Feels Like FarA Rancher's Life on the Great PlainsAll About the Book
About the Book
Brief information about the contents, publication details, and ordering information.
Linda's Synopsis of the Book
A brief overview of the book's structure and contents.
Reviews and Readers' Comments
What do others say about this book?
A Table of Contents of the Book
Essays are listed with page number and timeline.
A short summary of the stories included in each essay is coming soon.
Q&A About Feels Like Far
Linda answers some questions about the book.
Some Passages From Feels Like Far
Linda picked out a few of her favorite quotes from the book.
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About the Book
Seventeen interconnected stories paint an intimate portrait of family, love, ranching, community, and survival on the Great Plains. Looking back over her life on her father's western South Dakota ranch from her new home in a city, Linda writes of the joys of training her first horse, lessons learned from a spirited aunt, coming to terms with the death of her beloved husband, the comfort of an old friend, and the frustration of watching her parents’ decline.
Feels Like Far
Published 1999, paperback edition 2001
233 pages, size: 6 X 9
$22.95 -- hardcover
out of print
Linda still has some copies left, or look for it online
$14.95 – paperback
Hardcover published by:
The Lyons Press
123 W. 18 St.
New York NY 10011
or (800) 836-0510
The hardcover (cloth) edition is now out of print; however, Linda has a number of them for sale.
Paperback published by:
Houghton Mifflin, Mariner Books
333 Berkeley St.
Boston MA 02116-3764
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Linda's Synopsis of Feels Like Far
Feels Like Far is a nonfiction manuscript composed of essays intricately braided together. The work depicts my bonds to soil, wildlife and human residents of a specific landscape. The people around me taught me about human existence. Significantly, these people also taught me-- sometimes by indirection-- about other inhabitants of the country, including animals and plants. My father, mother, uncles, aunts and others also illustrated sound techniques for living-- as well as providing examples I could not follow.
While people are important influences on the narrator in this narrative, they are not necessarily more decisive or more fluent than animals and weather. I resist calling this work a “memoir” because the current and limited sense of that term includes an interminable litany of self-evaluation and conversations about one’s emotions and sensations. Instead, Feels Like Far it is a series of encounters, narrated so as to demonstrate-- rather than tell or explain-- a particular message. My reports of particular relationships are intended to read poetically, and mirror human and other alliances and their effects. Humor-- an important part of surviving life on the plains-- is also important in these stories.
Each essay is assembled around an experience with a particular plains creature of the title. In addition, some essays spotlight people. For example, “Sonata for Horses” and “Blues for Shoveling Horse Manure” focus on my mother and aunt, contrasting female archetypes. Both essays also provide lessons in problem-solving by confrontation, a pattern historically accurate for plains people.
In each case, however, the story providing the essay’s title-- whether tragic, entertaining or informative-- is always given greater importance than the lessons it teaches to the human narrator.
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Reviews and Readers' Comments About Feels Like Far
Richard Nelson, 8/11/99:
Feels Like Far is a powerful book by a truly powerful writer. Linda Hasselstrom’s writing penetrates deep– very deep– into the soul of rural America. She knows the land, feels the land, breathes the land, as only a child of the land can do. Linda Hasselstrom’s heart was carved by the South Dakota wind. Her bones were made from the South Dakota soil. When Linda Hasselstrom writes, it is the South Dakota prairies writing their own stories.
Here is a book filled with the real and vital events of our world, a book that weaves people and land together as whole cloth, a book that elevates your soul and rends your heart, a book that cuts closer to the bone than a whole roomful of city novels could ever hope to do.
I’ll put that last thought a different way, just because it’s how I feel, and realizing this probably isn’t something you would use: I’d rather be stranded on an island with one book by Linda Hasselstrom than with a whole library full of urban novels.
Linda Hasselstrom’s writing is like a black Dakota night riven by lightning flashes and burst of rain, full of fury and power and raw, brilliant beauty.
Fraser Harrison, author of Infinite West:
When I read your book . . . Feels Like Far, I was struck by how gracefully and creatively you had come to terms with what might have been a poisonous legacy left by your father.
