The Modern West

By Wyoming Public Media

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Exploring the evolving identity of the American West. Produced by Wyoming Public Media and PRX, The Modern West takes you on a sound-rich journey into some of America's most iconic landscapes. Guided by host Melodie Edwards' personal connection to the region, it's an unflinching look at the American West--its problematic history, its modern-day struggles and resilience, and how its present and future are being shaped.

Episode Date
Mountains In The Rearview Mirror: Ghost Town(ing) Part 10

The out-migration of rural youth is one of America’s great migrations--even the history books are calling it that. Younger generations leave because they have a need to feel connected to the great, big world out there. And as that world becomes more connected through the internet, small towns like Walden feel even more isolated. But would they come home if there was more equality in rural broadband?

Feb 10, 2021
Immigrations, Interrupted: Ghost Town(ing) Part 9

Right now, the West is struggling to diversify its economy. But would our economy have already been diversified if a greater diversity of people had been allowed to make their homes here? How the history of racial erasure has hurt small towns, and how welcoming newcomers could turn that around.

Jan 27, 2021
A Tale Of Two Towns: Ghost Town(ing) Part 8

Some former Southern enslaved people and their descendants followed the American dream westward, where they created towns to homestead together. This is a tale of two of those towns—on either side of the Wyoming-Colorado border—and what today's small towns now can learn from their stories.

Jan 13, 2021
Bonus: Stranger In A Strange Land

We're on a short holiday break, so here's the first part of a podcast called Grouse, a show about the most controversial bird in the West and what it can teach us about hope, compromise and life in rural America.

Dec 30, 2020
The Garden On The Prairie: Ghost Town(ing) Part 7

Many places in the American West are becoming food deserts, where it's hard to get healthy food. Sometimes that's because people can't afford it or because it means driving long distances. And for really isolated places, sometimes it's because of both. Now, a group of ladies in Wyoming's struggling coal country are working on a plan to solve hunger there.

Dec 16, 2020
The Doctor In The Screen: Ghost Town(ing) Part 6

Living in a pandemic doesn't have many plus sides to it. But there is one bright side for rural America. Telehealth is finally getting to flex its muscles. But adjusting to technology isn't easy for older patients, and that's one thing small towns have lots of: senior citizens. So, we take a trip to Sheridan, Wyoming to see how well telehealth is working for veteran Ron Loporto.

Dec 02, 2020
Gabby's Story: Ghost Town(ing) Part 5

The rural West has been seeing a steeper and steeper decline into despair, especially among white men. But when a Vietnam vet's mental breakdown threatens the safety of Walden, the small town has a response that neighborhoods everywhere could learn from.

Nov 18, 2020
The Environmental Billionaire: Ghost Town(ing) Part 4

2020 feels apocalyptic. It's not just the pandemic; there's also drought, mega-fires, melting glaciers. Meanwhile, the ultra-wealthy are stockpiling land, buying up small family ranches across the Mountain West. It makes you wonder, is it really a good idea to put that much environmental control in the hands of so few?

Nov 04, 2020
Meet Your Neighbor: A Conversation About The Rural West And The 2020 Election

Part 4 of our Ghost Town(ing) series is in the works, coming out next week. But while you’re waiting, here's a way that you can get your voice in on the conversation about the state of the rural West.

Oct 28, 2020
A Stranger Comes To Town: Ghost Town(ing) Part 3

The West has long been a haven for the ultra-wealthy. Sometimes, they move into small towns with the aim of revitalizing them. But in Walden, Colorado, one wealthy businessman’s plans went awry, with dire consequences for the community.

Oct 14, 2020
Bust Town: Ghost Town(ing) Part 2

Why are we so fascinated by old ghost towns? And what can they teach us? We go looking for the ghosts of an old silver mining community called Teller City to see if they have any lessons for how the nearby town of Walden, Colorado can keep from falling into the same cycles of boom and bust.

Sep 30, 2020
"You Can’t Eat The View": Ghost Town(ing) Part 1

Years ago, small towns like Walden, Colorado were vibrant. Street dances, a health food store, a movie theatre, the works. At least, that's how host Melodie Edwards remembers it from her childhood. Now it's shrinking, part of the "ghost towning" of the American West. But can communities like Walden find a way to survive? Or will Melodie's parents be forced to move away, like so many others?

