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!

# # #





Index of Blog Topics

Quick Links

Find Authors

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

Lightning, Fire and Neighbors

June 26, 2011

Tags: Lightning, Thunderstorm, Fire, Hay, Family: Jerry, Hermosa Arts & History Association, Great Plains Garden, Friend: Bill, Friend: Rick, Volunteer Fire Department, Tractor

Linda with large, round hay bales of the size that burned in the night.
. . .
The usual June afternoon thunderstorm struck around 7pm on June 25, more violently than many storms, whipping rain at us from the southwest, pounding my raised bed tomatoes down, even driving rain through the siding to drip down the basement door. Lightning was frequent and close, slamming the hillsides and splitting the air in all directions. A few small shards of hail fell, but nothing like the baseball-sized hail we heard had pounded Rapid City the night before. When we surveyed the rain gauges around 9pm after most of the storm had passed, we found .60 of rain.

Just before we went to sleep, we thought we smelled smoke. As usual after such a storm, I turned out the lights and went to the deck, where I looked in all directions for any sign of flame. I looked mostly at the buildings I could see-- Homestead House and its barn and other buildings, at a shed in the pasture, and in the direction of the various hay yards where piles of round bales wait for winter use. I particularly looked toward the field that had been hayed that afternoon, thinking that lightning might have struck one of the round bales of hay lying in the field.

But we weren’t really worried. "Too wet to burn," we said, because the pastures are full of green grass.

We’d both spent busy days. Jerry mowed around our buildings in the morning while I worked with other Hermosa Arts and History Association volunteers sweeping and rearranging furniture and display cases on both floors of a massive old building in Hermosa. (Another story: for ten years, members of the association have been renovating the building, which will serve as a museum and gathering place for the community.)

In the afternoon, we went to the Great Plains Native Plant Society open house at the Claude A. Barr botanic garden in my front pasture. With the help of a botanist, we walked through the grass, looking at the native plants marked earlier by Cindy Reed, GPNPS leader. And we found one plant new to most of us, Fame flower, a succulent so tiny that you’re only likely to see it if you’re on hands and knees with a magnifying glass handy.

But Jerry and I were both awake about 3am with aching sinuses from the change of weather, when the dogs suddenly started barking and ran to the basement. I went to the living room and could see a light by the basement door. Just then a voice spoke from the deck outside the living room, a neighbor saying, "Linda, there’s a fire." The time was 3:15.

Let me be clear about what my neighbor, Bill, had done with that simple statement. He had awakened about 2:30 and smelled smoke. He got up, looked around his house, and determined that the smoke was coming from the east, the direction of my house. He got dressed, got his wife up and dressed, got in his pickup and drove down his ranch road toward the highway. When he topped a hill, he could see the fire and knew it was on my property, a mile or so east of my house. He guessed it was a shed or hay bales, so that with the wet ground and grass, it was no threat to anyone’s home-- but property was burning. Unable to reach us by telephone (our cell phones were off), he drove the muddy road to my house to be sure that I would know about the fire. Neighborliness is not simply living next door to someone.

I yelled for Jerry, yanked the door open, and could see flames flickering east of us, but couldn’t tell if they were in a hay yard or in the cattle shed that stands on the other side of the railroad tracks.

I called my lessee, Rick, and we decided against calling the fire department. We figured the fire was in a haystack and no amount of water can put out such a fire. Jerry and I grabbed shovels and tools, and headed east, while Rick got on his tractor and headed toward the fire from his house to the north.

Before we got far, a fire unit from the Hermosa volunteer fire department joined us, and we wallowed through the muddy field and pasture roads until we could see that the fire was burning bales near the end of a long collection of them on the east side of the railroad tracks and on the other side of a long gully fully of water. In the dark, unfamiliar with the terrain, neither of us could figure out how to get across the gully without getting stuck. When Rick arrived with his tractor, Jerry and I followed him to a crossing. The fire truck left. With Jerry’s help, Rick laid down the barbed wire of the fence.

Rick's tractor is fitted with a grapple fork, like a large hand. He drove this into the yard and started moving hay bales that hadn’t yet started burning. Each bale weighs about 900 pounds and on some trips he moved two at a time, stacking them away from the fire. Eventually he’d isolated about 10 burning bales in the center of the hay yard.

By that time, a fire unit from Fairburn had arrived, not knowing the Hermosa truck was gone. Rick began driving the tractor to the burning bales, grabbing one at a time, and backing out onto open ground, where he’d scatter the burning bale as quickly as possible. Then he’d go back for another.

With the neighbor who had arrived with the fire truck, we started using our shovels to break up the burning bales so they’d burn faster. Each time Rick dragged a bale away from the burning pile, he’d turn and drive through the bales he’d brought out earlier, breaking them up as the smoke swirled around the tractor. He had to keep moving fast so the hoses on the tractor’s hydraulic system wouldn’t burn. We knew he couldn’t see much through the rolling yellow smoke, so we stayed well out of his way.