Ellen Meloy, author of Raven’s Exile:
Hasselstrom never bucks the pain of hard work and the cruelties that often live within the family love. Her ‘blood pledge to buffalo grass’ stays as true as a nighthawk’s dive or a tall walk across the Dakota prairie.
Dan O’Brien, author of The Contract Surgeon, Equinox:
Feels Like Far is Linda Hasselstrom’s best book. It is set on the High Plains but deals with universal emotions important to us all. It is a window into a life from which we can all learn. I urge everyone interested in the Great plains, or a life well lived, to read it.
Kathleen Norris, author of The Cloister Walk, Dakota:
This is autobiography that is not self-absorbed or petty, but allows the reader to enter a new world. In deliciously direct and unsentimental style, the author demythologizes rural life, and illuminates the hard conditions-- intergenerational strife, the lure of selling out to developers of “hobby farms”-- that define the life of many Great Plains ranchers today.
Ann H. Zwinger, author of Downcanyon:
The strength of Linda Hasselstrom’s writing intertwined with the ranching life she loves gave me more insights than any 200 pages I’ve read in years; her generosity and understanding of human relationships is both heart-breaking and heart-fulfilling. Feels Like Far is an extraordinary book by an extraordinary writer and woman. Read it and keep it.
Mary Clearman Blew, author of All But the Waltz:
Feels Like Far is Linda Hasselstrom’s most compelling book, highly charged and ruthless in shredding any lingering romantic notions about ranching on the high plains, yet tender at its core.
Clay Evans, review, Boulder (Colorado) Daily Camera, December 5, 1999:
. . . 17 beautifully written, anguishing, haunting essays . . . She masterfully entwines sometimes harrowing tales from her childhood on the ranch, the tragedy of losing her beloved husband and a friend’s battle with AIDS and small town fear, and her father’s deteriorating mental and physical health as he tries to hang onto the life he loves with perfectly realized portraits of the spectacular marvels of the prairie. It is a book filled with painful emotion, the raw realities of ranch life and the transcendent beauty of the plains and its inhabitants, human and animal, domestic and wild. . . . Hasselstrom may have a more earthy view of life and death than most city slickers, but she also demonstrates through prose her deep, abiding love for the land, animals and the natural cycles of the great prairies. She has an uncanny knack for picking just the right glimpse of natural wonder-- a rare “hawk spiral,” a lightning storm, a wildfire, a burrowing badger-- around which to build her very human tales . . . she once again proves that those who are truly connected to the land are best suited to articulate its glories and tragedies. In the city, she may feel like a moron, but at her typewriter, she is still our mature woman of wisdom.
Rick Bass, author of The Nine Mile Wolves:
Intimate, specific, frightened, irreverent and sacred, this book is a lovely accomplishment. Feels Like Far is a work of art that reflects the power of the landscape from which it has arisen.
Prairie Mary Scriver, Westlit online discussion, June 24, 2004:
I and many others consider All But the Waltz to be one of the best memoirs of the West. Linda Hasselstrom’s Feels Like Far is also a classic. I put these alongside This House of Sky and Wolf Willow.
Olin Dodson, author of Melissa’s Gift:
Finished Feels Like Far. I will only remark that the stories of Margaret were powerfully beautiful and her passing brought tears. Thank you.
Charles Woodard, professor, South Dakota State University, Brookings:
I think it’s your best yet. It’s tough, tender, inspirational, and reads like a very good novel.
Tom Warren, District Conservationist, U.S. Dept. of Agriculture:
You are truly an artist with words and a master story teller. I could relate to every incident.
Melissa Middleswart, librarian, Missouri:
I have enjoyed all of your books, including this one, although it left me with a pervasive sadness and frustration. I identified much too well with your problems with your father.
Cathy Beard, fine artist, South Dakota:
Your book continues to resonate for me. You really got it right, all that rewriting shows. I am so impressed with the time shifts, changing of verb tenses. This is so tricky yet you pull it off so beautifully: the art is in it, not showing because it is so subtle. But then the reader does notice, how she has been carried along, drawn back, forward again. It is seamless and splendid.
