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

In This Town You’re Still Alive

The park in Spearfish, South Dakota
. . .
When Tam and I were in Spearfish for Gaydell Collier's memorial services, I showed her some of the places that were special to me and to George when we lived there. We drove by his "little green house"-- which has now been remodeled into a much larger and more modern home-- and along the creek and pond below it, now cleared to make a lovely park.

Here's a poem I've been working on for several years about an experience I had the last time I did a workshop in Spearfish.

In This Town You’re Still Alive

You liked to walk down
from our little green house
to this mountain creek,
followed in parade
by Loki the white poodle,
the black cats Janet and Jacob.
You’d lean against a tree
in sunlight, watching as the cats
pawed sparkling water.
Someone poisoned the dog;
the cats vanished.
We moved away.
You died.

Years passed. Today I walked
by that water at sunrise.
Two ducks slid into an eddy,
paddled in place. I found the tree’s
stump, its heart a dark hollow
filled with snow crystals.
Leaning there, I watched
the water sparkle

Just now as I waited
for a green light
you drove an old blue pickup
through the intersection
just ahead of me.
A red headband held back
your gray hair. The earring
you always wore flashed light.
Two black Labs leaned against
each other in the back.

Maybe the part of me
that died with you
is here as well: just enough
to keep you company in this town
where we were young and loving.
I wash your shirts, write poetry;
you carve wood, build a chair.
Each evening we drink beer
on the porch of a small house,
while the stream passes.
Just enough.

* * *

Poem copyright 2013, Linda M. Hasselstrom

# # #

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Gaydell Collier: 1935 -- 2013

Gaydell Collier, 2004.
This photo was taken at the publication party for Crazy Woman Creek held at the Mari Sandoz Center, Chadron, Nebraska. Gaydell and Maxie greeted contributors to the anthology as they arrived and checked in. Maxie is now living with a close friend of Gaydell's.
. . .
GAYDELL COLLIER was born on Long Island, New York and when she was co-editing the three Western women anthologies, lived in Sundance, Wyoming, with her husband Roy, who preceded her in death. She co-authored several books on horsemanship and horse care with Eleanor F. Prince, including Basic Horsemanship: English and Western. Her work has appeared in periodicals and anthologies, including The Christian Science Monitor and Flint-Edged Refrains. She was the consultant on "Horses and Horsemanship" for Encyclopedia Britannica in 2000. Her interests included ranching, reading, dogs, horses, grand opera and eating.

That’s the official biography we sent out for Crazy Woman Creek but it does not begin to describe the multi-faced woman Gaydell was.

Here is a bit more about her literary life: Gaydell was the Crook County Library Director for fourteen years, and a member of Bear Lodge Writers, Sundance, Wyoming. She was awarded the Wyoming Governor’s Arts Award for Literature in 2004.

Gaydell’s published books--

Just Beyond Harmony (2011) High Plains Press. ISBN: 978-0931271984.
A memoir of dreams and family adjustment, challenge, community, and the power of landscape.

Crazy Woman Creek: Women Rewrite the American West (2004) Houghton Mifflin. ISBN: 0618249338.
Co-editors Nancy Curtis and Linda M Hasselstrom.

Woven on the Wind: Women Write about Friendship in the Sagebrush West (2001) Houghton Mifflin. ISBN: 0395977088.
Co-editors Nancy Curtis and Linda M Hasselstrom.

Leaning into the Wind: Women Write from the Heart of the West (1997) Houghton Mifflin. ISBN: 0395837383.
Co-editors Nancy Curtis and Linda M Hasselstrom.

Basic Horsemanship: English and Western (1993) Doubleday. ISBN: 0385422644.
Co-author Eleanor F Prince.

Basic Horse Care (1986) Doubleday. ISBN: 038517229X.
Co-author Eleanor F Prince.

Basic Training for Horses: English and Western (1979) Doubleday. ISBN: 0385032447.
Co-author Eleanor F Prince.

Gaydell also had poems, essays, reviews, and articles published in magazines including Owen Wister Review, The Christian Science Monitor, Smithsonian, Farm & Ranch Living, and others; and in the anthologies Open Range: Poetry of the Reimagined West (Ghost Road Press, 2007); Wyoming Fence Lines: an Anthology of Prose and Poetry (Wyoming Humanities Council and Wyoming Arts Council, 2007); In the Shadow of the Bear Lodge (Many Kites Press, 2006); Western Horse Tales (Republic of Texas Press, 1994); and Wyoming Writers poetry chapbooks.

A few email comments about Gaydell’s death show how deeply she will be missed. Her good humor enhanced every situation and her intelligence and memory helped so many writers. For years she attended Bear Lodge Writers meetings in Sundance, WY, where many writers benefitted from her suggestions for their writing and found her an example for both the writing life and the rest of life.

Oh, how we will miss our sweet Gaydell. I remember she was one of the first people outside my family I ever shared my writing with. She never ceased to be encouraging and full of love (and laughter).

I was deeply saddened to hear the news about Gaydell. I will miss her steady presence, and cherish the memories I have of her.

Someone overheard her on the telephone the day before she died, speaking with her son, say, "I’m ready for my next big adventure." Gaydell began that next part of her journey on January 18, 2013.

Every day was a new chance for enjoyment for Gaydell and I hope that she’s enjoying this one. For now, in memory of her, I urge you to enjoy every single opportunity you have for adventure.

# # #

To sign the guest book and learn about funeral services, see Fidler-Isburg Funeral Chapel website

For more information about Gaydell:

Please see the Wind Anthology Page on this website.

Wyoming Authors wiki website

website for the Bear Lodge Writers

Watch Gaydell tell the story of “Custah” on YouTube
– from her book Just Beyond Harmony, published by High Plains Press, 2011.

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