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ENMU Writers’ Retreat: In 2015 We Will Do Real Pretty!

Because from June 28th to July 10th we will be joining Dzanc Books and Disquiet International Literary Program in Lisbon, Portugal. Study with amazing, internationally renowned writers; experience Lisbon’s unique cityscape and atmosphere; and make friendships that will last a lifetime.

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Thinking West: Long in the Tooth (Idiom)

Idiom: noun. 1. a group of words established by usage as having a meaning not deducible from those of the individual words (e.g., raining cats and dogs, see the light ). 2. a characteristic mode of expression in music or art.

The idiom “long in the tooth” might be the weirdest way to say that someone is old. There is a particular elegance to saying that someone is “long in the tooth” versus simply saying someone is “old.” The idiom comes from raising horses. Older horses often have longer teeth. Thus, a horse that is “long in the tooth” tends to be an older horse.

Examples of use (Free Dictionary):

That actor is getting a little long in the tooth to play the romantic lead.

I may be long in the tooth, but I’m not stupid.

Thinking West: The Bleeding Edge

Bleeding Edge: noun. The forefront of innovation or development, esp. in science or technology, typically when still theoretical or experimental in nature. The most advanced stage of a technology, art, etc., usually experimental and risky. 

The frontier is often seen as a hardscrabble place. In our imagination, the frontier is located somewhere in the mystical (mythical) West, the Occident. The frontier is a place with six-foot cacti and scruffy (macho) men galloping on horseback, shooting wildly in every which direction. However, the frontier is much more than that in the modern context. The frontier we see today is still a hardscrabble one. It is a frontier that mixes high stakes investment, corporate intrigue, and the bleeding edge of technology. Today’s frontier is filled with geekier, business savvy types, who know about things like C++. Cybersecurity, and the inner workings of the Information Superhighway. This new frontier is full of risk. It has seen its share of booms and busts. It has tempted a great number of lonely prospectors and misguided investors looking for grandiose riches amongst the unruly fringes of its borders. It has created great barons and giants of industry. It has left behind its fair share of ghost towns and rotting infrastructure….

Thinking West: Comparative Wests Project

Check out the Comparative Wests Project by Stanford University. Read the small blurbs below and check the project’s website (click on “read more here…”).

The Comparative Wests Project is an interdisciplinary collaboration focused on exploring the common histories and shared contemporary issues among Indigenous populations and settler colonialists in Australia, New Zealand, Western South America, the Western United States, Canada, and the Pacific Islands.”

“The Comparative Wests Project explores the shared histories between Indigenous populations and European colonialists and the common contemporary issues that remain as legacies of contact in the many Wests oriented towards the Pacific. The project is especially concerned with understanding the construction and transformation of environments that emerge from interaction between native peoples and invading settler colonialism.”

read more here…

Thinking West: Water-Witch

Water-witch*: noun. One who claims to be able to find underground water by means of a divining rod; a dowser.

Finding reliable sources of freshwater is a problem that plagues the American West. People resort to a number of obscure methods for obtaining sources of subterranean water. New homesteaders in the American West might pay a water-witch a few dollars to find a reliable source of water. Although water-witches are often associated with the bygone homesteading days, it still persists in areas plagued by terrible droughts.


*Source: Free Dictionary (2014)

Thinking West: The Occident

Occident*: noun, adjective, or verb. 1.) Chiefly used in poetry and literary texts as a noun.  The part of the world situated to the west of some recognized region; spec. the countries, civilization, or culture of the West. Originally with reference to Western Christendom or the Western Roman Empire, or to Europe as opposed to Asia and the Orient; now usually with reference to Europe and America as opposed to Asia and the Orient, or occas. to America or the Western hemisphere as opposed to the Old World. 2). The quarter or region of the sky in which the sun and other celestial objects set; the corresponding quarter or region of the earth; the west. b). adj. Situated in the west, western, occidental. 3). trans. verb. To turn or direct towards the west; to place (a church) with the chancel at the western end.

*Definition sources: “Occident, n. and adj.”. OED Online. September 2014. Oxford University Press. (accessed October 27, 2014) and “occident, v.”. OED Online. September 2014. Oxford University Press. (accessed October 27, 2014).

Thinking West: Mining Life in California (1857)

There seems scarcely a limit to the future production of gold in California. Despite the confident predictions of unsuccessful adventurers that the mines would soon be exhausted, the exact opposite seems to be the case; for deposits are now being reached by the new processes of exploration which stagger all calculations. There is no good reason why the gold region of California should not continue to produce its $50,000,000 per annum at least during the present century, and most probably for a much longer period….” (Harper’s Weekly, 3 October 1857)

Thinking West: Code of the West

The Code of the West was a gentleman’s agreement to certain rules of conduct. It was never written into the statutes, but it was respected everywhere on the range.” Ramon F. Adams (quoted in The Quotable Cowboy)

A few guidelines from the Code of the West (taken from

  • Don’t inquire into a person’s past. Take the measure of a man for what he is today.
  • Never steal another man’s horse. A horse thief pays with his life.
  • Defend yourself whenever necessary.
  • Look out for your own.
  • Remove your guns before sitting at the dining table.
  • Never order anything weaker than whiskey.

More on the Code of the West here.

Thinking West: Llano Estacado

Llano Estacado, Caprock Image byLeaflet (CC BY-SA 3.0). Found on Wikimedia Commons.
Llano Estacado, Caprock
Image by Leaflet (CC BY-SA 3.0). Found on Wikimedia Commons.

When we were upon the high tablelands, a view presented itself as boundless as the ocean. Not a tree, shrub, or any other object, either animate or inanimate, relieved the dreary monotony of the prospect; it was a vast illimitable expanse of desert prairie–the dreaded Llano Estacado of New Mexico; or, in other words, the great Zahara of North America.” (Quoted in Reports of explorations and surveys: to ascertain the most practicable and economical route for a railroad from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean, Volume 3)