Excerpt from Claiming Ground by Laura Bell, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Claiming Ground

by Laura Bell

Claiming Ground
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Mar 2010, 256 pages
    Paperback:
    Apr 2011, 256 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Elizabeth Whitmore Funk

Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt


Doug’s cabin was one of eight line camps scattered across the midelevation benches of Little Mountain, remote country where the sheep would be held for several weeks between the drying of the spring ranges in summer’s heat and the opening of the higher altitude Big Horn National Forest grazing allotments. John Blue Canyon road was too rough for anything but a beater sheepwagon, so years ago, the ranch had built tiny shacks and cabins, most barely big enough for bed and stove, on each of the separate ranges. The herders stayed in these while they tended their sheep in the lush feed and tedious close quarters of Little Mountain where the bands mixed easily. But when I arrived, it was summer. All the bands had gone
up to the top of the Big Horns, leaving Doug to tend the bucks below on Little Mountain until they could join the ewes in the fall for breeding. The country was peppered with empty cabins, any one of which could have housed my childhood dreams.

Doug was small and gray, with the twinkly blue eyes of a leprechaun and his jeans held up by rainbow suspenders. “Well, now, I can hardly keep myself busy,” he said in answer to my question. “But, you know, I bet you could set up camp in the Cow Creek cabin. There’s lots to see up here. I could give you a horse. Strawberry’d be plumb fine for you. I’ve got about two of everything, salt and pepper, groceries aplenty. And a rifle. You’d need a rifle. Ever shot one?” By the time we’d returned with the sodas, our plans were made. When my sister and her husband left the next day, I wouldn’t be going with them.

For the rest of that summer, I lived in the Cow Creek cabin, ten-by-twelve feet with a bed, table, wood cookstove and creek water to drink. Most afternoons, Doug would check in on me. He’d draw crude maps on scrap paper, showing trails, a homestead cabin, an old still site. Next morning, I’d saddle up Strawberry, a sixteen-hand red roan gelding, filling the saddlebags with lunch and a book, one map or another folded in my pocket. I hunted arrowheads out on the Honeymoon cabin point, scouted out the Bischoff cow camp on the edge of Cottonwood Canyon and explored dark, secret trails that lead down into the depths of Devil’s Canyon.

On weekends, Miles would bounce up the seventeen miles of deeply rutted roads in his old Land Rover with wine, books, stories, an iced-down Sara Lee cheesecake. On one occasion, he arrived with Sonia, the new Big Horn County librarian, and her two children, recently migrated out from Lexington, Kentucky. She’d unfolded from the Land Rover, a lanky, dark-headed Dane with uncontrollably curly hair and crinkly eyes. “I’ve found you a fellow Kentuckian,” Miles said, and our friendship was immediate, enduring long after my brassy romance with the paleontologist was over.

At summer’s end, Doug rolled a Bull Durham cigarette in the crease of his jeans and encouraged me to return. “I’m sure we could get you a job lambing in the winter,” he’d said. “You’ve only seen a tiny piece of this whole outfit. It’s big. I can talk to John and get you a job.”

I laughed at the prospect, sure of a more traditional future and certain it wouldn’t be in the lambing sheds of Wyoming. But fall was hard. I was at a loss as to how to live my life and where to dig in. I saw people with companions, homes, meaningful work, but I had no idea how to become them, how to spin that web of comfort and belonging around me. I felt alone, unmoored and unworthy.

I’d been drawn to the racetrack, to the fog-wisped early mornings of Kentucky, the thin-skinned electricity of the thoroughbreds, the weathered coarseness and nomadic air of the track crew. I hot-walked and galloped horses in the mornings and loaded UPS trucks from a warehouse in the afternoons, living once again in my parents’ house. One day, as I stepped from the shower, my mother saw the bruises that covered my body from handling truckloads of packages, and, trembling with frustration, she said, “You don’t have to do this. You’re smart and pretty and have an education. If you aren’t doing exactly what you want to be doing when you turn fifty, it’s your own damned fault.”

Excerpted from Claiming Ground by Laura Bell Copyright © 2010 by Laura Bell. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book:
  The Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member
and discover your next great read!

Join Today!

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The Opposite of Everyone
by Joshilyn Jackson

"Quirky and appealing characters, an engaging story, and honest dialogue make this a great book!"
- BookBrowse

About the book
Join the discussion!

Award Winners

  • Book Jacket: All We Have Left
    All We Have Left
    by Wendy Mills
    September 11, 2001 is a date that few Americans will ever forget. It was on this day that our ...
  • Book Jacket: A Great Reckoning
    A Great Reckoning
    by Louise Penny
    Canadian author Louise Penny is back with her twelfth entry in the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache ...
  • Book Jacket: Homegoing
    Homegoing
    by Yaa Gyasi
    It's all very well to challenge people to be the masters of their own destiny, but when you&#...

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Victoria
    by Daisy Goodwin

    Daisy Goodwin breathes new life into Victoria's story, and does so with sensitivity, verve, and wit." - Amanda Foreman

    Read Member Reviews

Who Said...

In youth we run into difficulties. In old age difficulties run into us

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Word Play

The Big Holiday Wordplay:
$400+ in Prizes

Enter Now

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.