Library Podcast: Buffalo Bill in the City of Smokestacks

Courtesy of The William F. Cody Archive, Buffalo Bill Historical Center and University of Nebraska-LincolnCC BY-NC-SA 3.0

I’ve been fascinated with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show since I visited the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody, WY in 1979. What impressed me most was that modern impressions of pioneer times and “the wild west” were actually molded by Buffalo Bill and his show.

Buffalo Bill’s appearance in Everett in 1908 occurred at the tail-end of the show’s twenty-five year run. It was a spectacular traveling show that claimed to tell the story of the settling of the West. Two freight trains were needed to carry all its gear, livestock, tents, bleachers, crew and performers. It pulled into Everett early on September 22 and set up on a vacant lot near the center of town, the future site of Everett High School. It performed twice, and left that night for its next destination.

After a lot of research on the show, I wrote a podcast script and compiled some readings—contemporary Herald and Tribune articles, Wild West show programs and route books, and excerpts from present-day books about the show, and about 1908 Everett. Seven library employees volunteered to read the sixteen parts of the 34-minute podcast. Sound effects enhance the dramatic parts. The Buffalo Bill Historical Center of Cody, Wyoming permitted us to use a recording of the authentic music of the Wild West, plus some great photos of the show.

On September 22, 2013, the 105th anniversary of the show’s Everett appearance, the podcast will appear on our website,


Lone Reader Turns 100!

One hundred postings, that is, of my two-minute-long podcast book essays.

In honor of this milestone, I annotate my five favorite Lone Readers. You can hear them, and many more, at  the Lone Reader Podcast page.

Secretariat as a pup.

Endgame by Frank Brady.
The story of World Chess Champion Bobby Fischer’s descent into paranoia and madness. To indicate his breaking point, I used a sound file of a phonographic needle scraping across a vinyl record. An excerpt from Orff’s Carmina Burana provided the perfect backdrop to a story of a man whose demons overwhelm his genius.

Secretariat by William Nack.
One of my sports heroes, the equine monster that won horseracing’s Triple Crown in 1973, rolling up the competition by thirty-one lengths in a racehorse-devouring Belmont Stakes. Along with confirming Secretariat’s hunk-horse status, I tried to emphasize the culture and grandeur of horseracing. The rousing allegro of Beethoven’s violin concerto seemed a grand enough background.

The Forever War by Joe Haldeman.
During the Vietnam War no one wanted to publish this sci-fi story of an 1,800-year-long space-war where half of the battle survivors go insane. The settings and attitude are awesome: high-tech warriors entering time portals through collapsing stars, surprising the enemy freaks and caulking the buggers right. “Full Metal Jacket” in outer space. The rhythm of the narration in this little production seemed to mesh perfectly with Collision Process’s grating rock theme.

Secretariat wins the Belmont! Sad nags in deep background are race participants.

Lost on Planet China by J. Maarten Troost.
This scalding account of travel in the new China tracks a China-travel newbie as he learns the ropes in this ferociously alien country. Our hero starts his China journey by being shouldered aside by three-and-a-half-foot tall grandmothers. By the time he leaves, he’s ripping the head off live squid and devouring them. Onaka’s bling-bling techno-fusion theme pierced with shards of distortion just seemed right.

Let’s Put the Future Behind Us by Jack Womack.
One of my favorite authors. A brutally dark and funny parody of life in newly capitalist Russia, “where corruption and bribery are the new trickle down.” William Gibson once said that characters in Gibson’s own books wouldn’t last five minutes in Womack’s world. Hard to musically capture Womack’s edge, but Farago’s sly bassoon piece expresses the book’s irony perfectly.


Take a Walk

Spudnut Shop

The Old Spudnut Shop

Did you know that President Teddy Roosevelt gave a speech at the site of the EverPark Garage in 1903? Do you remember when the Spudnuts Shop served donuts right next to the Old Post Office?

The Everett Public Library’s newest podcast is a walking tour of Everett’s Central Business District. Starting and ending at the main library (2702 Hoyt Ave.), the tour covers 66 historic sites and stories along a 2.5 mile route. The tour is wonderfully narrated by the library’s own David Dilgard, an expert on all things Everett.

Visit the library’s podcast page to download the podcast to your computer, for use on your iPod or mp3 player. You’ll also find a downloadable map to help guide you, as well as a collection of new and historic photos to illustrate the tour for those of you listening in at home.

A CD recording of the walking tour may be checked out from the library. What are you waiting for?

You may  have read about the tour in the Everett Herald or the Snohomish County Tribune. Put on your walking shoes and take a stroll through Everett history.

Giddy up!

It used to be that librarians just didn’t tell our library users what we thought about books. Revealing our opinions might cause people to avoid us for our “bias.”

In the new millennium, librarians are getting bolder. Sometimes we come out from behind our service desks, mount our horses, and tell people what we think. Hence Everett Public Library’s “Lone Reader” vocal book essays.

Voice files are a fine way to introduce readers to books. The human voice has mesmerized people since alpha cavemen used it to snow their colleagues around Neolithic campfires. The voice is an intimate medium that creates pictures in people’s heads. Professional-quality, low-cost digital recorders make beautiful vocal files. But resonant sound is just a beginning. You also need something interesting to say, and you don’t want “uhhhs,” or throat clearings, or tongue trips.

I write a script and record the sound file, then use sound editing software to edit out all the vocal trash. The software allows me to bring in separate audio tracks for music, sound effects, and our opening and closing intro snippets. I bring it all into a session and tinker until I’m satisfied. I try to make the pieces entertaining. But you be the judge of that.

Lone Reader essays are about two minutes long.  Why two minutes? Because some people think that’s about as long as anyone will listen to speech about a book.

Music helps set the mood. But music can’t just be grabbed and used. Grab Madonna’s “Die Another Day” and you’ll be lassoed and hogtied by Interpol or Warner Brothers, or maybe even by Madonna herself! With copyright concerns, you need to find music you can use.

The books I talk about are just ones I read. I don’t read books just to talk about them.

Why’s it called the Lone Reader? Truth is, there was no escaping that name.

Happy trails.