Ranchwomen, Life, and Literature

Letter From the Frontier

As far as I know, my friend Sissy has never written anything, although she probably reads more widely than most people I know with graduate degrees. She's at first and probably second glance an archetypical ranchwoman. That first glance would be the outsider's. Sis is in her mid-30's, tall, taller than I am, and strong, usually dressed in boots and wide hat and even spurs—real working Blanchards, for connoisseurs of Southwestern objects on their way to becoming collectibles rather than tools. She drawls and shakes your hand like a man and says "ain't" and "could of" A few questions might reveal that she was the first female brand inspector in the United States, and that she holds in her own name, not just her family's, the third oldest brand in the state of New Mexico. A conversation with her can turn into a series of anecdotes on the lines of "We was running 2,000 heifers. I was pregnant and I just had a leg operation. The cowboy quit. Then we found 28 dead cows one morning and we hadn't even got up in the trees. I cut one open that wasn't too green . . ."

But then there's that second look. Usually, Sis will have her four-year-old daughter Gianetta in tow, and sometimes her eleven-year-old son Brian, whom she "home-schooled" for his first five grades and who was ahead of his class when he returned to public school. Further conversation will disturb, amuse,...

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