Mountains

That only happens in Montana

Betsy Marsten

SOUTH DAKOTA

The Custer County Chronicle, established in 1880 in the Black Hills of western South Dakota, is one of those weekly papers that asks the sheriff’s department to pitch in and publish its daily log of complaints, most of which seem relatively trivial, including concerns about “a big black cow” wandering the highway, a lion (that turned out to be made of plastic) lolling in front of a residence, and “some kind of altercation involving a man with a chainsaw” — settled, finally, by the two men involved, who’d been arguing for some time about a fence.

Every once in a while, though, editorializing creeps in, says writer Linda M. Hasselstrom, who lives on a ranch in Hermosa, S.D. She should know, since she’s been avidly reading the colorful “Sheriff’s Log” for years.

She laughed at Deputy Seth Thompson’s contribution: “A deputy searched for an unknown person yelling for help in the Custer Limestone Road area. He found no one in distress, but briefly detailed a wayward sheep he found wandering. Not having a lasso handy, he secured the sheep with a waist chain and a set of pink transport handcuffs. The sheep was released into its pasture without any charges. Usually, incidents involving sheep and handcuffs only happen in Montana.”

THE NATION

When New York Times columnist Mark Bittman spent a day this spring with Wendell Berry, the man he calls “the soul of the real food movement,” he found the political activist and prolific writer of novels, essays and poems so relaxing it was “positively yogic.” Berry was preparing to go to Washington, D.C., to give the 2012 Jefferson Lecture, the highest honor the federal government gives for distinguished intellectual achievement in the humanities, but he still had time to talk for hours and give a tour of the Kentucky countryside where he was born and has lived for most of his life.

Berry’s planned talk — “It All Turns on Affection” — was thoughtful about the country’s experience with booms and busts, recalling the Western writer Wallace Stegner, who coined the word “stickers” to describe people who dig in locally and do their best to build lasting community.

As always, Bittman says, Berry’s talk — as it has for decades — includes tasty, quotable lines that sound like aphorisms, and he provided some of his favorites.

Here are just a few from Berry’s writings:

“You can best serve civilization by being against what usually passes for it,” “What I stand for is what I stand on,” “Better than any argument is to rise at dawn and pick dew-wet red berries in a cup,” and the calm and lovely poem: “When despair for the world grows in me / and I wake in the night at the least sound / in fear of what my life and children’s lives may be, / I go and lie down where the wood drake / rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds. / I come into the peace of wild things / who do not tax their lives with forethought / of grief. I come into the presence of still water. / And I feel above me the day-blind stars / waiting for their light. For a time / I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.”

COLORADO

It is now known that for part of the time John Edwards sought the Democratic presidential nomination, his mistress, Rielle Hunter, was stashed in Aspen, living in a mansion owned by one of Edwards’ associates. Alas, her privileged life was not all roses. A local paper reports that Hunter was in town having lunch one day when she became perplexed by her Reuben sandwich, which had been served with an unfamiliar dressing. Naturally, she promptly called her spiritual advisor for help, revealing that “she would fit right in any number of restaurants here,” reports the Aspen Daily News.

Betsy Marston is the editor of Writers on the Range, a service of High Country News (hcn.org). Tips of Western uniqueness are always appreciated and often shared in the column (betsym@hcn.org).

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