Montana Authors Project

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Three of us, and the sheep scattered down meadow slopes like a slow, slow avalanche of fleeces. Before I was born, my mother and father had lived other herding summers, shadowing after the sheep through the long pure days until the lambs were fattened for shipping. The first summer there on Grassy, we moved camp fifty-eight times in the first sixty days.... Your mother... The pair of words would break him then, and fool that I could be, I would look aside from his struggling face. (4-5)…


When in Silver Bow, Phil [Whipple, a fictinalized version of Frank Little] stayed in a small house in East Park Street where Emma Goldman had once lived. Emma was now in some other part of the country, but the house was generally regarded as the Radical Headquarters of Silver Bow. Outside, it was a barren little house, built of rain-faded boards. Within, it was equally barren. Phil's room was very simple: a small table with a cracked water pitcher on top of it and an army cot covered by a single blanket. Next to the water pitcher was a much-thumbed copy of Marx, and on the wall was a photograph of Eugene Debs, inscribed, "To my boy, Phil, from one who loves him dearly." (153)…


The chaos of the classroom and the bullying permitted during recess prompted an exodus during Christmas break, as parents who could manage it pulled their students out and sent them to other, more distant schools. Those who left never came back. After second grade, I would not have another person in my grade again until I started high school. A few years later, with the old school near collapse, the board wrangled the funds to erect a small prefab two-room building on a new site between Second and Third Creeks. (66-67)…


The promise of love and life in the moon Beckons our rider to cinch real loose For an easy day of riding through Yellowstone. The mountain woman of Pueblo Wore a pair of elk teeth For the feeling that she is. The beautiful Woman-of-the-Mountain Told our rider to meet her on the Wind River In the moon when the birds return.…


I compare Louise to the land, connect the idea of her somehow to when I was a kid and we'd have to go to wakes in Camas Prairie. I can see for miles and I can't stop looking or thinking about how lucky I am to see this country, to belong here. Something about Louise and something about all the Indians here is something about me, a blood kinship, a personal history shared. (28)…


Nothing, tree or mountain, weakens wind coming for the throat. Even wind must work when land gets old. The rotting wagon tongue makes fun of girls who begged to go to town. Broken brakerods dangle in the dirt.…


...the Basin country began to feel winter fastening into the very pit of its stomach. I helped load what was left of a neighbor's sheep into boxcars there at Sixteen. Those sheep were so hungry they were eaten' the wool off each other. And even the desperation hay began to run out. If we could of got another ten ton, we could of saved a lot of cattle. But-we-could-not-get-it. Cows struggled to stay alive now by eating willows thick as a man's thumb. (36)…


The car moved slowly along under "the richest hill in the world." The copper mines stood there on the top of the hill, and there was a kind of beauty in their callousness. You can't get away from us, they taunted [John Donnelly]. You'd better hurry and come down and get to work. Without us, you couldn't live or eat, you couldn't love. You would be nothing without us. The tall frames of mines, keen and cruel against the metallic sky....The car entered the town, rumbling along East Broadway and then turning south on Main. (53)…


The main ranch house, which John and I took over, stood at the base of one steep hill facing south to another, with the bunkhouse, outbuildings and corrals taking up the flat ground at the bottom of the pocket. Driving down the lane toward our ranch felt like aiming at the ends of the earth—nothing but hardpan and the suggestion of pines in the distance—when suddenly you popped over a steep hill and the ranch buildings spread out below, cradled in a bend of Fourchette Creek. (218)…


I approached Belle Fourche, where wisps of chimney smoke fought upward through the downpour. The town looked scrubbed, the dry wood buildings sparkling with water, every vehicle free of dust, and dogs romping through the streets, their hair slicked down against their hides. The people outside either held something over their heads or let the water run from the brims of their hats, like the stream from a pump. I didn't see any umbrellas. Nobody'd had reason to own an umbrella for some time. (281)…

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