Saturday, February 20, 2010

It's not the West any more ...

Grace Stone Coates was a teacher and the wife of a Martinsdale rancher ... and one of Montana's best-known authors from the first half of the twentieth century. As with so many other Montana literary figures, she was long affiliated with the creative writing program at the University of Montana; she helped edit its literary journal, and wrote well-regarded poetry and fiction.

Here's an excerpt from a 1932 poem of hers called, "The Old Freighter Comes Back in a Ford." It expresses some sentiments that many Montanans would identify with today, but that also must have had some relevance almost eighty years ago.
We're having fun at the tourist camps --
Humanest people, just like the rest,
Some of them honest, and some of them scamps,
But half of them sighing, "It's not the West,
Montana isn't the West, any more!"
I smile -- at something I've heard before.

My father was one of the forty-niners,
Down by the Isthmus, and back by the Horn,
But when he landed, part of the miners
Were getting restless, and saying forlorn:
"Too many pilgrims here for me;
It isn't the West like it used to be!"

The West! The dusty pine scent spills
It's memories. August snows remote
Look down. The fervor of blue hills
Stings in my eyes and stabs my throat.
I wonder if to find the West
A man must carry it in his breast.

1 comment:

  1. The last perfect! Montanans carry the West in their hearts, no matter where they roam.