Explore ghost towns, the modern cowboy, and the complex history of the American West in ‘The Modern West’

Society & Culture May 25, 2022
Listen to ‘The Modern West’

“The Modern West” is a podcast exploring the history, identity, and modern-day struggles of the vast American West. Host Melodie Edwards unflinchingly guides us through the complex and problematic history of the region, along with the rural despair and resilience the people there have endured for decades.

From ghost towns (who become even ghost-ier) to the Great Dying experienced by Native Americans when Europeans began to travel West to the disturbingly high child-incarceration and suicide rates of the West to the history and mythology of cowboys, “The Modern West” finds the direct correlations between our past and how we preserve the future.

A podcast from Wyoming Public Radio and PRX, this podcast is embarking on its sixth season. This podcast now has just over 40 episodes under its belt, with said episodes being anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes each.

What began as an episodic podcast exploring different facets of the West, “The Modern West” is now split into distinctive seasons that each cover a specific topic. In the first season, from 2019, Melodie talks about West’s historic issues with carpetbaggers (politicians seeking elections in areas where they have no connection), the spread of midwives (as hospitals can be far and wide), and bringing back the buffalo population.

She speaks with ranchers who are facing hardship, Native Americans who have struggled with their identity amidst US government interference with their tribes, and a small town drag queen. She has thought-provoking conversations with people from these rural towns, spotlighting what it means to live outside of a city.

Subsequent seasons take a deeper look into particularly perversive or controversial issues. Season 2 looks entirely at Old West ghost towns and how we can prevent other small, rural towns from falling victim to it. She visits other ghost towns, explores how an entire town can disappear, and looks at how we can save them.

She shares shorter stories on topics like the Great Dying, which is what Native Americans called the waves of pandemics that hit them when Europeans colonizers stepped off their boats onto the American continent. She dives into the “cowboy up” mentality that is tragically sending adolescent suicide rates skyrocketing. This season, she’s digging into the myth of Western cowboys and how ranchers are trying to reinvent that way of life for the modern world.

Listeners who have enjoyed podcasts like “America’s Girls” and “California Love” are sure to be fans of this podcast. Be sure to listen to this new season of “The Modern West” to hear more about how we can use history to preserve our future.

Listen to ‘The Modern West’

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