by Gretel Ehrlich
The Secret Life of Cowboys, its author was a city girl who moved to the wide open spaces and found she loved the life there. But this one doesn't focus on her journey or her personal story so much as on the landscape, the way of life, the animals, the personalities she encounters. Several essays are about sheepherding- about the work, the lonely remote camps, the eccentric herders. Other essays focus on rodeo, man's relationship with animals, the codes of conduct ranchers live by, the weather that sweeps over the land, the cattle and wildlife... She writes about several Native American communities around her- Crow and Arapaho, Cheynne and Shoshone. She attends several of their important ceremonies and describes it in detail. It's all very interesting. I was thrown off at first; the character sketches in one of the early sheepherding essays unsettled me a bit- but then I found myself enjoying her writing more and more. It's beautiful and evocative. Just this line alone in the introduction made me eager to cherish the rest of the book: The truest art I would strive for in any work would be to give the page the same qualities as earth: weather would land on it harshly; light would elucidate the most difficult truths; wind would sweep away obtuse padding. Her words are lovely and thoughtful, harsh and piercing and grand. It was a book I read through slowly, carefully and appreciatively. May you do the same.
rating: 4/5 ......... 131 pages, 1985
Buddies in the Saddle
Sarah Sans Terre