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Biting the Hand
And getting a good, chewy mouthful
I saw a coyote yesterday evening trotting in a patchwork of field country out here that we call "Grass Valley." Rolling hills, old farms and new houses, and a dirt country road (including a spur named "Roller Coaster Road") that connects Broadway—or old Highway 10— with the storied Mullan Road. On the Mullan side I once witnessed a collision of two vehicles where one ran the stop sign and t-boned the other. Big dust cloud, debris, the whole bit. The first other person I encountered on the scene was my writer friend David James Duncan, which was an odd coincidence, since, while as a crow flies he doesn't live far from this particular spot, it isn't exactly his neighborhood considering there is a river and a couple ridges of mountain in between. That's Montana though, or this part anyway: you can't crash a car without a writer of some sort being nearby. No one was even hurt, despite the victim vehicle being a woman with three or four kids strapped into her SUV. I also remember a couple pistol-toting young dipshits arriving on the scene claiming "medic training" but really doing nothing more than stride around looking all GRYM. Then the fuzz arrived and all the guns loomed large and made me nervous so I split once things seemed under control.
It made me very happy to see my coyote friend last night. Such encounters will never not highlight my day. I love these prairie wolves for their adaptability, their commitment to life, and their (well-earned) reputation as the Trickster. This one was cruising along and I even remarked aloud, "Just look at that jaunty fucker!" because he was jaunty, all trot and hop and smiling glances over his shoulder that clearly challenged, "Catch me if you can, slow foot!"
There is similar energy from the birds at my feeder, who spend as much time flinging away the seeds they don't want and pecking and stabbing at each other as they do actually feeding. I especially like seeing smaller birds, like the pine siskin, "punching up" as we say to a much-larger red-wing blackbird or starling. It's like when Cheeto, the resident chihuahua, bluff-charges me from four feet below, popping wheelies and shadowboxing and threatening to knock me off my seat, intent on his share, when I'm tucking into a frozen pizza or a bowl of peanut butter crunch and just want to be left alone to doomscroll hateful #nativetwitter posts in the gaseous deadland that is Twitter.
This article from last January about Crested Butte, CO, has me all riled up and thinking about punching up myself. It is an outstanding study of what amounts to the current class war in this country written by a guy named Nick Bowlin on behalf of High Country News.
[updated proof that I am an idiot and must be relentlessly fact-checked below]
I'm headed to Crested Butte next week where I will live for a month as a Mountain Words Writer in Residence. The experience concludes at the end of the month with the Mountain Words Literary Festival. In between I'll be left alone in a fancy house to finish up a couple different projects, not the least of which is Becoming Little Shell. Besides a ton of writing I intend to hike every day, get my yoga practice back together, and maybe even read a book or two. I’m also looking forward to making lifelong friends with the other three writers who will also likely be hiding out between scheduled engagements. Oh, and speak to as few people as possible outside of the situations where I have to. It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for which I am eminently grateful and probably won't believe it is happening until I climb into my truck and head out.
Crested Butte is one of those rich mountain towns that make me nervous. Not because I'm scared of anyone, I'm just a radicalized quasi-Socialist/Anarchist/Angry Indian not inclined to let bygones be bygones when it comes to wealth and colonialism. I'm worried about events and the land acknowledgments certain to be included. I recognize that the wealth of that town and its (part-time) inhabitants is what is allowing me to be there, and live, and get paid a pretty healthy stipend. It's kind of a dream come true, but it has its baggage. This is a quote from a wealthy resident from Nick's piece:
“People who rely on others for their livelihoods should not bite the hand that feeds them,” wrote one second-home owner.
Oh, but that riles me up, and folks with that attitude, regardless of their politics, are sure to be among those that such opportunities as mine carry an obligation to schmooze with. My responsibility as a writer and poet is to speak truth to power, though, and I intend to; I don’t know how that is going to look, but I just don't want to be rude about it because my mom didn't raise me that way.
Then again, is it "biting the hand that feeds you" if you never gave a fuck about the morsel and were after a big chunk of the hand in the first place?
I'm looking forward to the next few weeks despite the trepidation. The festival people are earnest and have been kind and have clearly made an effort at equal representation of all writers, which isn't easy to manage in this part of the country. I've already been swapped from one panel to another because another BIPOC writer doesn't like being the lone BIPOC person on panels and he would have been in this particular instance, so we traded. I'm happy to do so and fully support him. I don't look Indian but I make up for it by having a chip on my shoulder the size of a buffalo jump and a loud mouth I'm not inclined to keep shut.
We'll see how it goes. I’m sure it will be great.
I’m bringing a truckload of all the coyote energy I can muster.
Originally the piece
Originally this piece included the following here:
I don't know Nick, but his new wife—writer and fellow Freeflow Foundation board member Stephanie Maltarich—is a good friend of mine so when I meet him in the next couple weeks I will likely view him with high expectations and a certain degree of side-eye, all while shaking his hand or fist-bumping—or whatever it is we do these days—because of the excellence of his work. I'm not much of a hugger but Steph will get one because I haven't seen her in ages and she's a favorite who has reported on the Little Shell with excellence and respect. If you need audio reporting in the West you should throw piles of money at her to do it for you.
Upon further review, Nick was surprised to learn he’d married Stephanie! She actually married some other guy named Peter! What?! This is why I can’t be trusted….