Return to Laurel Commentary

“Return to Laurel” is a somewhat long short story that appears in the anthology Hobnail and Other Frontier Stories, released by Five Star Publishing in December 2019. In this story, a private investigator named Henry Tresh agrees to look for an older couple’s son who disappeared some twenty years earlier. The parents insist that their son, Arthur, fell under the bad influence or a girl named Bella. They also tell the investigator that they did not know until very recently that the son was last known to be in the town of Laurel, Wyoming.

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When the Poet Calls

It has happened to me, and I imagine it has happened to many of you: an aspiring poet is ready to “do something” with his or her work but needs a little help in knowing how to get it published (or “publicated,” as I have heard it called). Sometimes it is difficult to respond to such a request, but I have stumbled onto a few points that could be useful to others in giving direction to the emerging poet.

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Write with Pride

I could see I was snowed in but good. My circular drive had three huge drifts, and the dirt road that led out to the paved road was drifted over in several places. Snow was still falling, and a hard, cruel wind was blowing from the northwest—a true Wyoming blizzard. I walked the half mile out to the corner to see how bad it was, and I decided I wasn’t going anywhere. Even if I did dig myself out and manage to get to the main road, I would lose a few hours, and most of my work would be drifted over when I got back.

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Strange Fish

I had been teaching English as a grad student for five years, part-time, when I received an appointment to teach a section of composition at a branch campus of a community college. I had done an internship at the same place a year before, which meant that I had worked for free, grading papers and giving lectures for the regular instructor. Now he was on sabbatical, and his work load was divided up among a few part-time adjuncts, including me.

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Stranger at the Lookout

A few years back, I spent three months in Saltillo, Coahuila, in northern Mexico, where I studied Spanish philology and literature. For a good part of the time I was alone, and I didn’t mind it. The other lodgers in the boarding house, university students, had left for summer vacation, so I often sat at the big table and ate by myself. The language institute was changing its focus from advanced studies in language to a bilingual secretary program, so I was the only student in most of my classes. To get my exercise, I went on long afternoon marches, by myself, through various parts of the city. I would lace up my hiking boots, put on the straw hat I bought in Chihuahua, and set out, not concerned about whether people took me for an extranjero—a foreigner, or stranger. For the most part, no one paid me much attention and I went on my way, comfortable in the city that called itself “the Athens of Mexico.”

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Working for the People

In the summer of 1995, I was first called to act as a court translator for the Eighth Judicial District Court. I had been an instructor at Eastern Wyoming College in Torrington since 1981 and teaching Spanish since 1988, so I was not a stranger to the community. I had grown up in a bi-cultural, bilingual family and had worked with Spanish-speaking populations in agriculture and public service programs, so I was not a stranger to the community I was about to serve. As it turned out, some of the defendant’s friends and family members were former students of mine, and other friends and family members would be students of mine in future years.

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In the Breaks Commentary

“In the Breaks” is a short story that is included in The Spoilt Quilt and Other Frontier Stories, published by Five Star Publishing in November 2019. This is a collection of stories featuring strong female main characters in frontier settings.

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In the Great Tradition

When I was a grad student at UC Davis in the 1970’s, I believed in a liberal education. With a B.A. from UCLA, I entered the Ph.D. program in English in 1971, and I was in no hurry to specialize. University life seemed natural to me. Unlike some of my fellow students of that era, I enjoyed preparing for the foreign language exams, I liked all areas of literature, and I loved teaching English 1, the freshman composition course. Philosophically at least, I felt responsible for everything in my field, but I also felt I should be free to study what I wanted.

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Working in the Fields

At the party after eighth-grade graduation, some of us got to kiss the girls. When the party ended I went outside, where my father and two brothers were waiting in the station wagon. I could see it was packed and ready to go. A couple of my friends, guys, asked if I was leaving that night for a fishing trip. I said, no, we were going to follow the crops.

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My Literary Influences – Part 2

I think of Homer as the father of narrative.

Having cited the three main influences on my development as a student and writer of fiction, I thought I might go on to discuss the topic in more variety. As I mentioned in my previous post, I have read a little bit here and there, as most people in my world have done. Most of us still have big things we haven’t gotten to, and most of us have gone off on our own paths of interest, but there is a core of literature that many of us share. I will mention a few highlights that are probably on other people’s lists as well.

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