Jerry Wilson

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About the Author

 

Jerry Wilson lives with his poet wife Norma on Prairie Bluff, 150 acres of woods and restored prairie in southeast South Dakota. He taught literature and writing at several colleges and universities before years as managing editor of South Dakota Magazine. He now devotes himself to books that explore the natural world and to fiction that re-imagines history and contemporary life. His 2018 eco-memoir Seasons of the Coyote spans one calendar year, 103 encounters routine and extraordinary in the natural realm of which he is part.

Jerry's 2018 novel, Eden to Orizaba, takes readers across Mexico and the dramatic valley below Orizaba, Mexico's highest peak. It is a love story that also sheds light on the human condition and the devastating consequences of unrestricted economic forces, specifically the impact on Mexican families and communities of poorly-regulated, NAFTA-facilitated agribusiness and industry that drives desperate workers north.

Jerry was born west of the Cimarron River in Oklahoma, near the homesteads two of his great grandfathers claimed in the 1892 Land Run into Cheyenne Arapaho country. Jerry's family worked a small marginal farm in a neighborhood of hard-up blacks and whites. In 1957 he witnessed the great Cimarron River flood that took his settler grandparents' lives. From those experiences, from his ancestors' stories and from historical research grew his 2016 novel Across the Cimarron.

Having lived most of his life near the Pan American Highway, US Highway 81, Jerry explored the 5,000 miles from Winnipeg, Canada, to the Darien Gap in Panama, stopping in every city and town and listening to whomever he met. The socio-historical travel book that emerged he called American Artery: A Pan American Journey.

As a young man Jerry worked as a farmhand, handyman, gas station attendant, oil field flunkey, carpenter and preacher, and served two Vietnam-era years in the US Army. From those years evolved his collection of short stories, Blackjacks and Blue Devils.

Thirty-six years ago, Jerry and Norma built the geo-solar house where they still live on the Missouri River bluff, raised two kids and began restoration of native prairie. His eco-memoir Waiting for Coyote's Call shares a quarter century of working with and learning from nature in the bluff's prairies and woods.
 

Jerry Wilson's Books



 


Eden to Orizaba


In Jerry's new novel, Eden to Orizaba, two journeys intersect at an immigration checkpoint north of the US-Mexico border in February 2009. Desperate to provide for his family and his young wife Maria, Pablo has fled the valley of his birth at the foot of Orizaba, Mexico's highest peak, a valley ravaged by a million Smithfield Foods hogs and the swine flu epidemic they have brought. Lantry is headed the other way, dodging the wreckage of his life in Dallas and the alcoholism that has destroyed his marriage and his journalist job. Pablo gets two years in a private prison in Eden, Texas. Lantry's stumbling quest takes him to Mexico City, and eventually to Orizaba, where after a harrowing night on the mountain, he finds and falls in love with Pablo's wife. The two men's paths will cross again ten months later-after Pablo's daring escape from Eden and his return to Orizaba.

 



 



Seasons of the Coyote:
A Year on Prairie Bluff

What readers are saying about Seasons of the Coyote

Too often we let the day pass and walk sightless among miracles. This does not happen when Jerry Wilson describes his daily encounters with nature's wonders on the Prairie Bluff he calls home. His eco-memoir unfolds with infectious childlike excitement, but his interpretations are those of a seasoned naturalist.

The author of Waiting for Coyote's Call begins Seasons of the Coyote with the early morning howling and maniacal yaps of coyotes. In 103 narratives he takes us through a yearlong adventure in nature, sometimes humorous, sometimes solemn, but always good reading. His well-told stories are a reminder to walk with mindfulness, enthusiasm and keen vision if we intend to see the miracles around us.

--Dr. James F. Heisinger, Professor Emeritus of Biology, University of South Dakota

Over the course of a year, Jerry Wilson has patiently and closely observed every inch of the prairie, hills, woods and ponds that make up his 150 acres of bluff above the Missouri. Seasons of the Coyote, which includes his running account of the many creatures that share his property, shows him to be a great naturalist as well as a gifted writer. If there is another study of South Dakota's flora and fauna as detailed and vivid as this, I would like to know about it.

--Fraser Harrison, author of The Infinite West and many other books

 



 



Across the Cimarron

What readers are saying about Across the Cimarron

Like the Cimarron River itself, Jerry Wilson's novel teems with life and beauty and movement. Across the Cimarron bears you along on the currents of Time and Memory, and begs you to ponder one of the most fundamental questions of human existence: "How deep is your claim to the earth?"
--Brad McLelland, author of Bruisers

Across the Cimarron is a fine, fine novel, that deserves a broad readership-of those interested in the history of the American West-and of lovers of powerfully engaging fiction. The narrative voice is generally spare and direct, with moments of great passion and deep feeling. The story is mainly one of hardship and struggle, interspersed with scenes of neighborliness and developing community. What brings the story to life is the beautiful, effective use of historical and geographical detail-and language. Wilson's deep knowledge of the story he is telling is evident on every page.

