Naomi Sherer reviews...
Women write from the heart of the west
|Only those who have lived with the land, dirty ragged fingernails,
clinging cow smell, persistent winds, wildflowers, chokecherry jelly,
dandelion wine or crackling wood fires will really appreciate this
book for what it is -- a chronicle of reality snapshots
of life on the high plains by the women who cried, moved, laughed
and loved within those moments they describe.
A combination of essays and poetry, the sentiment is as varied
as the lives of the women who lived them, but as universal to
the high plains of the American west as the dry relentless winds
and the freezing drifting snow. But I think all of you will enjoy
the antidotes and poems about the hardships, loneliness, humor,
and attachment to the earth as told by those who lived them. -
Naomi Sherer - Here are some intriguing opening sentences:
Phyllis M. Letellier begins her story: "Blowing snow
immediately plasters my glasses and all the cold-weather
clothing I own isn't enough to deter the twenty-five-mile-an-hour
wind at twenty below." ...as she tells of her experiences struggling
through blizzards to tend her lambing ewes.
|Nellie A. O'Brien says: "Before farm subsidies, soil banks,
social security, and welfare payments came the age of survival,
maybe even survival of the fittest. Nature was to be conquered,
a living wrested from her. Every predator was an enemy to be shot
on sight. Wild animals fell into two categories: those that could
be used for food or profit, and competitors." ...as she traps muskrats
so she can buy store-bought clothes for school.
|Nancy Curtis has a neat twist on tradition when she describes:
"Ranching is a job nearly perfectly suited to women. Most jobs that
involve caretaking --raising children, teaching school,
nursing, caring for the elderly -- have traditionally
been women's work. And ranching, at least the day-to-day
tending of livestock, is based on the same skills as these traditional
women's jobs. I can't imagine two more similar occupations than
cowboy and mother. In fact, the similarities are so obvious that
I wonder why cowboys weren't, from the very beginning, called "cowmoms."
...as she goes on to give examples of intuitively handling cows
that reflect experience with kids or vice versa.
|Elizabeth Canfield watches a fox: "She didn't know that
I watched from the north window. For several days I saw her move
like a little ghost, alert, testing the air with her sharp vixen's
nose, slipping out of sight at the least sound or movement." ...knowing
that she must have that fox destroyed to protect the chickens and
lambs that were their livelihood.
|Nancy Heyl Ruskowsky reveals: "According to some Native
Americans, the seven directions include the four compass points,
the heavens above, the earth below, and the seventh, the most important:
inward, into the territory of the heart and spirit." ...experiencing
with her daughters lessons that dispel fears of the night.
Nellie Westerskow says simply: "By the
time I filed for my homestead, I knew my neighbor Nels was a
good, kind gentleman, so when he asked me to marry him, I said
I would." ...and goes on to tell of riding cottonwood draws,
mending broken fences, shooting ducks for a welcome change of
diet, seeding oats by hand, and milking cows back in 1921.
Leaning Into The Wind
edited by Linda Hasselstrom
Hardcover, 388 pages
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company
Publication date: June 1, 1997