Encounter with an Angry God: BEST CHRISTMAS BOOK selection for Western Lovers


Lovers of the West and Westerns: The best gift book this Christmas is Carobeth Laird’s, Encounter with an Angry God, Recollections of my Life with John Peabody Harrington. It’s 190 pages of excitement. And, it’s neither on a best seller list nor by a well known author.

This is the real thing. The American Indian West as it was documented by the greatest linguist-ethnographer, John Peabody Harrington, a genius who was so obsessed with recording data that he ignored traditional routes of academic prestige. Today he would probably be labeled a manic-depressive.

Carobeth Laird, writes an intensely personal reminiscence of the seven-year period (1915 to 1922) when she was married to Harrington. The couple traveled the West as field ethnographers during the formative years of American anthropology. This was the beginning of the time when the Indian family consisted of a father, mother, some children, maybe grandparents and—an anthropologist. A scholar in her own right, Laird wrote this fascinating book in 1975 when she was days away from age 80. That in itself is noteworthy.

Harrington’s notes were meticulous and copious. The nature of his relationships with his Indian informants is filled with contradictions, but you’ll meet those informants. You can solve for yourself the riddle of his personality—and Carobeth’s as well.

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COWBOY TALK VERSION OF THE SLAM MASTER


Boulder’s Naropa University has me buffaloed.  The Naropian slam masters had never encountered Western Fiction or the Cowboy Poets.  I’m not a poet, but I registered for slam master Bob Holman’s class.  The New Yorker has dubbed Holman “The Ringmaster of the Spoken Word.”   He had us translating and slamming poetry written in dead and dying languages into contemporary English.  

They knew nothing of Cowboy Talk, an endangered language barely hanging on here in the West.  As an effort in preservation, I translated one of the slam master’s sonnets into our Cowboy Talk.

Birthday Praise Sonnet for Marc Levin, Original by Bob Holman, 2001

Mark my words

Leven the bread

Half a century’s nothing, the Wise Man said

When the slam slams

When the blowback blows

Lights speed action rolls rolls rolls

The Party will Last

                                The Future’s simulcast

And we’ll Babble On

                                With our Icon O’Class

Mark my words

Leaven the bread

Half a century’s something, the Wise Man said

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Birthday Praise Sonnet for Marc Levin, Cowboy Talk translation, 2010 

Mark my palaver

Leaven up the bannock

Your cinch ain’t getting’ frayed, the Ol’ Hoss brayed

When the rustlers rustle

When the coulies overflow

Foot up in the stirrup and getty-up-go

The Roundup’s gonna Last

                                        Ta’morra’s comin’ Fast

And we’ll jus’ Gallop On

                                         With our Cowboy Lexicon

Quit spittin’ on ya lasso

Saddle up the Paint

Your cinch is gettin’ frayed, the Ol’ Hoss brayed