Sunday, May 31, 2015

Peter Lacey's New Single by Peter Reum

Once again, Peter Lacey has shared his inner thoughts with his listeners. There is a right of passage that occurs when as adults, our parents die and we are left without their company or wisdom. The losses that happen are a sign pointing toward our own reckoning with death, and the mystery it engenders. Peter's Wayward Song, the first side of the new vinyl single he has released through Pink Hedgehog Records. This song is a farewell of sorts, the feelings that a survivor has after the initial disbelief and grief of loss have gone. The challenge presented to survivors is twofold. First, there is the summation of the feelings and experiences a parent has given through a lifelong association. Second, there is the sorting of the lessons learned from the relationship. It is often stated that parents teach us what to do and what not to do from our observations and association with them. Some of the traits we admire are traits we want to emulate. Some of them are traits that we did not like in our parents and do not want to repeat.

It appears to me that Peter's association with his dad entailed somewhat of a loving yet also emotionally guarded relationship. Dads have a hard time expressing love and other intimate feelings to their sons, and the pain of losing our dads often is related to the difficulty we have in sharing our true feelings with them, even up to the end of their lives. The most important relationship in forming masculine behavior is with our fathers, The grief we have revolves around the "woulda, coulda, shoulda" feelings we have upon our father's death.  The lesson Peter appears to be expressing here is don't wait too long to say what ever you want to say to your father. If he is emotionally distant, expressing your inner thoughts could move him to open his inner emotional life to us. Otherwise, he will die with love and other emotions unexpressed... a Song gone wayward.

The second side, Many Moons Ago, is a meditation upon a painting by a friend of Peter's. The painting depicts a tree with different circles and other shapes glistening under a full moon. The song is beautifully sung, and reminds me of some of Paul McCartney's best acoustic work, which I hope Peter will take as a compliment.  The song's gentle tenderness suggests an older man recalling the beauty of a newfound love that lasted, possibly in marriage. Peter has a full-time job just being a husband and father, and his loving lyrics show that the love has lasted through good times and bad. 

The painting entitled Many Moons Ago has a theme that to me resembles a family tree, with all of the generations represented in the boughs. Each generation loves, fights, wonders, dreams, and eventually has reminiscences. The wonder of life is that as humans we are both being and becoming. Our memories are somehow allowed to remain, forming our identity and personhood. The cells inside our body are completely replaced every three to four months.....yet somehow we view ourselves as being the same person day in and day out. The grief we experience is countered by the love we have been given and have returned in a lifelong cycle. The painful memories are coexistent with the lasting love that began with our parents and continues through our children.

The announcement regarding Peter's single has this quote from him directed to the listener of this single..."This song was born out of a number of losses in my world in 2013 (unlucky for some!). I had to say goodbye to my mum and dad and also to my job... Wayward Song is a conversation with myself. There's times when life throws a lot at you and it just seems too tough. But then, after a lot of talking to myself, I realized it all comes down to the fact you have to carry on. I don't think it's easy to imbue a song with sincerity. For me I feel I came close with this particular tune. I wonder if you agree?" 

My answer is yes, Peter, I do agree. I am the last person alive from my childhood family, and I have seen two wives die before me. The memories, good and bad, are what lives on, until I die and my children experience the same feeling we have talked about here. Grief is a universal human experience, and thank heaven we have it, because we would wither on the Tree of Life if we didn't allow ourselves these feelings.

Peter's single may be purchased from It is available as a digital download or a vinyl single.

Copyright 2015 by Peter Reum-All rights reserved

Sunday, May 24, 2015

From Yellowstone to Yosemite: Landscape Artists of the 19th Century American West III-Montana's Charles M. Russell-The Early Years by Peter Reum

Montana's Charles M. Russell by Peter Reum

Montana's history regarding Western Art always begins with a nod to the person who put Montana on the map for his studies of Indigenous Tribes, Cowboys, and most of all...the wide open landscape and wildlife of Montana. His paintings and drawings were born from personal experience on Montana cattle ranches, time spent with the Blood Division of the Blackfoot Tribe, and years spent observing everyday life in the wild country of Montana. While alive, Mr. Russell was considered the premier citizen of his adopted hometown, Great Falls, Montana, and his name appears throughout Northern Montana honoring his life and his work. The Museum which bears his name is the home of one of the largest single displays of his art, although his work may be found around the world. His prolific work produced over 4000 known paintings, bronzes, and drawings.

