An Interpretation of the Southwest
By Ross Calvin
New Foreword by Ron Hamm, Author of “Ross Calvin: Interpreter of the American Southwest”
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Desert environment leaves its stark impress upon plants, animals, and men. And Ross Calvin tells the beautifully strange story of New Mexico—its ancient culture, the coming of the Spanish friars, the Spanish occupation, pueblo life, the Apaches and their long warfare with the whites, cattle and sheep raising and cowboys and outlaws, and the old trails, and the coming of the railroads—treating all these in the light of the physical features and physical conditions of the country. Calvin knew New Mexico intimately, and he writes of his observations and experiences in his rides and tramps through the region. His novel point of view and material afford a unique approach to the arid American Southwest. The journalist Ernie Pyle, who lived in Albuquerque with his wife for a period in 1942, stated that Calvin’s book was “our Southwestern Bible,” and the famed Western librarian and critic Lawrence Clark Powell gave his imprimatur when he called it the “finest single book about New Mexico.” This new edition includes a foreword by Ron Hamm, author of the biography Ross Calvin: Interpreter of the American Southwest. Many of the books listed in the Bibliography are in new editions from Sunstone Press in its Southwest Heritage Series.
Ross Calvin was born in Illinois in 1889, graduated from Indiana’s DePauw University in 1911, and went on to Harvard where he got his doctorate in English. In 1920-21 he attended the General Theological Seminary in New York City. Poor health forced him west shortly thereafter, and from 1927 to 1942 he served as an Episcopal priest at the Church of the Good Shepherd in Silver City, New Mexico. During his off hours, Calvin hiked the surrounding country and eventually traveled all over his adopted state. He loved talking to people—ranchers, cowboys, miners, old-timers, biologists, historians, Pueblo Indians, Hispanic farmers—and each one of these conversations further buttressed his growing conviction that climate dictated everything in New Mexico. When not roaming the countryside or tending his congregants, he wrote for religious and scholarly journals and also produced four books, the best known of which are Sky Determines (1934) and River of the Sun: Stories of the Storied Gila (1946). He died in 1970.
“Calvin has a seeing eye. Not only one which gets a comprehensive view of a vegetable and animal life that climbs from sub-tropical to sub-Arctic, and of human types from pre-Pueblo to late tourist-camp; but the sort of an eye too which sees little animal tracks, notes plants and birds and clouds, and can relate these things to the all-embracing sky which is his theme. He remembers the harsh cut of dust and the fresh consolation of fragrant rain, he knows what it is to come thirsty to a water hole.” —Erna Fergusson, The New Mexico Quarterly
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