Gaydell Collier, writer, former librarian, WY:
. . . magnificent-- the best you’ve ever done, one of the finest books I’ve ever read. You have both revealed and vindicated (maybe not quite the right word) with breathtaking honesty and clarity, and you’ve demonstrated the power of love and strength of soul in not being controlled or consumed by his confusion, hate, despair. The writing, of course, is beautiful-- I’m in awe of the book and its power. This was a book that had to be written, and had to be given to the world (talk about the travail of birth!) I’m astounded that [publisher who rejected it] or anyone else wouldn’t have jumped at the chance to do it! Cut too deep for some men, perhaps (or women)? Too honest for today where we mistake lack of inhibition for the expression of truth? . . . thank you for persevering in writing it-- for having the strength and vision and soul to write it.
Clay Evans, reviewer, in a personal letter:
Wow. The new book really blew me away. Truly. It kept me engrossed on the beaches of Florida over Thanksgiving.
From the Amazon.com website --- I couldn't put this book down, February 28, 2004:
I unboxed this book, flipped open some pages to preview and before I knew it, I had read 60 pages standing in my kitchen. Legs buckling, I sat and finished the book in one sitting. The book is compelling because Hasselstrom's storytelling makes you want to read further, but also because her writing mesmerizes the soul. I found myself rereading sentences and hanging on the beauty of her unique prose. "How does she write like this?" I kept asking myself. Her ability to take you within the moment is unsurpassed. You don't need to be a cowgirl to enjoy this book, but if you are, you'll finish it in one sitting--or standing--like I did.
From the GoodReads website --- Rated by Diane:
A great biographical memoir of this woman's life. It has been a decade since I read this book, but passages of the book have stayed with me and come to mind often. The author's descriptions of ranch life, the land, its animals and people are vivid and enchanting.
For some online reviews click on these links:
A review by Nancy Zuercher
University of Nebraska--Lincoln's Center for Great Plains Studies publication "Great Plains Quarterly" (Winter 2001 issue)
Great Plains Quarterly pdf
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Table of Contents of Feels Like Far
Essay titles are listed with page number and a timeline.
A short summary of the stories in each essay is coming soon . . .
Prologue: The Hawk Hits the Window (page 1)
May 1992, Cheyenne
includes ultimatum: stop writing or leave
The Owl in the Dark (page 11)
May 1992, Cheyenne
flashback to 1943-1952, move from Texas to Rapid City to ranch
Sonata for Horses (page 21)
May, 1992, Cheyenne
flashback to ranch, 1952 to a year or 2 later
Blues for Shoveling Horse Manure (page 33)
May, 1992, Cheyenne
flashback to 1956 and ff., alternating w/ about 1982
Reckoning the Cost of a Dead Steer (page 45)
May, 1992, Cheyenne
flashback to 1957
Lightning Strikes the White Heifer (page 57)
June, 1992, Cheyenne
recalling trip 1 week before
Looking for the Dark: Buffalo Winter (page 71)
June, 1992, Cheyenne
flashback to first marriage
Beekeeper (page 87)
J & I buy 2nd Cheyenne house, time unclear
flashback to late 1950s, & 1979 ff. Through 1991
Badger’s Business (page 107)
June, 1992, Cheyenne
flashback to 1989
Looking for Death: The Deer Harvest (page 119)
July, 1992, Cheyenne
flashback to unspecified time of visit to Rudolph
The Young Cow: Going Back to Grass (page 139)
early July, 1992, Cheyenne
flashback to argument, 1989
Looking for the Light: The Elk in the Aspen (page 153)
July 1992, Cheyenne
flashback to “20 years ago,” elk incident
Climbing into the Bull Pen (page 167)
July, 1992, Cheyenne
flashback to sometime in 1980s, dream of actual experience;
Nighthawks Fly in Thunderstorms (page 185)
August 1992, Cheyenne
flashback to 1952;
Looking for Life: Fire in the Wildlife Pasture (page 199)
December 1992, Cheyenne
no flashback! (Preface opens w/memory, though)
Badger’s Daughter (page 211)
flashback to unspecified time, mtg w/lawyer, etc.