The Early Years-Charlie's Imagination is Fired

Mr. Russell's life began in St. Louis, Missouri in 1864. His early years were filled with an intense interest in some of the books and illustrated publications that circulated in the USA initially, then later drew interest in Europe, bringing many wealthy Europeans to the West to experience firsthand the wonder pictured and written about. Such periodicals lionized many men whose reputations grew as "winners of the West." Two with strong Montana and Wyoming ties were Colonel William F. (Buffalo Bill) Cody, and the infamous George Armstrong Custer, whose reputation was built fighting Indigenous Tribes in the West. Even at the beginning, in Missouri, Russell's imagination was engaged and his artistic drive spawned early drawings and sketches. Living near the Gate to the West, St. Louis, Russell was a firsthand observer of numerous fortune seekers and explorers who passed through St. Louis on their way west. The California Gold Rush, The Pony Express,  the Santa Fe Trail, the Powell Expedition, the Lewis and Clark Expedition, and countless other ventures saw their beginnings in Missouri or near St. Louis.

General George Armstrong Custer

Colonel William F. (Buffalo Bill) Cody

Mr. Russell's family was relatively prosperous, and his Grandmother, Lucy Bent was related to William Bent who founded Bent's Trading Fort in Southeastern Colorado at the confluence of the Purgatoire and Arkansas Rivers along the recently established Santa Fe Trail. Charles Bent, instrumental in the establishment of the Santa Fe Trail, was later married to a Spanish/Mexican woman in New Mexico in Taos. Charles bent was named the first New Mexico Territorial  Governor in 1846 during the Mexican War. Brother William married a Cheyenne woman who had sons Charles and George, who fought as Confederates in the Civil War, and later became Cheyenne warriors fighting the U.S. Cavalry in the Sand Creek Massacre aftermath in 1864 (Taliaferro, 1996-pp14-17).

The Santa Fe Trail With Indigenous Homelands Noted
(Map by

There was an expectation that upon becoming a grown man, Charles Marion Russell would join his family's Oak Hill, Missouri business. Founded by Charlie Russell's grandfather, James Russell, he and Lucy Bent Russell had Charles Silas Russell, Charlie Russell's father, along with siblings Julia,John, and Russella.  The family's Oak Hill property gave young Charles Marion Russell the chance to engage in elements of the frontier lifestyle that was disappearing even as he was becoming aware of it. All of Charlie's aunts and his uncle lived on the Oak Hill property and young Charlie had the run of the property. Charles Silas Russell married Charlie's mother, Mary Elizabeth Mead in 1858. Charlie was born in 1864 in St. Louis, the third of six surviving children. The family moved from St. Louis to Oak Hill when Charlie was 5, in 1869. To hear Charlie Russell tell his history, one would have reckoned that he was raised on the fringe of the wild. In fact by the time Charlie and his family moved to Oak Hill, the property had been incorporated into the city of St. Louis.

Charlie Russell's imagination was captured early in life by the pulp serials glorifying the conquering of the West, with Manifest Destiny pushing settlers ever westward, impinging upon the lands of dozens of Indigenous Peoples. Perhaps due to his own dysgraphia, Charlie saw himself as lacking in formal studies in school, although he read voraciously. Street and Smith, later publishers of the famous baseball annual, and Beadle and Adams published endless streams of serial Westerns which fired Charlie's imagination. The novels of James Fenimore Cooper added further fire to Charlie's vivid desire to "Go West, young man!" (Taliaferro, 1996-pp. 20-22)

Beadle and Adams Buffalo Bill Dime Novel
Courtesy National Cowboy Museum

Street and Smith Buffalo Bill Dime Novel
Courtesy University of Missouri Library


Beadles and Adams-Dime Novel Publishers

Charles Marion Russell went deeply into the mythical picture painted in words by a number of authors, and his ideas about the West were beginning to gel before he ever left St. Louis. His dysgraphia led to a hardship expressing his ideas in writing, and his experiences in school led to clowning around and truancy. His parents were confounded by his writing issues, and to their credit, recognized Charlie's fondness for drawing and encouraged him even exposing him to several of the artist's works who passed through or lived in or near St. Louis. Painter Karl F. Wimar, whose works were popular among the well to do in St. Louis, was the major early influence upon Charlie Russell, who especially admired his realistic portrayals of Western Life, especially Indigenous People and wildlife. Although his parents wanted him formally trained in art, Charles Marion Russell's formal art training consisted of 2 or 3 days of art training at Washington University. A three month enrollment in a military school was a dismal experience despite Charles Silas Russell's hope ghat his son would flourish in a more disciplined environment. In fact, the experience only solidified Charlie Russell's determination to head West, and shortly after getting back to St. Louis from the term in military school, he set out for Montana a few days short of his sixteenth birthday (Taliaferro, 1996-pp. 25-27).

The Weak Never Started-Karl F. Wimar 1858
University of Texas Art Museum

Attack Upon An Emigrant Train-Karl F. Wimar 1859

Next-The Cowboy Artist-Charles Russell's Early Years in Montana