I Love A Prairie: Author Pam Houston Visits Red Cloud
In early August, author Pam Houston visited Red Cloud and "thoroughly enjoyed" her time here. She and her husband stayed at the Villa Willa ("too short") in the Moonstone Block above the National Willa Cather, and took a guided tour with education coordinator, Rachel Olsen. "I'm really happy to know that the Willa Cather Center is there," she wrote.
The Willa Cather Memorial Prairie was what initially lured them off the highway for a stay on the way home—"the prairie might be my favorite landscape of all," Houston said. She teaches Willa Cather and "relied on her for the courage" to write her 2019 memoir, Deep Creek: Finding Hope in the High Country [W.W. Norton].
Houston also wrote the short story collection Cowboys Are My Weakness, and many other books published by W.W. Norton, and Airmail, published in 2021 by Torrey House Press. She teaches at the MFA program at the Institute of American Indian Arts and at U.C. Davis, and directs the literary nonprofit, Writing by Writers. She lives in Colorado near the headwaters of the Rio Grande and is a fierce advocate for the land.
We asked Pam if she might share her impressions of her visit and we are grateful for them:
"I love a prairie. I grew up near the ocean and I live in the mountains, but I might love a prairie most of all. I was so excited when I Googled 'cool things to do in south central Nebraska,' to learn of the Willa Cather Memorial Prairie. My husband and I were driving back to Colorado from Wisconsin and south central Nebraska was the half way point.
I have read (nearly) all of Willa Cather’s books, have taught My Ántonia, The Song of the Lark and Death Comes for the Archbishop many times. The best literature course I ever taught—I mostly teach creative writing—was a class on D.H. Lawrence, Willa Cather and Annie Proulx, a course I made up on the spot to get a job.
I loved seeing the Willa Cather Childhood Home where Cather grew up, and loved seeing the peeling wallpaper she put in hours at the pharmacy to buy. But I came to Red Cloud to see the prairie, to walk across it, to photograph it, to see what she saw when she looked across those hills of waving grass."
Photo credits: Pam Houston; Mike Blakeman (image of Houston on the prairie)