Saturday, January 2, 2016

Join the Club

The calendar just rolled over to 2016, and it’s tradition to make resolutions. If your resolution involved more reading, joining a book club, or learning about the place where you live, then you might want to google, and sign up.

Unbeknownst to many, committed employees of High Plains Public Radio in Garden City devote their days to connecting High Plains occupants with one another and the world. Obviously, they transmit public radio standards, including A Prairie Home Companion, Car Talk, All Things Considered, The Thomas Jefferson Hour, and other shows recorded in cities far from our hometown. However, this station continues adding local programming. This creative team appeals to varied interests with     Learning the Birds, Growing on the High Plains, High Plains Outdoors, Ad Astra—Star Gazing on the High Plains, Agland, High Plains History, Prairie Tayles, Amarillo Symphony, Living Room Concerts, and the soon to be introduced Radio Readers Book Club.

After months of volunteer efforts to fine tune details involving webpages, study guides, discussion leaders, funding, book selections, forums, and more, the project launches soon--in January or February. If you enjoy meaty discussions with the likeminded or not-so-likeminded, sign up and order the texts from either your library or bookstore.

This spring’s theme is Sense of Place. Each selection explores landscape’s importance in human development. Anyone with a local address knows that living in the sparsely populated, arid high plains presents unique challenges, so the topic is worth examining. The initial books include the fiction, non-fiction, and memoir titles: Plainsong, Empire of the Summer Moon, and A Strong West Wind. Despite being different genres, each delves into the influence of place.

The first piece is the novel Plainsong by Kent Haruf. He set the interweaving stories in a small town in eastern Colorado. It’s similar to scores of communities bordering blue highways that connect the dots between grain elevators whose verticality breaks our never-ending horizon. Regional readers will recognize the teachers, farmers, adolescents, schools, quick stops, red cedars, dusty roads, and concerns that constitute his tale of small town existence. In simple, lyrical language, Haruf captures the essence of this landscape of waving grass, endless vistas, red cedars, and never neutral weather.

Empire of the Summer Moon takes us into the not so distant past when the southern part of this region was home to the Comanche who thrived in the most difficult parts of this expanse. It offers a sympathetic view of nomadic inhabitants who loved this landscape every bit as much as those who later homesteaded, built towns, and plowed the native grasses in order to farm the land. It peeks into native and white cultures to explore ideological differences that led a no win situation. Though it’s non-fiction, it’s an engaging read that leaves the reader mulling long after finishing the final page.

Gail Caldwell’s A Strong West Wind is memoir—a narrative based on her life in West Texas. A baby boomer, she offers a perspective of the developing agriculture and oil industries during the post war 50s and turbulent 60s. Readers respond positively to her introspective writing that explores the roll of landscape in a youngster’s development.

Through these stories and those coming next fall, High Plains Public Radio connects readers who call this contradictory landscape home. Participants may live a distance from one another, but using technology and airwaves,they can practice a new kind of neighborliness in this creative approach to a book club.

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