The tractor roared back and forth, bouncing flaming bales in all directions. Each time he drove through a burning pile of hay, the speed of his passage sucked the smoke after him so it looked as if the back of the tractor was on fire. Whenever he stopped, he dug dry hay out of spots where it had been trapped on the tractor so it wouldn’t start burning.

Gradually we got the bales broken down. Each time a fire died down, one of us would break up the unburned parts of the bale with a shovel to let air into it, and it would explode into flame again.

I became aware that the smoke smelled just like drying hay: sweet, not smoky at all. During breaks, we leaned on our tools and exchanged neighborhood news and gossip, and reminisced about previous fires we’ve fought.

All our area fire departments are now dispatched by a call to 911, but most are still volunteer forces, so neighbors are always helping neighbors. In addition, anyone who finds out about a fire in the area jumps in a truck and comes to help.

While we were working on this fire, one of the men got a call from a neighbor who had been called by another neighbor who was on his way to work in Rapid City, saw the fire, assumed (correctly) that it had been reported to fire officials by someone, but called to let them know the fire existed. The neighbor, knowing whose place the fire was likely to be on, called one of the men working the fire to see if they had it under control or needed more help.

Meanwhile, a pin started to slip out of Rick’s grapple, which would have crippled the tractor for further use. All three men dug in their tool boxes and finally got that fixed. Rick also called his son to bring pitchforks, to make it easier to break up the hay.

Finally the Fairburn truck left, and we beat down a few more pieces of hay and headed for home at 8am.

Rick collected a harrow and dragged it over the remaining burning hay, breaking it up so it would burn completely, and also worked the burned hay into the wet green grass. His son fixed the hay yard fence so the cattle couldn’t get into the good hay, and Rick used the grapple bucket to dump a few loads of water from the nearby gully.

By 10am the fire was out, but the wind has come up, so we’ll be watching during the day to be sure it doesn’t flare up in a new spot.

No doubt lightning struck the bales during the storm early in the evening, and the fire smoldered through the storm, including the half-inch of rain, until it got enough strength to burst into open flame. We still don’t know who called the fire department-– perhaps someone from one of the subdivisions high on the hills to the west, or perhaps a passerby on the highway. But we’re grateful.

I was just thinking yesterday that it’s time to write my usual summer checks to the volunteer fire departments in the area. Once again neighbors, both on the fire trucks and off, have saved each other.

# # #

For more information:
The Great Plains Garden Page on this website
Great Plains Native Plant Society website

back to top



Wild Onions on the Roof

June 5, 2010

Tags: Great Plains Garden, Friend: Cindy Reed, Wild Onions, Death Camas, Teaching, Family: George, Rendezvous

. . .
The Great Plains Native Plant Society hosts the Claude Barr Memorial Great Plains Garden on part of my ranch. The visitor center, currently under construction, is a reconstructed log cabin moved from its original site some miles east of here. The roof is "gumbo"-- a thick clay natural to this area, that sets up almost like concrete.

In her early-June, 2010, report to members, Cindy Reed, president of the GPNPS wrote: "I could see that some struggling weeds had sprouted on our roof, so I went up the ladder and began pulling them. There are many wild onions . . . delivered in the gumbo last fall. I left the onions, but removed the beggar ticks and such, in the fear that in the usual manner of such annuals, they would respond to their dry lives on the roof by producing as many seeds as they could even if they themselves are only the smallest of plants. Depauperate is the word. The onions don't appear depauperate, or at least not yet-- they don't have much for a root system, so it will be interesting to see if they survive."

I particularly like the fact that the wild onions are sprouting on the roof. I used to earn the ire of the buckskinning mothers at Rendezvous because when their kids followed me around camp, I'd teach them how to tell death camas from wild onions by eating some-- and send them home stinking.

The teaching evolved by accident. When I took the solitary walks I enjoyed, carrying my journal and camera, I would often be followed by children who wanted to know WHY I was looking at the plants, WHY I was writing, WHY that plant looked like that, WHY the bear had scratched that tree. And they'd been warned by their parents not to eat death camas, but they weren't sure why, or what it looked like. So I showed them that death camas and wild onions do look a lot alike. Just looking might not be enough to distinguish them, but a wild onion crushed in your fingers smells and tastes like super-powered onions. Death camas just smells like a crushed green plant.

Once they knew, they'd delightedly pick wild onions to take home to their mothers for stew, and eat a few on the way. Some of the mothers were horrified; even brushing their teeth didn't get rid of the smell-- it oozed out their pores for days. And of course the kids were thrilled to know something the old mountain men knew.

In commemoration of that lesson, one of those kids later planted a wild onion from the Big Horn Mountains on George's grave.

# # #

For more information:

The Rendezvous Page on this website

The Great Plains Garden Page on this website

Great Plains Native Plant Society website

back to top