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To the Editor,

Mailbag Regarding The Skinny (Tucson Weekly, December 12): I can just imagine the scene at the TW offices on Monday night/Tuesday morning: deadlines approaching and no skinny for The Skinny. Ever thankful you moved to Thursday delivery, yet overcome with gloom at the prospect of running four Dust Devils in one week, you find salvation in the pre-dawn delivery of the Star. One issue and you've got half your material.

Flushed with relief and on a roll, you raid the recycle bin and get everything else you need out of a week-old Tucson Citizen. Crisis is averted! The crack TW investigative staff (no pun intended) carefully lays the groundwork for future research efforts by paying the overdue bill from TNI.

Can you say "co-dependent?" Now try this one: "fluff."

--Glenn Moyer

Custer Bluster

To the Editor,

Regarding Emil Franzi's atrocious book review of Michael Blake's new novel, Marching to Valhalla ("Custer's Latest Stand," Tucson Weekly, December 5): For some unexplained reason, Franzi feel there is a need to "humanize" Custer and retrieve a reputation that has fallen into disrepute.

But how do you humanize someone like Custer, who would kill women and children? His reputation became shrouded in myth after his death because self-serving political interests wanted to glorify Custer and vilify all Indians. Their intent was to use his defeat and death to legitimize and energize harsher government policies that would exterminate the "savage" Indians in the name of the westward expansion of "civilization."

Forget the "facts," forget what words like "massacre" and "genocide" really mean. According to Franzi, those Sioux had some nerve by not complying with the Custer-led U.S. military invasion of their sacred Black Hills. Of course he forgets to mention the deliberate violation of the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868, or the pretext of creating a gold rush so the robber barons could build the Northern Pacific Railroad and pull the country out of an economic depression.

But since a little ignorance--or spin--goes a long way, Franzi doesn't let up. He's determined to put a new lustre on the tarnished reputation of Custer. Franzi attempts to convince us that Washita was not a "massacre," although most of the Cheyenne dead were women and children. Franzi conveniently leaves out the accounts of various witnesses indicating that subsequent to their captivity, many Cheyenne women were raped by the soldiers.

Finally, we get to the Little Big Horn and the great battle itself. But according to Franzi, it wasn't a battle. It is the "Custer massacre." Despite what most modern historians say, Franzi falsely concludes that it was Custer's superiors--not our knight in buckskin--who are to blame for his defeat and death.

I suggest that readers not waste $23 on this fictional account of Custer, or $7 on the Brad Pitt-as-Custer movie. Instead they could buy Evan S. Connell's Son of the Morning Star, James Welch's Killing Custer, David H. Miller's Custer's Fall, or Richard Slotkin's The Fatal Environment, and get beyond Franzi's attempt to revive the myth of Custer as the buckskin cavalier.

--John Shaw

Mari Marvelous

To the Editor,

Suddenly, given the mysterious wonders of the Internet, up pops last month's review by Mari Wadsworth of my book, Once Upon a Distant War ("Correspondent's Course," Tucson Weekly, November 27). The book has been very widely reviewed--and almost always favorably--but no one caught the flavor of what I was trying to impart better than Wadsworth. My congratulations and thanks. She's terrific.

--Bill Prochnau

Load Of Bull

To the Editor,

Golly-gosh-whoa-howdy! What could be more thrilling than flying cowboys? ("Sky-High Roundup," Tucson Weekly, December 5). I mean, chasing cows around on the ground is exciting enough, but from the air...Leo Banks gushes on as if aerial ranching is just the most wonderful thing.

Please let me offer a different perspective.

First, the "50 square miles of rugged land 45 miles north of Tucson"--"the Campstool Ranch," or "the family ranch," as cattleman Mercer calls it--mostly isn't his, or his family's either. According to my Arizona land ownership map, at least 90 percent of that 50 square miles must be either state and BLM land that he grazes via a permit. That'd be our land, public land.

Now, anyone who knows that area knows how horribly overgrazed it is. Not to mention the omnipresent ranching roads and fences, numerous sacrifice areas, the bulldozing of vegetation, the predator slaughter and everything else that always comes with ranching. Fact is, Mercer is trashing our land. And like all the public lands ranchers, he's getting subsidized with our tax monies to do it. If he's doing it partly in an ultralight, maybe that's interesting, but it's not even remotely wonderful.

So this guy's up there over our land in his ultralight much of the time. Wow. Anyone who's had the misfortune of being out in nature when on of these flying dirt bikes goes over knows how incredibly loud and obnoxious they are, to both humans and wildlife. One more thought: As do most Western cattlemen portray their own families, Banks portrays the Mercer family as simple, poor, hard-workin' folk, barely able to keep a roof over their heads. As always, this garners sympathy for the ranching industry and makes for good copy. But if the Mercers are actually poor-little-ol'-dusty-cowfolks, then how did they afford an ultralight, a Cessna 180, trucks, motorcycles, horses, a helicopter and who knows what else? Is this just another case of a fat-cat millionaire stockman masquerading as Gabby Hayes?

We're all used to Jeff Smith's recurring wheelchair cowboy-wanna-be gushings. I suspect Jeff has some deep emotional need to glorify cowboys and ranching. We can excuse him, I guess. But when is the rest of the Weekly staff going to get real about ranching in the rural West?

--Lynn Jacobs

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