Like the great novels in the realist tradition whose ranks it deserves to join, Across the Cimarron displays a strong social conscience, especially with regard to the Cheyenne and Arapaho peoples on whose ancestral land the Land Run settlers made they lives-and the Black settlers, who almost immediately experienced discrimination and segregation that barred their children from the little log-framed school they had helped build. This is a gripping, compelling work of historical fiction. I loved it, and was sorry to see it end.
--David Gross, Professor Emeritus of English, University of Oklahoma

Good historical fiction requires both knowledge of history and writing ability. Jerry Wilson has both. His knowledge of history comes at least in part from his own family's history in Oklahoma, including memoirs by two of his grandmothers. He grew up in western Oklahoma where he bases this story. As the central character realizes, perhaps the whole region has been "tainted by money and blood. There is little we can do to change the past, but we must acknowledge our debt and repay it as we can." Wilson's novel is acknowledgement and repayment, as well as a good read.
--Davis Joyce, author of Alternative Oklahoma

Across the Cimarron provides an intimate look at what the aftermath of this melding of the disenfranchised may have felt like on the prairie. The author not only researched the impact of the land-grab, he lived in its path, growing up as he did in Oklahoma, a descendant of homesteaders.
--Talli Nauman, Native Sun News

For more about Across the Cimarron and Mongrel Empire Press, please see mongrelempire.org

 





 



Blackjacks and Blue Devils

What readers are saying about Blackjacks and Blue Devils

Jerry Wilson's Blackjacks and Blue Devils is a stunning collection of gritty, realistic fiction. His direct writing style embodies the heartaches his characters suffer, and on occasion work through. Blackjacks and Blue Devils looks unflinchingly at life's triumphs and absurdities, presenting characters and places in all of their unvarnished glory. While the collection is set primarily in Oklahoma, these stories speak to universal verities, and quite possibly Blackjacks and Blue Devils will make you appreciate the human condition anew.
--Hardy Jones, Cybersoleiljournal

Wilson's magic is to so well contrast integrity, intelligence and a Cassandra-like prescience in his ordinary characters on the one hand with unimaginable miseries on the other, so that we are at once plunged into cold realities and yet ennobled. They are the tough, indestructible "blackjacks." The characters in this collection are often severely misguided, but we can still admire them and realize exactly how they got that way, and emerge still glad we are humans, both tough and quietly desperate as many of us are today.

This book truly blazes a trail into the consciousness and mentality of hard-working people and of nasty people as well--the blackjacks and blue devils populate a very slippery slope, conferring this book with depth, suspense, and insight worthy of the best creators of short fiction. Therefore do not call it regional, though all are set in Oklahoma. That bell tolls for us all.
--James Alexander Drummond, Barnes and Noble.com

Steinbeck could have learned from this book. Its stories bring us American history in living color (real people, in white, black, and red), from Oklahoma land runs of 1889-92 down through the Dust Bowl, Viet Nam and the invasion of Iraq. We meet homesteaders, bootleggers, revival preachers, rich oil men and failing farmers, children of slaves working for freedom, a veteran who trades his phantom arm for a farm, a dying WWII vet whose son peddles smart bombs that are killing Iraqi children.
--Carter Revard, Osage poet and scholar

The titles of these fourteen stories could be a poem of the poverty, despair, and hope so vividly shown in these tales of Oklahoma.
--Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve, Lakota author, honored with the National Humanities Medal

 





 



Waiting for Coyote's Call

What readers are saying about Waiting for Coyote's Call

Waiting for Coyote's Call is an easy-reading tutorial on South Dakota's natural life. More importantly, it records the love and respect a man can develop for a big stretch of dirt and grass and woods. Not many books delve into that private relationship; seldom if ever has the subject been explored as passionately by a South Dakotan.
--Roger Holtzman, South Dakota Magazine

Jerry Wilson weaves together observations about the natural and human history of the bluffs and his childhood on an Oklahoma farm- about how to live ethically on the land and toward its creatures. In so doing, he fashions an intimate tapestry of the Missouri River bluffs and woodlands that are often underappreciated on the Plains.
--Mark Dixon, PhD, Great Plains Quarterly

Waiting for Coyote's Call is a celebration of home, of the central Plains, family and comfortable memories of familiar things. At every page I found things I had done, felt or seen myself, or heard from others. It must be a kind of syndrome . . . varmint-lovin,' tree-huggin, 'Mother Earth embracin,' Aldo Leopold/H.D. Thoreau readin,' night-sky appreciatin' hippies find ragged piece of savaged land, work at bringing it back to health, fall hopelessly in love with it and live happily ever after. Wilson is a skilled writer, literary and yet wonderfully comfortable.
--Roger Welsch, Nebraska Life magazine

Wilson's theme throughout the book is that we are temporary custodians of the land we occupy; we need to care for it and enhance, not hinder nature's recovery efforts while we are here on earth. Waiting for Coyote's Call is an engrossing memoir to explore on a blustery winter's evening after you stoke the wood- burning stove and settle into your favorite chair. You might just hear the coyote call out on the lonesome bluff.
--Bill Markley, Western Writers of America, Roundup magazine

 





 

Currently Unavailable


American Artery: A Pan American Journey

About American Artery: A Pan American Journey

Only one road connects the nations of North America, and only one book tells the story: American Artery. This is the story of Jerry's 5,000-mile journey down the Pan American Highway, America's first international road--the Pembina Highway south from Winnipeg, Canada; US 81 across North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas; Highway 85 down the length of Mexico; Central America 1 through Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama. Explore with Jerry the history, cultures and conflicts that span nine nations of North America.

Published in 2000, American Artery: A Pan American Journey, is now out of print. However, used copies are available from Amazon.com.