Raising cows -- and kids -- in the West

  • Madeleine Graham Blake
  • Madeleine Graham Blake
  • Madeleine Graham Blake
 

The Family Ranch: Land, Children, and Tradition in the American West
Linda Hussa,
photographs by Madeleine Graham Blake
272 pages,
hardcover: $24.95.
University of Nevada Press, 2009.

 

The families described in The Family Ranch: Land, Children, and Tradition in the American West are traditional in that they are not "traditional" at all: One mother is single, and six children in another family were born in Haiti. Good mothering is a lot like good ranching, according to author Linda Hussa. "If you don't know how," says one ranch-raised woman, "you just start and you learn." These wildly differing families all show that one family, even one child, really can change the world.

"All across the West," writes Hussa, "ranchers and rural communities are victims of environmental disputes." Some problems result from bad decisions a hundred years old, "some made by ranchers, some made by capitalists, some made by the federal government." Studies prove that when land is sold away from ranchers, the rural communities that keep landscapes intact rapidly disintegrate. Responsible ranching keeps pastures healthy, but developments take water from agriculture to support golf courses no one can eat. Multinational corporations get government subsidizes to run feedlots, while ranchers whose beef eats only grass struggle to pay taxes.

Hussa sees possible benefits in the current economic mess, declaring that the strength and character we all need to survive are an integral part of everyday ranching life. Individual stories fascinate from a dozen different directions; Hussa is "as persistent as a foxtail in your sock." She tells how Gail Tyson, who raises quarter horses, adopted an 18-year-old daughter. With the aid of Madeleine Graham Blake's superb photographs, we follow the extended Walker family of Indian buckaroos roping together on the Duck Valley Shoshone Reservation. Ranchers' children learn to think for themselves, to achieve goals; they become people like Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos, musician Dave Brubeck.

Ranchers such as those profiled here could save us from having to depend for food and goods on people who may not like us. "I know of no other industry," writes Hussa, "that turns totally within the concentric circles of family and community" -- the very values many Americans believe we need most. "The way these parents raise their children is an integral part of how they care for the land. Without this kind of mothering dynamic, we lose the West."

High Country News Classifieds
  • BEND AREA HOME WITH AMAZING CASCADE PEAKS VIEW
    Enjoy rural peacefulness and privacy with one of the most magnificent Cascade Mountain views in sunny Central Oregon! Convenient location only eight miles from Bend's...
  • MARKETING COMMUNICATIONS MANAGER
    High Country News, an award-winning media organization covering the communities and environment of the Western United States, seeks a Marketing Communications Manager to join our...
  • EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
    High Country News, an award-winning media organization covering the communities and environment of the Western United States, seeks an Editor-In-Chief to join our senior team...
  • RESEARCH FELLOW (SOUTHWESTERN U.S. ENERGY TRANSITION)
    The Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) in partnership with the Grand Canyon Trust is seeking a full-time Fellow to conduct topical research...
  • LENDER OWNED FIX & FLIP
    2 houses on 37+ acres. Gated subdivision, Penrose Colorado. $400k. Possible lender financing. Bob Kunkler Brokers Welcome.
  • ONCE OR TWICE
    A short historical novel set in central Oregon based on the the WWII Japanese high altitude ballon that exploded causing civilian casualties. A riveting look...
  • HISTORIC LODGE AND RESTAURANT - FULLY EQUIPPED
    Built in 1901, The Crazy Mountain Inn has 11 guest rooms in a town-center building on 7 city lots (.58 acres). The inn and restaurant...
  • HOUSE FOR SALE
    Rare mountain property, borders National Forest, stream nearby. Pumicecrete, solar net metering, radiant heat, fine cabinets, attic space to expand, patio, garden, wildlife, insulated garage,...
  • COMMUNITY ORGANIZER- NORTHERN PLAINS RESOURCE COUNCIL
    Want to organize people to protect Montana's water quality, family farms and ranches, & unique quality of life with Northern Plains Resource Council? Apply now-...
  • CONSERVATION MANAGER
    The Rio Grande Headwaters Land Trust (RiGHT) is hiring an energetic and motivated Conservation Manager to develop and complete new conservation projects and work within...
  • POLLINATOR OASIS
    Seeking an experienced, hardworking partner to help restore a desert watershed/wetland while also creating a pollinator oasis at the mouth of an upland canyon. Compensation:...
  • ELLIE SAYS IT'S SAFE! A GUIDE DOG'S JOURNEY THROUGH LIFE
    by Don Hagedorn. A story of how lives of the visually impaired are improved through the love and courage of guide dogs. Available on Amazon.
  • COMING TO TUCSON?
    Popular vacation house, furnished, 2 bed/1 bath, yard, dog-friendly. Lee at [email protected] or 520-791-9246.
  • NORTHEASTERN UNIVERSITY
    All positions available: Sales Representative, Accountant and Administrative Assistant. As part of our expansion program, our University is looking for part time work from home...
  • RUBY, ARIZONA CARETAKER
    S. Az ghost town seeking full-time caretaker. Contact [email protected] for details.
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Powder River Basin Resource Council, a progressive non-profit conservation organization based in Sheridan, Wyoming, seeks an Executive Director, preferably with grassroots organizing experience, excellent communication...
  • ADOBE HOME
    Passive solar adobe home in high desert of central New Mexico. Located on a 10,000 acre cattle ranch.
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Eastern Nevada Landscape Coalition, based in Ely, Nevada is looking for a new executive director to replace the long-time executive director who is retiring at...
  • STEVE HARRIS, EXPERIENCED PUBLIC LANDS/ENVIRONMENTAL ATTORNEY
    Comment Letters - Admin Appeals - Federal & State Litigation - FOIA -
  • LOG HOME IN THE GILA WILDERNESS
    Beautiful hand built log home in the heart of the Gila Wilderness on five acres. Please email for PDF of pictures and a full description.