Thank you to those who came. A lovely time with wonderful people doing writerly things among an inspiring place. Thank you to Poor Richard’s for their continued support in this ongoing literary project.
The current economic model is failing; harming both the farmer and the consumer. Mike Callicrate argues powerfully for a new way of thinking about our agriculture. He advocates humane animal husbandry and “regenerative” farming practices that complete a full food cycle. This is good for the farmer, the consumer, and the animal. He also lays out the destructive practices of giant corporations consolidating their market share, and how they are corrupting our ability to purchase good, clean, honest food.
In this excellent interview with Mary-Charlotte on the Down to Earth (Planet to Plate Podcast), Mike Callicrate revisits and expands upon topics from his conversation with The Almagre Review, in Issue 2: “Leadership.”
I have been watching The Vietnam War on PBS, the nation’s largest TV network. The program is billed as one of the best film documentaries about our misadventure in Southeast Asia. I agree that it’s a good one, but I have my reservations. It seems that I always find things that are wrong, or at least not accurate, about the Ken Burns effort and others like it. When I read books or news stories about Vietnam, watch old TV news clips, or see contemporary documentaries and movies, I cannot help but feel that we are not told the honest truth. Vietnam was never truthfully explained when Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon were in the White House. This is still the case even if the latest offering is good history, exposing the lies and miscalculations on the political and military levels that got us into Vietnam. The documentary does a good job of that. We see the duplicity of our government, the bloody tragedy that resulted and the bitter wounds of division, not yet healed, that the war and the betrayal by our government, caused at home. Many are now saying, “I didn’t know the history.” But I am concerned about other things.
I am a combat veteran of the Vietnam War. I did my duty as a soldier. But my experience puts me in a small category of Vietnam veterans. I did not want it, but I am numbered among the few who actually fought. This affects my vision. Once an infantryman, always an infantryman. This means that I am unforgiving when civilians attempt to explain my war. This is common among combat veterans. We love our wars. Yes, in our hearts we love them, for most of us an embarrassing secret, hard to explain. We are sensitive about this and sincerely try to tell our fellow citizens that we and our wars have been distorted by well-intentioned people. But it never seems to make a difference. Ken Burns and Lynn Novick do not understand my war and this love. In spite of their interviews with combat veterans, they manage to distort the Vietnam combat experience. Since this film started I have been telling people that it is distorted. All I get is doubtful looks and pitying stares.
Almost every U.S. veteran war story told in the documentary is a tragic one: Ambushes and human wave attacks. Platoons, companies, battalions overrun. Horrendous casualties. The story of innocent young men like Mogie Crocker, KIA in 1966, woven throughout the entire series, told by his mother and sister who can barely contain their grief fifty-one-years later. The starving POWs, reduced to killing and eating cats. John McCain, with two broken arms and a broken leg, tortured by his captors. The 7th Cavalry, decimated in the Ia Drang Valley. The 173rd Airborne Brigade and the arrogance of their commander, who let three companies suffer near annihilation on Hill 875. Only the Marine, Karl Marlantes, tells a heroic story of taking a hill and killing the North Vietnamese. But there was much glory for us, if you can accept that there is glory in war. I wish the story of my battalion, 1/8th Infantry, 4th Infantry Division, had been told. In May of 1968 we fought and destroyed two regiments of NVA five klicks (kilometers) from the Laotian border during “Mini-Tet. What about the barrage of 152 millimeter Russian artillery that we endured for weeks during that battle? Now, there’s a story.
Losses happened. Many firefights ended inconclusively. The enemy was brave, just as brave or braver than we were. It was a war of attrition. But the fighting men never lost a battle. We lost the war, but that was no fault of ours. In their eagerness to tell the pathos of the war, accented by the maudlin lyrics and whine of Bob Dylan, Burns and Novick paint a picture of U.S. victims of the war. They make us out to be victims. It is true that the draftees didn’t want to be in “the Nam,” but the conscripts fought as bravely as soldiers in any other war. This is said by some of those interviewed but it is lost in the general narrative.
In contrast, the VC and NVA narratives ring with righteousness and heroism. Our men don’t smile for the camera. We see more than one stereotypical GI weeping veteran. The VC and NVA veterans look happy. Of course, they won, so they should look happy. U.S. film footage that Burns and Novick show is all real–we see bloodied American corpses. The North Vietnamese Army (NVA) footage is obviously Communist propaganda, staged scenes of the victorious People’s Army of Vietnam, the PAVN, as they called themselves. No dead NVA in their films. That is the first thing that seized me when I saw the first episode. I asked myself, “don’t Burns and Novick realize that they are showing Communist propaganda?” They interview an NVA cadre in his dress uniform. The man looks much too young to be a veteran of a war fifty-years ago. No Americans are interviewed in dress uniforms and they are all old men.
