A Strong West Wind

Caldwell's story is my story

Apr 7, 2016
Cindee Talley

I’m a Radio Reader from Canyon, Texas. This spring the HPPR Radio Reader’s Book Club is exploring the theme – a sense of place.  In Gail Caldwell’s A Strong West Wind, every page took me home. 

Caldwell and I share a birth year and many thoughts.  Beginning with the prologue, I felt as though I was reading my own story. Caldwell was growing up in Amarillo at the same time I grew up in Muleshoe, but her experiences reflect my own as a product of the Texas plains. Her words bring back my own wonder and angst while growing up in an era of conservatism, patriotism, and faith rapidly evolving into a world of unrest, feminism, and new freedoms. 

Caldwell’s memory of her grandmother’s house, as she words it, a “rambling old white house” with its rooms “bearing whispers of the past,” took me back to my grandfather’s farm and the little stucco house that formed a cocoon of love around a very large family. I relived through her words, a time of weekends spend hanging around the local drive-in burger joint and rulers measuring hemlines in school. As she recalls cars pulling aside to stop for her father’s funeral procession, I remembered a lone farmer in the middle of his fresh plowed field standing respectfully beside his tractor, hat in hand, as we made the trip from Dimmitt to Muleshoe behind the hearse that bore my brother’s body.  Home is depicted in every chapter.  Wide open spaces of flat land and strength sapping wind that bent trees and people to its will.

Native Americans Speak of Vietnam

Apr 5, 2016
Colorado Public Radio

I’m a former Kansas poet laureate and fifth generation Kansan. I am proud of my Lenape (Delaware) heritage. Vietnam was a tragic time for the large number of Indigenous Americans and their families. They followed traditions of protecting their beloved land and families. Some had ceremonies for returning warriors. Geary Hobson, Linda Grover, Karenne Wood, and Jim Northrup express the Vietnam experience in poetry:

 

Central Highlands, Viet Nam, 1968 by Geary Hobson—Cherokee, Quapaw, and Chickasaw

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An eagle glides above the plain

The 60s, Conservatives, and Vietnam

Apr 3, 2016
Kathleen Holt

Some have compared what seems to be a political and social revolution pitting conservatives and progressives today to a parallel, although profoundly different period of change outlined in the HPPR Radio Readers Book Club’s 2016 Spring Read’s book A Strong West Wind by author Gail Caldwell who grew up in the Texas Panhandle in the 1950s and 60s.  

Is there a High Plains Sense of Place?

Mar 31, 2016
Cindee Talley

Hello, Radio Readers! You know, when HPPR wanted to explore a High Plains sense of place, I was a little skeptical. That our terrain and lives are different from, say the East and West coasts, seems fairly obvious, but are the High Plains all that different from the Midwest? The Southwest? I wondered what ideas about life on the High Plains a novel about eastern Colorado, a social  history of the Comanche, and a memoir about growing up in the ‘60’s and 70’s in Amarillo and Austin could share.

Amarillo and Strong West Winds

Mar 29, 2016
DeGolyer Library SMU

I’m curator of art and western heritage at the Panhandle Plains Historical Museum at West Texas A&M in Canyon, Texas.  I’ve been asked to comment on this month’s High Plains Public Radio’s Radio Reader A Strong West Wind by Gayle Caldwell.  I’ve lived out here for going on 29 years.   I grew up in Kansas and the title appealed to me initially because of the reference to wind.  I’m out west of Canyon, a little bit north and west of Canyon.  Canyon sits about 18 miles south of Amarillo.

Texas makes you tough

Mar 27, 2016
Cindee Talley

I’ve been thinking a lot about the influence of “place” on who we become and whether or not that influence ever wanes.  

In A Strong West Wind, an account of a Texas high plains girlhood, Gail Caldwell writes, “How do we become who we are? The question belongs not just to genes or geography or the idea of destiny, but to the entire symphony of culture and its magisterial march—to Proust’s madeleines and Citizen Kane’s “Rosebud” and anyone’s dreams of being someplace, anyplace, else. I was a girl whose father had taken such pride in her all her life, even when it was masked as rage, that he had lit a fire in me that would stay warm forever. I was the daughter of a woman who, on a farm in east Texas in the 1920s, had crept away from her five younger siblings so that she could sit on a hillside and read—a mother whose subterranean wish, long unrevealed, was that I might become who she could not. Each of us has these cloisters where the old discarded drams are stored, innocuous as toys in the attic. The real beauty of the question—how do we become who we are?—is that by the time we are old enough to ask it, to understand its infinite breadth, it is too late to do much about it. That is not the sorrow of hindsight, but its music: That is what grants us a bearable past.” 

Ridin' the Plains

Mar 24, 2016

In A Strong West Wind, an account of a Texas high plains girlhood, author Gail Caldwell evokes a sense of place through many descriptive passages, often involving her father. She writes, for example, “When I was a girl of nine or ten, my dad would take me along on autumn dawns to go quail and dove hunting, out to the far reaches of the Caprock, past towns named Muleshoe and Dimmitt to prairies so remote and unrelenting that even the phone lines seemed to disappear as we drove into morning light.

Cindee Talley

I’m a High Plains Public Radio Book Club reader from Northwest Kansas. It’s time to think about our third novel of this season, A Strong West Wind by native West Texan Gail Caldwell. The question that comes to mind is how does this memoir enhance our understanding of place? As one would expect, it’s different from Plainsong and Summer of the Comanche Moon. Based on reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, and Barnes and Noble, it’s a book readers either love or hate. With such strong responses in mind, it’s important to focus on insights this author’s memories offer this unique book club’s membership.

Jonathan Baker

I’m a writer in Canyon, Texas, and I’ve been asked to talk a little about this month’s Radio Readers Book Club Read, A Strong West Wind by Gail Caldwell. Gail’s story is a familiar one to me. In fact, my story mirrors hers in many ways. Both Gail and I grew up feeling isolated on the High Plains, and escaped into books. We both left the Panhandle for Austin, where we both rebelled, discovered politics, and sowed our wild oats.

A Strong West Wind

Jan 18, 2016

A Strong West Wind: A Memoir  by Gail Caldwell is the third book in the 2016 Spring Read.  

“In this exquisitely rendered memoir set on the high plains of Texas, Pulitzer Prize winner Gail Caldwell transforms into art what it is like to come of age in a particular time and place. A Strong West Wind begins in the 1950s in the wilds of the Texas Panhandle–a place of both boredom and beauty, its flat horizons broken only by oil derricks, grain elevators, and church steeples. Its story belongs to a girl who grew up surrounded by dust storms and cattle ranches and summer lightning, who took refuge from the vastness of the land and the ever-present wind by retreating into books. A memoir of culture and history–of fathers and daughters, of two world wars, the passionate rebellions of the sixties -- the book is also about the mythology of place and evolution of a sensibility: about how literature can shape and even anticipate a life” (From Amazon)