Sunday, April 19, 2015


            During my senior high school year (1949-50) my class was selected to participate in a study being carried out by Dartmouth College to test a new method of measuring career field aptitude known as The Kuder Preference Test. (G. Frederic Kuder 1903-2000.) After a week of written tests and a battery of personal interviews, they shared with us in written form findings, which it was promised, would give us a broad field of career goals which should guide us in those directions for which we should aim in our ongoing education and planning. I was surprised when in my case they requested a personal meeting with their combined staff at its completion. (What could I have done wrong?) They explained that I was unusual in that they could predict with a high degree of confidence and in great specificity that I should be a radio writer, producer and broadcaster. Although admittedly an aficionado of radio, having grown up in the “golden” days of that medium, I laughed inwardly at those academics’ obvious ramblings.
             Forty-one years would pass before unexpected circumstances found me behind a microphone – first writing and then voicing radio commercial messages. The first edition of Provident Living aired soon after as a “talk show” on the old KUTR signal, and then for five years on KALL Radio in the Salt Lake Market. Writing, producing and voicing my own weekly program became a natural “second” career track and radio became a love of the first order.
            Even before we made the move to Southwest Utah, I made a pitch to program manager Steve Miner, and with only a few modifications, the first iteration of Provident Living – Home & Country hit the airwaves from Cedar City’s KSUB in the closing days of 2002. Now in our 13th year on 590AM, at the 4:00 PM hour every Monday the ear phones go on and I’m back in my radio home, listening to the melody titled Nantucket by David Arkenstone, an admired acquaintance  playing in my headset; my theme music since the very beginning.
            In the “Talk Show” world each program is a combination of preparation, high hope, and pure serendipity, with the final script written by an invisible (and unpredictable) audience. The adrenalin “rush” that precedes the “on air” light and inevitable “letdown” that begins during my homeward transit through the Black Ridge are all part of the addiction I have found to be a part of what makes each week new, different and exciting.
             Monday, March 23RD, 2015 however was to be a unique day for both myself and the young lady I had invited to “co-host” the show with me. It would be a “first” for me since I had never shared that responsibility with anyone, nor had eleven-year-old Priya Kumar; in fact the only microphone the 5th grader from Colorado had spoken into was in the principal’s office where her elementary school’s announcements originated. What made the occasion special for both of us was the relationship which brought us together: Priya is my Great grand-daughter from whom I am separated by 71 years of earth life and some 600 miles of travel distance, but with whom I am connected by DNA and love.
            Priya was assigned the program’s introduction and opening remarks, followed by some of her own stories and poetry (including haiku) along with answers to a barrage of questions from callers and studio staff, all with an infectious level of charm and aplomb; and a wide smile which never left her face.
            For her great granddad, Provident Living – Home & Country #633 was an event of never-to-be-forgotten pride and absolute delight.

 Side by side behind the twin mikes of Cedar City’s KSUB Talk Radio, veteran broadcaster Al Cooper shares host duties with 11-year old Priya Kumar, his Great grand-daughter.                                          Al Cooper Photo

Friday, April 10, 2015


Around us acres of tall dead grass rattled in the November wind as a weak, late afternoon sun tried half-heartedly to break through a high thin overcast.  Tomorrow the rain would probably come, perhaps even a mantling of snow for the higher ridges reaching upward from the rolling Montana grazing land.
I looked again at the small, white-painted clapboard house toward which my Levi-clad companion was leading me.  Smoke drifted from a brick chimney before being snatched away by the wind.   A faded-red l952 Ford pick-up with several bales of hay in back squatted sedately where the long driveway ended in a right-angle parking area.   Two old and well-used rocking chairs sat side-by-side on the sheltered front porch, a tortoise-shell cat occupying one, a plastic pail filled with wild apples the other.  Like Clyde himself, the dwelling which he, with the help of friends, had built 22 years earlier, was compact, solid, neat and sufficient to the needs it filled.
“The cat came to visit us with our grand-daughter last spring”, Clyde chuckled, “but when she left, the cat stayed; been in that old rocker most of the time ever since.”
Laugh lines crinkled the dark, weather-worn face, and I thought as I looked into the shining brown eyes of Clyde Running Bear, that here was a man who laughed easily and much.
He didn’t look old enough to be talking about grand-children, his hair as black and full-bodied as it ever could have been.  He pointed off to the west where a stand of ancient cottonwoods clung to a low ridge.  “My grandfather came here long ago.  He built a log cabin over there: near those trees.  Before that, he lived on the other side of the reservation – near Crow Agency.”
Reluctantly the cat surrendered his favored resting spot, and we sat together on the old porch, looking out over a landscape which hadn’t changed much in generations . . . except for the buffalo.   They were gone, and with them a way of life that could never return.
“That big peak you see in the middle”, Clyde raised his hand in a kind of salute, “that is Medicine Butte.”
I waited, listening to the creak of old rockers on weather-worn floor boards. And the wind.
“That is where Plenty Coups went to get big medicine. Where his great vision happened. That is where our people still go today.”
I knew about Medicine Butte; looked forward to the time I would climb it myself, fasting for inspiration under a summer sun as Clyde’s forefathers had for untold generations.          
As we talked and rocked, I could feel the home sickness Clyde told me he always felt whenever he had to be away from this place for more than a day. I could sense the great veneration with which he identified with this place and with its people.
Later we walked to where a gaggle of outbuildings stood, down the hill a hundred yards from the house, and I was introduced to Old Hunter, a handsome Quarter-horse gelding. “This is the finest thing I own!” Clyde’s face glowed with pride as he patted the animal’s chestnut flank. “He goes like the wind itself!”
He thought about that for some time. “You know, the long-ago horses were not like this I think. Not so good to look at.”
The wind had relaxed its hold on the swaying grasslands as we retraced our steps. A single light was on in the house where Mary Running Bear, eldest daughter of Joseph Sings Good and proud grand- daughter of Three Leggings would have dinner started. It was time to leave.
“Next time you come,” Clyde yelled waving a farewell and pointing to the traditional sweat lodge near the house, “we sweat a little. . . okay?”

NOTE:  For several years I was privileged to work on a project exploring the culture and homeland of the Native American people known as The Crow. This story comes from a typical interview in my field notes.   ACC

 Dressed for “Crow Festival,” the niece of friend and village story-teller Elizabeth Smart Enemy poses in front of the teepee assigned to Al Cooper as honored guest quarters.

 Titled “Two Worlds” this Al Cooper photo is an award-winner and a personal favorite.
AL Cooper Photos