There is one more bone to pick. Burns and Novick almost completely ignore the presence of Hispanic soldiers. Only Everett Alvarez, the longest-held POW in Hanoi, is interviewed. If not for that dubious distinction I feel that Alvarez would not appear in the documentary. It’s a pattern. Burns was forced to add an episode about Hispanic soldiers to his WWII documentary after the American GI Forum, a Hispanic veterans’ organization, threatened a boycott in 2007. He had completely left out the role of 500,000 Hispanic soldiers in WWII. Burns should take another look at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington. It is the only public monument in which Hispanic valor is faithfully honored. Thousands of Spanish names are engraved on that Wall, written and paid for in blood.
In January, 2017, The Almagre Review went to Taos to interview famed American author John Nichols. For two nights, he spoke about his life, his novels, and his political and environmental philosophies. Highlights from this interview are in Issue 3: ENVIRONMENT.
A literary journal founded in the crease; Come be a part of the narrative that tells the story of the mountains and the prairies.
Once again, we share with you news from The Almagre Review. We interviewed famed Taos writer John T. Nichols, the author of the Milagro Beanfield War trilogy, in January, 2017. The Almagre Review will soon publish our Environmental Issue, with an excerpt from the John Nichols interview featuring his environmental philosophy for which he is famous.
We are also planning a Symposium on Sustainability and the New Agriculture. We anticipate that Colorado businessman and organic rancher Mike Callicrate will participate. Also soon to come, we are scheduling The Almagre Review Literary Salons. Our first Salon will be with Janice Gould, former Poet Laureate of Colorado, who will lead a reading and discussion of Kate Chopin’s, “Story of an Hour.” This is a very short story (about 2 pages) which we will read on April 6 at the Salon (location and time TBA).
In May, I will lead a reading and discussion of Ernest Hemingway’s, “Soldier’s Home,” another very short story.
When Joe and I started The Almagre Review/La Revista Almagre, we wanted to build a journal that promotes local and regional talent. Often, the most important voices are the ones yet to be discovered. Our goal is to be a stepping stone in helping these authors along their journey toward literary success.
It’s with pleasure we share that two very special contributors will appear in our next issue; Clay Jenkinson and Mike Callicrate. Mr. Jenkinson is the creator of The Thomas Jefferson Hour heard every week on NPR, and Mike Callicrate is the owner of Ranch Foods Direct. As pleased as we are that both of them join us in conversation, it’s the up-and-coming authors that form the spirit of our publication.
The Staff at The Almagre are dedicated to building issues where new talent can appear beside established voices. We do this as a way of saying, no matter where you are in your literary trajectory, our pages welcome people of all backgrounds. We might buy an issue because someone we love to read is in there, but one of the chief delights is discovering a new favorite author who enriches our future reading experience.
Our publication’s newest reader. And we’re thankful to the parent of this greatness-in-the-making for sharing such a candid moment!
Writers ask a lot of their readers. It’s more than just time. The solicitation is quite intimate, begging more of a total investment.
We can’t speak for everyone, but here at our humble publication, we know how slippery and temporary ideas are…all ideas, great ones especially. Once committed to paper, an idea finds a quasi-permanence.
So in the age where most stories are told through moving images and sound, the written word in all its static glory must rely on its most powerful quality. That quality is this intimacy…the theater of another’s mind. Here, a poem or novel moves in, like a circus, it sets up camp, unfolds its tents, un-carriages the animals, and builds a show between the ears of another human. Think of this invitation, this opportunity to inhabit each other. It’s a unique dialogue. When the reader shares his time with all those set pieces stored in the attic of his imagination, those wares built from the thread of experience, he gives the writer her reason to be. He also gives her the stage for her ideas. The necessary loop is complete and the current can flow.
We all remember that thing the last exquisite novel provided which a movie cannot produce. The scenes and scents and people moved through our head. We were not passengers, we were not emotional patients strapped to the operating table. We were part of the story. In some ways, it was even about us.
Thank you to our readers who have taken the time to be a part of our journey. We look forward to the big sky horizon of the West and all the future stories waiting to fill our pages.