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Pick up the Montana Quarterly Winter Issue and read Sid's latest fiction "Whistle"

Icelandic Horse Roundup

Sid's Butte 1917 Play

This play is a mine, and can, and perhaps should be read from bottom to top.

What Horses Know

Butte, America

A mule a mile underground, rising.
Wheels of mankind turning.
Gears scream. The metal heats, harnessed metal.
The team of firewagon-horses waits atop the precious world. They smell for smoke and watch and listen, firehorses tethered to water, precious water.
Horse ears do the talking, noses the knowing, eyes the hearing--ears, tails, hoof-stomps, blinks, and head-shakes--kinetic talk.
With the right eyes, hear the talk.

The wheels of war spin as the team converses--ear-talking, lip-licking.
They watch the industry of mankind, knowing fire has not been tamed, nor mules.

"Not all come up."
"Men as mules."
"There is our mule. All are up."
"Indentured servants, bipeds as quadripeds, men as mules."
“We don’t have it so bad up here atop the world.”
“Copper-collared, nonetheless. The fires above reflect hells below.”
"Copper-collared, all. Mules and men."

The mule steps out of the headframe behind the men, the firehorses welcoming Mule with subtle nickers. The dusty mule tail-talks back, ears looping--a gesture language, a knowing language, horses and mule knowing men, knowing men well--ears and eyes and nostrils knowing, hocks cocked, shouldering the world.

“No dead strapped atop the mule today.”
“Comeuppance for no one.”
“Not for men. Not for mules.”
“Mules never forget what men do to them.”
“Nor us.”
“Mules are retributive.”
“And men?”
“Likewise, retributive.”
“Not these men. Not today. Watch them march, smell them. They march as the mule marches, they march as they are told to march. They march and smell like mules.”
“Mules kick and strike.”

The atmospheric light blinds, sunlight a toxic halo.
Men and Mule march out of the wickerwork of rock, Mule following men out of the earth, mules and men indentured by war, warfare requiring copper, and lead. Blinded men. A blindered mule.

“We have no say in any of this, partner.”
“No say?”
“Not as horses. We do as men ask, pacifists we. Our nature is to appease.”
“Mules only appease for so long, and then they strike--those lethal forelegs.”
“The winds of war blow hard.”
“For metal, for ships of molten metal the winds of war blow.”
“Men and mules indentured by metal.”
“War, that bloody bloated affair of men.”
“Of mules and men.”
“Of men as mules.”

The writing flows through the reader's mind like water...

The pathogen Tetracapsuloides bryosalmonae that caused the whitefish epidemic has been identified in the Big Hole River, home of the endangered grayling. Aquatic infectious disease is caused by a pathogen present in a river environment that achieves successful reproduction in a vulnerable host, often at the host’s expense.
An appreciation of the Yellowstone River whitefish epidemic requires consideration of three factors; 1) the host(s), 2) the warming river environment, and 3) the pathogen(s).
Epidemics — including the Yellowstone River whitefish Tetra epidemic — are preceded by essential predisposing conditions in all three.
Read Dr Gustafson's entire article in the Montana Standard with a click below the pic!

Practicing veterinarian and journalist Sid Gustafson’s new novel, Swift Dam (Open Books, $14.95) is a short but satisfying read. In telling the story of an elderly veterinarian who sits out one long night under the dam and recalls the day of the great flood 50 years earlier that wiped out a large Blackfeet community, Gustafson evokes the landscape and the lives of an area still devastated half a century after the flood. But, of course, the wounds go much deeper and are much older. And the mysteries surrounding the lives of the people are deep and entangled. Like Gustafson’s previous novels, Horses They Rode and Prisoners of Flight, this is a book that demonstrates personal empathy and a sure hand with image.
Erin H Turner for Big Sky Journal, Arts Edition, 2016

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Montana Quarterly Magazine
Book Review, Spring ‘07

Horses They Rode
By Sid Gustafson
Riverbend Publishing, 288 pages
Reviewed by Justin Easter

Bozeman author and veterinarian Sid Gustafson has the rare ability to take you from your seat and place you directly in his novel.
He accomplishes this in Horses They Rode not with the all-too-common literary tactics we are used to, but through the use of fascinating imagery. While giving the reader familiar points in Montana to use as reference, Gustafson transports his readers into a different countryside than the one we see from our windows.
Gustafson brings his reader into a world where Indians and cowboys live together, and before the novel even progresses, the affect of this relationship, however strained, is evident to the reader. The nomadic qualities of Gustafson’s characters echo throughout the novel and resonate in any reader who has felt an itch for exploration.
If you are interested in opening a book that will captivate your imagination while encouraging introspection, you need not look further than Horses They Rode. You may put this novel down wondering about the spirit of the mountains, the relationships you have with people around you, or even the relationship you have with yourself. This is, of course, not surprising when you realize Gustafson is using his own experiences to masterfully shape his characters.
Expect to read one of the finer stories related to quickly dissipating Montana culture, and one of the most impressive novels written by a Montana author this year. Hold on to your emotions, because there will most likely be an instant when Gustafson is able to open your mind in a way that is truly fascinating.

Justin Easter

Literary Fiction
Outback Montana Wilderness Novel