Tag Archives: montana

Big Sky Birthday, July 24, 2010

In the second of our series of conversations with Montana Poet Laureate Henry Real Bird, Western Folklife Center Producer Taki Telonidis called to wish him Happy Birthday and found him in the town of Malta near the banks of the Milk River. Henry has been on the road for nearly two weeks, retracing the travels of his ancestors and giving out books of poetry to people he meets in rural towns and Indian reservations along the way.

LISTEN


 

TRANSCRIPT OF HENRY REAL BIRD’S INTERVIEW ON JULY 24, 2010

Taki Telonidis
A couple days ago you said you were doing this ride in part so you could ride horses like your grandfather and great grandfather did…in the same places. And I’m wondering as you’re doing this, what sort of things are you thinking about? Is your mind taking you back to those days of your grandparents?

Henry Real Bird and Levi Bruce five miles west of Glasgow, Montana, on U.S. Highway 2. Photo by Joseph Terry.

Henry Real Bird
Back to those days. Like you get the feeling…not that you have been there before…but to know that your blood has been there two generations before you. Unbelievable! It makes you…it just makes you…you’re so happy you just want to cry sometimes, just because you’re so happy, you know.

Taki Telonidis
That’s beautiful. I’ll bet you some poems will come out of this experience.

Henry Real Bird
Oh no. I’m doing that. I’m doing that. In fact I’m writing as I go along type of thing in my mind I’m putting it all together. And then in the end I’m going to regroup and finish this thing off maybe in one poem. I don’t know what I’m going to do. But I see awful things too…good things and bad things. Just like over in Wolf Point, Montana, I saw a lot of alcoholism there. So that was a depressing sight, but that is there. So I’ll write a little piece in there to show that. Oh I’ve been wanting to use this line which I haven’t been able to use: what have you done to life, or what has life done to you? And then to wander around like that. I”ve had that line painted on my heart for a long time and I haven’t been able to really use it, but I”m going to use it there I think. I’m just working it all out.

Taki Telonidis
One last question for you Henry. Today is your birthday and you’re spending it on the banks of the Milk River and you’re 62 now which I think entitles you to reduced admission to National Parks and all sorts of privileges. But does it also make you an elder? Do you consider yourself an elder?

A coffee break by the horse trailer. Photo by Samar Fay.

Henry Real Bird
Oh I’m lucky to be an elder, and I appreciate that because of all the things that I have been though, and I’m lucky to be alive and I know that. And I appreciate that. You know they have that saying to where…long, long on the tooth or something like that…

Taki Telonidis
Long in the tooth.

Henry Real Bird
Yeah long in the tooth, but for us they say when your eye tooth crumbles and your hair is pure white, nobody can outfox you. Nobody can outdo you in thinking. And so for knowledge to turn into wisdom type of thing. I’m nearing that stage in life, type of thing. That’s how we see it, yeah.

Taki Telonidis
Henry thank you very much. It’s great to talk with you again, and we’ll touch base with you in a couple of days.

Henry Real Bird
Oh yeah, the next couple of days…tomorrow I’m going to stay over in Dodson, and then I’m going to finish off the fair there. So I’ll watch the demolition derby there, then after that I’ll be into Fort Belknap, and from then on I still have to make arrangements for the other end. But everything just falls into place. You just sort of kick your horse into the day and keep on going, and you run into something nice.

Taki Telonidis
And the demolition derby sounds like it’ll be a highlight.

Henry Real Bird
(laughs) Oh God yeah. Yeah I’m going to watch the demolition derby. I saw a poster here, so I”ll be there for that. And I called ahead over there and they’re going to let me stay over at the fairgrounds. So I’ll have stables and everything for the horses, and no motel or anything…so I’ll put up my tent and slowly drift out into the stars, you know.

Taki Telonidis
Henry it sounds great.

Henry Real Bird
Good night.

Taki Telonidis
Nice to talk to you.

Henry Real Bird
Yeah.

Ride Across Montana with Henry Real Bird

Henry Real Bird—cowboy poet, Crow Indian and recently named Poet Laureate of Montana—has embarked on a 415-mile journey on horseback across northwest North Dakota and northern Montana. He is handing out books of poetry to the people he meets along his route, which will take him through Indian country where his grandfather rode a century ago.This is not a press stunt, but rather a demonstration of Henry’s life, culture and poetry: a journey of horse and horseman slowly making their way across a vast ancestral landscape.