Sep 16, 2020
Season 2: Ghost Town(ing) Trailer

They say those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it. So what can Old West ghost towns teach us about today's shrinking rural towns? Starting September 16, we'll take you to the windswept prairie where towns once stood and to new ghost towns in the making. We're exploring rural decline and resilience, and asking, why does it matter if America's small towns disappear?

Sep 09, 2020
The Small-Town Drag Queen

It wasn’t easy growing up queer in small-town Wyoming. And when Taylar went to college in Laramie, an assault left her in pieces…until she found community with Giselle and the Dragonettes. Follow them as they head to the big city for a David Bowie drag competition.

Jul 22, 2020
A Walk Across The Prairie

When Emily Chen-Newton moved to Nebraska, she was worried she’d miss her Kentucky mountains. But then she walked a long section of the new Great Plains Trail and realized her new home was a more magical place than she gave it credit for. And not so flat either.

Jul 01, 2020
The Rancher And The Wild

Albert Sommers is a rancher who thought he'd seen it all. When he found a mysteriously dead calf, he started wondering: how wild should our wild places be?

Jun 17, 2020
Coming Soon To A Feed Near You...

A preview of our summer mini-season: three episodes that take you deep into the real West to meet people thinking hard about the future of this place. Predators, prairie, and pots of glitter.

Jun 03, 2020
Episode 10: The Widower

Bob was devastated when his wife died of cancer. He’d been her main caregiver, and afterward, he realized that now he had to face his old age alone. No kids, no family nearby. And living in the West, he started worrying about how inaccessible senior care could be. That’s when his gallows humor took over. (more…)

Dec 20, 2019
Episode 9: What You’re Missing About Coal Country

Once upon a time, coal miners took pride in the hard work they did. But these days the coal industry is sluggish and miners are feeling left behind—even disrespected—by the world. What they want most now is to just figure out how to hold on to the strong community that coal once gave them. (more…)

Dec 05, 2019
Episode 8: The Man From Lodge Grass

Quincy Dabney loved growing up in Lodge Grass on the Crow Reservation in Montana. But then, just like him, it started falling apart. Now Quincy is working to save the hometown that saved him. (more…)

Nov 20, 2019
Episode 7: Bringing The Buffalo Home

It’s been over a century since the U.S. government exterminated bison from the Great Plains as a way to win the war against the Native American tribes there. But now reservations across the West are working to bring them back. (more…)

Nov 13, 2019
Episode 6: The Next Yellowstone

Imagine Congress agreeing to create national forests and wildlife refuges these days. Probably wouldn’t happen. So when a billionaire realized a large swath of the Great Plains needed special protections he decided to do it himself, without the government’s help. His dream is for a new kind of privately-owned national park–one as expansive as Yellowstone.


Nov 06, 2019
Episode 5: Belonging

Young people from Gen Z are moving to cities around the West. But in doing so, they’re also out-migrating from rural hometowns in places like Wyoming and New Mexico. Conversations between young people about why they leave and why they stay. (more…)

Oct 23, 2019
Episode 4: The Midwife

Most births are uncomplicated. So in rural areas where hospitals are shutting down, women want to give birth at home. Now, states across the country are legalizing and regulating midwifery so they can. This is the story of one rural state, one midwife, and one brand-new mama. (more…)

Oct 09, 2019
Episode 3: Adult-Onset Hunting

The number of Americans hunting and fishing is declining, but women are bucking the trend. Host Melodie Edwards finds a sisterhood at an all-women hunting camp—and catches her first fish with her dad. (more…)

Oct 01, 2019
Episode 2: Both/Neither

The U.S. government only allows Native Americans to register with one tribe. But what happens when two tribes share one reservation for over a century? Two women grapple with how that affected their identity growing up. (more…)

Sep 24, 2019
Episode 1: Carpetbagger

You ask around, and people can’t agree on a quintessential Wyoming writer. And if you can’t identify the literature of a place, you can’t define the place. Authors including CJ Box and Craig Johnson weigh in. (more…)

Sep 17, 2019
Season 1 Preview

The Modern West is getting a reboot! New host, new theme music, and brand-new stories just for this podcast. Season 1 starts September 17. (more…)

Aug 21, 2019