Epilogue: Spinning with the Hawks (page 221)
unspecified time, [implied] Cheyenne
Acknowledgements (page 231)
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Linda Answers Some Questions About Feels Like Far
Question: Is that you on the cover?
Yep. My husband, George Snell, took the photo probably around 1986. It was a casual shot made one day when George just happened to have the camera, but it ended up being used as the cover photo.
I’m pretty sure the horse I’m on is Ginger; I was riding her at that time and she had that longer blaze on her nose. But Oliver was very dark as a colt too-- though later he turned into "an old white horse"-- so I'm not 100% positive it's not him.
I remember that some young man from the company called me around the book publication date and insisted on having George’s address so they could pay him for the photo. Of course this guy didn't know my husband had died ten years before, he was some office underling and hadn't read the book. I said something like, "You can't send him a check at his current address." We went back and forth for awhile and then I told the guy the photographer was my husband and he was dead so to send the check to me -- and he didn't want to do that without authorization from the photographer or his heirs! The payment was only something like $25 at most.
Question: Where did the title of the book come from?
I sometimes ask my readers if they know this, to see if they were paying attention while they read.
It appears on page 212, at the beginning of the chapter called Badger's Daughter. The line is a quote from the movie Jeremiah Johnson, a movie about mountain men starring Robert Redford, that came out in the early 1970s.
Towards the end of the movie the character named "Bear Claw" (played by Will Geer) who was a mentor to Jeremiah Johnson when he first came west, meets up with him again and says, "You've come far, pilgrim."
Jeremiah Johnson says, "Feels like far."
Bear Claw asks him, "Were it worth the trouble?"
And Jeremiah says, "Ahh--what trouble?"
I'll leave it up to the reader to decide why I quoted those lines from the movie.
Question: What about the chapter titles?
I have a lot of trouble with titles, so I started looking at some of my favorite magazines (Northern Lights, Orion) and writers (Terry Tempest Williams, Annie Dillard, John McPhee) and studying their titles. Styles vary-- and I think I've even spotted fads, because I noticed some very LONG titles a few years ago. But generally, the titles that attract me have verbs in them-- so in Feels Like Far (note that a verb is first) I tried to put a verb in every title, where I was also trying to put an animal. Just to make it a little harder, I was also trying to play back and forth with light/dark images in some titles.
So I have chapter titles like:
- Reckoning the Cost of a Dead Steer
- Blues for Shoveling Horse Manure
- Looking for Death: The Deer Harvest
- Leaning into Light: The Elk in the Aspen
- Climbing into the Bullpen
- The Young Cow: Going Back to Grass
- Looking for the Dark: Buffalo Winter
- Nighthawks Fly in Thunderstorms
I'm no doubt prejudiced, but all those seem to me more enticing than something like "Birds and Friends" which suggests parallels but no conflict.
Question: You quoted "Advice to a Young Wife from an Old Mistress" on page 154. Is there more you can say about its source. Is it you?
If you do an internet search for “Advice to a Young Wife from an Old Mistress” you'll learn the author is Michael Drury. My publisher somehow omitted the full credit. I was fortunate enough to have the book given to me by a wise older woman, a mistress, before I became a wife. Now if I'd just had brains enough to pay more attention to it.
Question: Can you tell me a bit about writing Feels Like Far-- how long it took, if you had any particular problems along the way?
I wrote the first draft of Feels Like Far in 1991. The book was published in 1999. This is a very brief list of some of the steps I took in revising the book, presented here to encourage other writers.
