« Return to this article

Know the West

Dang crazy women

  Like the two previous anthologies created by editors Linda Hasselstrom, Gaydell Collier and Nancy Curtis, Leaning into the Wind and Woven on the Wind, Crazy Woman Creek gathers hundreds of poems, stories and memories from women all across the West. This latest anthology’s theme is how Western women create and sustain the connections that define community.

The women whose voices fill these pages are not all professional writers. They’re ranch wives, compulsive gamblers, school board members and nuns, with stories to share that range from heart-wrenching to hilarious. They’re tough, compassionate, sassy and wise.

B.J. Buckley’s poem epitomizes Western women rallying to help each other. An exhausted ranch wife comes in late to the laundromat with piles of filthy clothes from calf branding. The other women abandon their own laundry to help with hers, then clean the mud off her pickup. Finally, they "(stand) that girl in the laundry sink (and wash) her down like a county fair horse," then dress her up in sparkly prom gown and strappy heels. As she drives off, one of them comments, "if we ever see her again, we oughta ask her last name, I guess."

Stories such as this one show us how to weave both old-timers and newcomers into the weft of community, how to foster neighborliness. As one contributor notes, whether longtime resident or recent arrival, traditional rancher or modem cowgirl, those of us in the West "love the same place, and want the same thing."

Crazy Woman Creek: Women Rewrite the American West
Edited by Linda M. Hasselstrom, Gaydell Collier and Nancy Curtis
300 pages, softcover: $14.00
Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004.