Contemporary Narratives

The Great Salt Lick    
“We don’t pay our artists, we eat them!”  So declares Whit Deschner, creator of the Great Salt Lick Contest. The artists he’s referring to are animals…cows, elk, deer, goats and others…who create their art by licking salt blocks left for them in fields and pastures.

This is certainly one of the most unusual art contests and auctions in the nation, right in the middle of ranch country in eastern Oregon. For the past several years Whit's been distributing new salt blocks to ranchers who put them in fields where their livestock - and often, wildlife - sculpt away for weeks and months.        

The ranchers then collect the “finished” sculptures and bring them to Whit who organizes an auction each September at a local gallery. Proceeds from the auction are donated to Oregon Health & Science University and its efforts to find to a cure for Parkinson’s Disease. Over the years more than $40,000 has been raised for the cause. Get more information about the Great Salt Lick contest at:

The featured video is from the Western Folklife Center-produced 2010 Deep West Videos collection, available in the Western Folklife Center Gift Shop.

Biking the Bonneville Salt Flats
Though monster engines with hundreds of horses power most of the cars at the races at the Bonneville Salt Flats, we ride the course with a pioneering bike mechanic who propels his two-wheel bicycle with a motor the size of a volleyball.

Supaman, Photo: Brook More

Larkin Gifford's Harmonica
In his new composition “Larkin Gifford’s Harmonica,” composer and musician Phillip Bimstein draws inspiration from an old-time harmonica player whose ancestors settled near the sheer sandstone walls of Zion National Park in southern Utah.

We fly low and slow with aviatrix Arty Trost as she travels cross country in her tiny ultralight airplane, packed with a tent and provisions for her two-week journey.

The Cowboy Train: On the Rails Across Canada
Hal Cannon took a train journey across Canada with eight musicians and sixty-five guests. This journey features Tom Russell with guests, Wylie and Wild West, Rosalie Sorrels, Stephanie Davis and Sourdough Slim. Over four nights and three days, Vancouver to Toronto, this radio story captures the music, fun and camaraderie on this adventure as a community evolves as the landscape whizzes by.

The self-contained cowboy music festival and other musical train trips are organized by Roots and Rails and travel both in Canada and Mexico.

The Couer d'Alene Western Art Auction
Hal Cannon calls the action at the Coeur D’Alene art auction where works by western artists are selling for major league prices.