While I revised, I looked for an agent. I searched the available sources for agents who were representing work by writers whose worked seemed similar to mine and submitted samples of my work to them. The ones who responded by mail or by telephone (I wasn’t using email at that time), I interviewed carefully. My first agent, I discovered, had agreed to represent my nonfiction book only because he hoped to pressure me into writing a “blockbuster” book of fiction. When I refused, he was no longer interested in me. So when I interviewed agents, I made clear that, at age 48, I considered myself a mature writer, knew that I am not a fiction writer, and wanted to write primarily about the life and environment of the Great Plains. If the agent couldn’t enthusiastically represent me, I didn’t want to waste time for either of us.
Using this method, I signed with another agent, and sent him several drafts of the book as I worked on it. After a year or so, he quit the agent business and became a writer.
So I found another agent, a woman this time. After reading the latest draft of the book, she sent it to five large publishing houses in New York city. After a week, she called me, very excited, and told me we might have a “bidding war” among the five. She sent me the comments and suggestions of each of the editors of those houses on revising the book. In some cases they had gone through the manuscript and made paragraph-by-paragraph recommendations.
During the next four years, while I made a living teaching workshops and giving speeches-- my only income-- my primary work as a writer was to revise and improve the same manuscript. I revised it seven times on the specific recommendations of those editors.
One by one, we submitted the manuscript back to each editor with their suggestions followed. One by one, they rejected it.
In one instance, after receiving the editor's recommendations, I arranged to meet with her, and then I revised the book again according to her suggestions. She rejected it again. The reasons she listed were identical to the changes she had asked me, in her first rejection, to make.
When my agent returned that rejection, she included a letter resigning, not only from representing me but from the business of being an agent. (Her agency included a letter declining to represent me.)
None of these three agents ever sold a single word I'd written. I began to joke to writing friends that if they wanted to get rid of an agent, I’d sign with that person and drive them out of the business.
Once or twice, in order to provide a visual aid to show how much work writing can be, and suggest the persistence and the patience required, I have carted a dozen boxes containing the various drafts of Feels Like Far to a workshop.
Since I recycle paper, printing on both sides, those dozen boxes represented perhaps one third of the pages I used in rewriting the nonfiction manuscript. I estimated that if I were to stack them all, the drafts of that book would reach an eight-foot ceiling --twice.
But every revision took me closer to my own idea of what the book was about; with every revision I became more convinced that the book was worthwhile.
The point of the story? Winston Churchill said it better than I could:
"Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never-- in nothing, great or small, large or petty-- never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense."
--- Sir Winston Churchill, Address at Harrow School, October 29, 1941 ---
Familiar Quotations, John Bartlett, p. 745:6; 15th edition, 1980.
Question: You've spoken about the stereotyped myth of the West, as well as the trend to debunk this myth. How do you fit your own work between these two extremes?
When I was working on Feels Like Far, my New York editor suggested I take out all the women, and narrow the story to “the conflict with your father.” This suggestion seemed to me to fit precisely the errors of those who say either that the West was all myth and it’s gone, or that it was all truth and it lives. My life with my father wasn't all conflict; he taught me the most important things I know about life and ranching. Conversely, when he turned mean because he was in ill health, I survived that episode in part because of all I had learned from the land and other women about survival. Both sides of the story are true, even though they may be contradictory.
Question: You've written about your father's desire for privacy and his dislike of your writing. Was Feels Like Far, which was finished after his death in 1992, a new stage in your writing about your father?
Feels Like Far is the first book where I really let down many of the barriers of respect for his views I had put around my writing, and I still did not include in that book many of the truly vicious things he did during the last few years of his life, when his mind was not right. I felt guilty when that book was published, knowing he'd hate to have people know some of the things he did-- but I have felt vindicated, glad that I revealed those things, because I've talked to dozens of farm and ranch people whose fathers have behaved the same way. We all feel better knowing that someone else has suffered what we have, and perhaps telling these stories will help others learn to avoid the same problems.
Following my father's teachings, I had developed confidence in myself, and believed that I could write something of importance-- so I could not simply stop because he didn't like it. However, I did respect his privacy. If you were to read all my books in order, you would notice that I write very little about him, and almost nothing negative, until after he was dead and I realized the damage he had done to himself and to his life's work, the ranch.
