February 16, 2017

Looking Back - Riding the White Horse Home

Looking Back... In an effort to transfer my book journal entries over to this blog, I'm going to attempt to post (in chronological order) an entry every Friday. I may or may not add extra commentary to what I jotted down in these journals.

Riding the White Horse Home: A Western Family Album by Teresa Jordan
1993 Vintage Departures
Finished on March 4, 1997
Rating: 4.5/5 (Very Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

"A haunting and elegant memoir, evoking the ghosts of... family and those spirits inherent in the landscape.... Riding the White Horse Home becomes the story of us all. ~ Terry Tempest Williams

In 1887 Teresa Jordan's great-grandfather bought a ranch in the Iron Mountain country of southeast Wyoming. Four generations later her father sold it, under the economic pressures that have made ranching a dying way of life. This superbly evocative book is at once Teresa Jordan's family chronicle and a eulogy for the West her people helped shape.

Riding the White Horse Home is about generations of women who coped with physical hardship and killing loneliness in a landscape at once beautiful and inhospitable. It is a book of practical information--how to keep a cold from shying; how to tell when a cow is about to calf--conveyed with such precision that reading it is like a fast gallop across the prairie. Teresa Jordan has made a gift of her heritage--and has taught us something about our own.    

My Original Notes (1997):

Marvelous! I love this book. Makes me want to write my own memoirs. I identified with so much of the author's views and feelings. Very sad in places - brought tears to my eyes, yet also humorous. Great look at life on a cattle ranch in contemporary time. Insightful. Touching. Spellbinding.

My Current Thoughts:

Yes, I still own a copy of this wonderful memoir and plan to read it again. I read it for my Great Plains Lit class, many years ago, but still remember how much I enjoyed it. Flipping through my copy, I see a lot of underlined passages and notes jotted down on the pages... far too many to share here, but this particular passage caught my eye and I think it speaks to the author's love of the land she grew up on:
When my family tells the story of the ranch, we say we left because we had to--we could not afford to pay the estate taxes after my grandfather's death. This is true, but it is only part of the story. My family left the land because for four generations we had yearned to leave. We had lived in a culture that taught us that a professional life is more respectable than one tied to the land. This attitude shaped the decisions my family made, and it continues to shape the larger political and economic decisions, made by educators and policymakers far removed from the land, that affect the few who still hold on.

My sadness over the loss of the homeplace is my dark side, my grief, but it is also the source of my deepest knowledge. Perhaps it is only through this experience of loss that I can value a sense of place, that I can question how thoughtlessly--even how contemptuously--we are taught to cast it aside.

I'm willing to bet that none of you have heard of Teresa Jordan or this book. If you enjoy memoirs or novels such as A River Runs Through It (Norman Maclean), Dancing at the Rascal Farm (Ivan Doig) or All the Pretty Horses (Cormac McCarthy), this is sure to be one you will love. I'm so happy to see that it's still available for purchase.

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