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for people who care about the West

Soulless choices


I was appalled by Linda Hasselstrom’s poem “Spring” and your newspaper’s commentary on it (“Heard Around the West,” HCN, 10/30/17). Hasselstrom categorizes drowning kittens and bashing them with a wrench as “taking responsibility.” What she calls “taking responsibility” is really a grotesque and wholly unjustifiable lack of responsibility. Her “stark choices” are no more than false choices because she presents the only choices as killing them or letting them freeze to death during the winter. Has this Neanderthal never heard of spaying and neutering? That is the third and only moral choice. Ms. Hasselstrom has no soul, conscience or moral compass. Some people are just like that, but it’s both galling and insulting that she and you attempt to glorify it and pretend that amorality and the lack of common human decency are integral parts of Westerners’ lives.  

Claire Vinet
Santa Fe, New Mexico

Heard Around the West Editor Betsy Marston replies:
Yes, killing the kittens was cold-blooded, but it is something that Linda Hasselstrom learned from her rancher father decades ago, as horrifying as it sounds. Hasselstrom’s point in the poem was that as she was growing up on the ranch, finding the animals frozen in the dead of winter was worse — and ultimately more cruel — than ending their lives quickly, by killing them herself and thereby taking responsibility for the act. What she wrote was shocking, perhaps, but it’s the way she saw her life on the land in South Dakota, a place of tough choices every day. I admire Hasselstrom for her honesty, and I wanted to reveal just how tough she is, even though some might find her choices offensive. There are certainly much better methods of controlling feral cat populations today.