Question: Chapters in your book are called "Badger's Business" and "Badger's Daughter." Can you explain the meaning between the badger and your father-daughter relationship?
I can get a little philosophical, asking “How can a big meat-eating predator remain so obscure among people who observe the prairie every day?” But I am also really asking that second question, which is not quite the same thing: “How can we fail to see what is before our eyes?” I don’t pursue that issue overtly at this point-- but it will return in other essays in the book: How could I have missed my father’s deterioration? What other things have I missed?
The badger’s business is survival in a landscape that he knows well. My father’s business is taking care of his ranch, which he interprets as controlling my every move. My business-- learning from the badger and my parents-- is figuring out where my natural habitat really is now that I am alone.
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Passages from Feels Like Far
The following are representative quotes from Feels Like Far selected by Linda.
So I tell stories of my grasslands home as I might fly over my past, relating information significant to me, incidents I now believe were important in shaping my beliefs. A different narrator would see different events.
Feels Like Far, page 1
Then one day my father gave me an ultimatum: to stop writing and work as his hired hand for $300 a month, or to leave the ranch and never come back. That same day, I loaded my dog, Frodo, and a few possessions into my car and fled three hundred miles southwest to take refuge with Jerry in Cheyenne, Wyoming’s capital city.
Feels Like Far, page 5.
The photos in her album don’t always match Mother’s stories.
Feels Like Far, page 11
When my mother married John, my world expanded enormously. Instead of being the lone child of a single parent, I became part of a family enveloped in the broad acres of a grasslands ranch. As a child in the city, I’d been confined by Mother’s close attention and strict rules to the narrow limits of the house. On the ranch, I revolved around my new father, following him everywhere. My life began to spin outward in ever larger circles. Mother stayed in the house. Sometimes my parents debated my future in whispers at the dinner table while I did homework in my room.
Feels Like Far, page 22
As soon as I had a horse, I was free to wander alone through an immense open space of prairie....A square mile on the map looks small, a cube measuring an inch on each side. The height of hills and ridges might vary by only a couple of hundred feet in that distance, but the square represents a wilderness with no fences, roads, or houses. I knew any human I saw besides my father was a trespasser to be regarded with suspicion. ... my father might keep watch from the pickup on top of the plateau, but I vanished from his sight at once.... I might drop down the face of a long limestone-covered slope, the horse lunging ahead while I listened for rattlesnakes.... Riding alone, I knew my horse could fall and break my leg or her own. I was alert and careful,...In many of our pastures, I could observe the prairie for four or five miles in all directions, and as far as I could see, I was the only human. I can imagine few joys greater than being alone with a good horse in such country. Perhaps this liberty created the need for solitude that made me a writer.
Feels Like Far, pages 34-35.
My father often reminded me that in his youth, both men and women were considered adults at ten or twelve years of age, but he still called me Child instead of using my name.
Feels Like Far, page 47.
I remembered how George and I worked together to build our Windbreak House. He dug its foundation into native limestone. Friends and neighbors helped us pour the basement and erect the frame. Our blood and sweat dried in the beams and floor boards of that house as we grew into a working team. Callouses told us where each 2-x 4 stood inside the walls, how each window fit its frame, how well our lives meshed. We were both in that house as much as it was in us. We exchanged sustenance with the surrounding prairie, body and spirit. Every fall, I borrowed George’s pocket comb to harvest tiny grass and wildflower seeds, scattering them on the hillside. Grouse gathered to feed in the windbreak, sipping water from leaks in our waterlines to the native bushes and trees. Just so, George and I began to fit ourselves into our little community around the ranch.
Feels Like Far, page 88.
...we talked about what we were reading, or about our roles as women in a state and community that still regarded females as subordinate. We acknowledged that our mothers had given up their freedom, but we disagreed about the solution. I argued that only passage of the Equal Rights Amendment would force society to acknowledge women’s true equality. Margaret said that the ERA would create more problems than it solved....We could laugh about our debate, but we never agreed, just as we compromised with our fathers and mothers to keep peace.
