University of New Mexico Professor Emeritus of History Richard Etulain points to his Spanish Basque-born father when explaining why he’s such a prolific writer. This year he has four new books being released, his 61st through 64th.
“Dad always preached, in his heavily accented English, his motto to his sons: ‘Get 'er done,’ and realizing how much his competition was above and beyond him, he uttered another of his truisms: ‘I guess I'll just have to outwork them.’” Etulain recalled. “So, I had to get 'er done, and I felt inferior about my ranch backgrounds and my education and became convinced I would just have to outwork my academic colleagues. I didn't have an intellectual background and lacked an Ivy League education, so I would just have to produce more than any of my colleagues. That drive is still with me.”
Etulain taught History at UNM from 1979 to 2001. He also served as editor of the New Mexico Historical Review for several years and as director of the Center for the American West (now Center for the Southwest) from 1989 to 2001. He also taught courses about the American West and chaired the section on the American West in the History department.
In 2001, Etulain retired from UNM and returned to his native Pacific Northwest. He and his wife Joyce, a former librarian at Georgia O'Keeffe School in Albuquerque, live near Portland, Oregon, close to their daughter Jackie, a librarian at the Multnomah County Library.
One of the new books, Boyhood Among the Woolies: Growing Up on a Basque Sheep Ranch is a boyhood memoir that traces the first 11 years of Etulain’s life on an isolated sheep ranch in eastern Washington.
“This book includes a good deal about my Basque father, my brothers, schooling, visits to closest town of Ritzville, and early religious experiences,” he noted. The book will be published by Washington State University Press in March or April.
Etulain continues recollections of his youth in Learning and Faith: A College Memoir which will be self-published in the summer or early fall of 2023.
“The book deals with my five years from 1950 to 1960 as an undergraduate at Northwest Nazarene College, now University. It emphasizes the competition between intellectual and religious experiences in my life and the long-range legacies of those experiences as a professor and author.”
The American West and Its Interpreters: Essays on Literary History and Historiography will be published by UNM Press in April or May 2023. This collection of newly written and previously published essays includes Etulain’s presidential address to the Western History Association and a new essay laying out research opportunities in western historical writing and a revealing poll of the most influential historians and their books in western history.
Illuminative Moments: Pacific Northwest Prose, 1800 to the Present is a literary history of the Pacific Northwest focusing on novels and histories written about the region. A closing chapter evaluates earlier efforts to write literary histories of the region. It will be published late this year or in 2024 by the University of Nevada Press.
“I chose these books because they are in my main fields of literary history and historiography, and related to the literature and history of the American West,” Etulain said, adding, “The two memoirs are attempts to depict an unusual boyhood on a sheep ranch and education at an evangelical college, both of which are not the usual places a college professor comes from.”
In addition to his writing, Etulain is serving as editor of a reprint of Willa Cather's classic novel Death Comes for the Archbishop, a story about the attempts of a Catholic bishop and a priest to establish a diocese in New Mexico Territory, from the UNM Press in late 2023 or early 2024. Wild West magazine will publish his essay on Basques of the American West, and he has submitted two other essays: a comparison of Billy the Kid and Jock Mackenzie, the New Zealand sheep rustler, and an essay on the first conference on western history at Boulder, Colorado, in 1929.
In keeping with his father’s “get ’er done” philosophy, Etulain is now well into his next book, a collection of essays on the Basques of the American West.