all in cool water.
           Eat fresh liver and onions for supper,
           baked heart tomorrow.

Finally:
           Cut off the head and feet,
           haul them and the guts to the pasture:
           coyotes will feast tonight.

Then:
           pull the skin taut with one hand,
           slice the spider web of tissue with care.
           Save the tail for soup.
           Drape the hide on the fence.

Let her hang:
           sheet-wrapped, through three cool October days,
           while leaves yellow and
           coyotes howl thanksgiving.

Cut her up:
           bring one quarter at a time to the kitchen table.
           Toss bones into the big soup kettle
           to simmer, the marrow sliding out. Chunk
           scraps, pack them in canning jars.
           Cut thick red steaks, wrap them in white paper,
           labeled for the freezer.

Make meat:
           worship at a bloody altar, knives singing praises
           for the heifer's health, for flesh she made
           of hay pitched at forty below zero last winter.
           Your hands are red with her blood,
           slick with her fat.

You know
           where your next meal is coming from.


Copyright Linda M. Hasselstrom

# # #

For more information:

Land Circle: Writings Collected from the Land
published by Fulcrum Publishing.
This poem may be found on pages 317-319 of the 1991 edition (cloth)
and on pages 356-358 of the 2008 Anniversary Edition (paper).

Land Circle is a featured book on this website. Click here to read all about the book.

Dakota Bones: The Collected Poems of Linda Hasselstrom
published 1993 by Spoon River Poetry Press (now Plains Press).
This poem may be found on pages 54-55.

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