Listen to and read short interviews we’re doing with Henry as he progresses from his start at Fort Berthold, North Dakota, to his final destination on the Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation southwest of Havre, Montana, in early August. Over the next year, the Western Folklife Center will explore rural Montana by surveying traditional artists whose work and way of life provide social commentary that holds lessons for the rest of us. This extensive fieldwork effort will culminate in an hour-long radio broadcast, podcast and an exhibit at the Missoula Art Museum that is made possible through the generosity of the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation.

Listen to our first interview with Henry recorded on July 21, 2010, as he rides along the Missouri River thinking of the juneberry pie that he and his riding partner, Levi  Bruce, were gifted the day before.

LISTEN HERE


Transcript of Henry Real Bird’s Interview, July 21, 2010

Hal Cannon
Where are you Henry?

Henry Real Bird
I’m over here along the Missouri River.  I been ridin’ here since Tuesday…so I’ve been on the road about 9 days. And I stayed last night at a town called Fraser.

 Hal Cannon
Are you on a horse right now?

Henry Real Bird
Yeah I’m riding a horse right now along Highway 2 in Montana. What they call High Line.

Hal Cannon
Can you describe what you’re looking at right now?

Henry Real Bird
Oh gosh, just a vast amount of land…just rolling hills all over to the north, and then on over to the south I’ve got cottonwood trees in the valley floor of the Missouri River, north of the river. Then across the Missouri to the south we’ve got them hills there..the breaks…just beautiful.

Hal Cannon
Henry I’m hearing cars just speeding past you. What’s the difference between the way you’re seeing what’s going on and people going 60 miles an hour?

Henry Real Bird
Oh yeah. The slow pace..you see more. I saw hills and creeks that I didn’t know existed. I mean I’ve been on this road before but I never paid attention to it but now you see all this beautiful landscape. And uh..I mean this is good traveling here.

Hal Cannon
So where did you start out Henry? 

Henry Real Bird
I started out from the Fort Berthold Indian Revervation.  We started out along the Missouri there on the trail of the buffalo, and uh, going through patches of sweet sage, eating juneberries. And I was saying that life cannot get any sweeter than this.  To be able to ride a horse for the day and then just eat the juneberries.  And when I got over here yesterday, they stopped me on the road and took me over and gave me some juneberry pie.  And I had some more again last night and I went over to the sweat lodge over here in Frazer, and prayed.  They say the sweat lodge…you use that to remember who you are.  But the whole thing is…places where my great grandfather rode over on Fort Berthold and over to Fort Union and then I just wanted to ride a horse right where they rode horses too, along the Missouri. And that’s what I’m doing, and then giving out books of poetry along the way.   

Hal Cannon
What is the reaction when you hand someone a book of poems?

Henry Real Bird
They’re surprised and they just browse through it right there, and they don’t know what to think and so I’m gone by the next day so I don’t know what they think. I just put my name on there and everything else.  I just want them to enjoy the thought..enjoy the thought and go for the ride into the feeling whatever it is.

Hal Cannon
You were made Poet Laureate of Montana, is this part of what you think your job is as Poet Laureate for the state? 

Henry Real Bird
You know I took it on like that, because nobody else will ever do this type of thing, you know.  Nobody has the guts to just saddle up a horse and just go from town to town just giving out books of poetry and stuff like that.  And so I figure that I’m not like everybody else and that’s why I’m the way I am, and so this is just my style of giving back to the people what I have taken from life out here in Montana. 

Hal Cannon
Henry I admire you. 

Henry Real Bird
Oh, I don’t know it’s just uh…

Hal Cannon
I do, I count you as a good friend.  I really appreciate what you do.

Henry Real Bird
I appreciate you too because you’ve kept me alive.  In the beginning when I didn’t want to live any more, you guys kept me alive and that was alright, you know. And so I feel good today.

Hal Cannon
You’ve helped us.  You’ve helped keep us alive my friend.  So can we call you along the route and ask you how things are going?

Henry Real Bird
Yeah, call anytime and wherever I am on the road if I get good reception we can connect.

Hal Cannon
Good luck on your journey and we’ll call you in a few days. 

Henry Real Bird
OK. See you later then, OK.  Bye.

Hal Cannon
Bye Henry.