Feels Like Far, page 92.
I often spoke at public meetings, but eventually decided I could use my writing skills to best educate readers about the environment.
Feels Like Far, page 93
I’ve never settled in my mind whether “Early to bed, early to rise” is law or religion in my neighborhood.
Feels Like Far, page 116.
Females without male supervision are as rare as badgers and just as suspect.
Feels Like Far, page 116.
Every day he grows shorter tempered, confused by the details of modern living.... Surely he fears losing control where he has always ruled, here on the ranch. He is failing even to care for his cattle and must realize he can’t blame me or modern technology.
Feels Like Far, page 143.
...I thought of the history of grass. Seeds formed of this summer’s heat and rain will wait through dry years to sprout, wait perhaps beyond the end of my lifetime. In some rainy season far in the future, ancient grasses will wake to cover these hills once more. People disappoint themselves and others. People die. But the genesis of grass is assured. I believe in the resurrection of the grass and its life everlasting.
Feels Like Far, page 186.
Above all other lessons, ranchers learn patience with the unalterable: with blizzards during calving season, with lightning that kills one expensive bull in a pasture full of elderly cows, with rains that tear out fences. Ranch life is so crowded with chances for disaster that counting the awful possibilities could paralyze us if we allowed ourselves fear.
Feels Like Far, page 190
Above my father's casket, the minister’s voice soared, resonating among the rafters, and she declared that the man God established in Eden was a rancher. The ranching business didn’t really begin until God created woman to help him.
Feels Like Far, page 195.
My father has been dead five months but I’m too busy and too angry to mourn. Besides documenting his investments, we’ve got to prepare income tax statements. His last journal is stuffed with receipts to sort, as well as names and physical descriptions of neighbors he’d known for forty years. Much as he hated my writing, he wrote to brace himself as the foundations of his world shifted. Words were his only shield against events he could not control or judge.
Feels Like Far, page 195.
When I stood in the congregation in the little white church in Hermosa on Christmas Eve, I was always puzzled by the words "sad and lowly plains." To me, those plains are heaven.
Feels Like Far, page 204.
I am buying the ranch from my mother.... but have I lost the title to my prairie life? It’s too late for me to raise children here and I may never live here again. My family’s life, woven into this land for a hundred years, is gone.
Feels Like Far, page 213.
Whoever occupies this land after I die will understand little of its history. She won't know where to take shelter, walking home in chilly rain when the pickup's stuck in that nasty mud hole in the summer pasture. He won't understand that the willow patch below my house really belongs to the old doe and her daughters. In thirty or forty years, a new owner might learn some basics-- might even manage to build a herd as well adapted to this place as ours-- if his ownership lasted that long. As real estate prices and property taxes climb, land is still considered a good investment, so the turnover can be quick.
Feels Like Far, page 216.
Living with integrity on this land will require more than a new name on the deeds. Land is the basis of community. Successful stewardship means learning all one can from previous inhabitants, including the animals. By the time I learned the lineage of all our cows, they were more than walking legal tender.... the cows became my family, recognizing me as surely as I knew them. Our relationship was more like a civilized exchange than an ownership of one by the other. Working with the cows in pastures filled with native animals helped me assimilate ways of living responsibly and with enjoyment in the country. When I ran to head one off at a gate, I judged her intention with the same measure I use to determine what a person will do: by her expression, by the look in her eye. I can’t determine the future of the ranch the same way.
Feels Like Far, page 217.
My memories of the people and country I have known forms a narrative in the same way they shaped my life. Sometimes I can pinpoint the day and hour an event occurred, can be sure who said what. Other times I'm uncertain, and even while I struggle to be precise, I wonder if the details matter. The people and places I know will last only as long as my life. When I die, those stories will not be buried beneath the soil of this cemetery to decompose with my flesh. Like all stories, human and otherwise, they will begin to spiral up and down, earth to sky, coyote to owl, to grass and rain.
Feels Like Far, page 227.
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