Blunt has turned the memories of her childhood and young adulthood in rural Montana into a beautifully written memoir that is a meditation on how land and her life will always be intertwined. A must read.
Born into a third generation of Montana homesteaders, Judy Blunt learned early how to "rope and ride and jockey a John Deere," but also to "bake bread and can vegetables and reserve my opinion when the men were talking." The lessons carried her through thirty-six-hour blizzards, devastating prairie fires and a period of extreme isolation that once threatened the life of her infant daughter. But though she strengthened her survival skills in what was--and is--essentially a man's world, Blunt's story is ultimately that of a woman who must redefine herself in order to stay in the place she loves.
Breaking Clean is at once informed by the myths of the West and powerful enough to break them down. Against formidable odds, Blunt has found a voice original enough to be called classic.
I rarely go back to the ranch where I was born or to the neighboring land where I bore the fourth generation of a ranching family. My people live where hardpan and sagebrush flats give way to the Missouri River Breaks, a country so harsh and wild and distant that it must grow its own replacements, as it grows its own food, or it will die. Hereford cattle grow slick and mean foraging along the cutbanks for greasewood shoots and buffalo grass. Town lies an hour or more north over gumbo roads. Our town was Malta, population 2,500, county seat of Phillips County, Montana, and the largest settlement for nearly one hundred miles in any direction.
"Get tough," my father snapped as I dragged my feet at the edge of a two-acre potato field. He gave me a gunnysack and started me down the rows pulling the tough fanweed that towered over the potato plants. I was learning then the necessary lessons of weeds and seeds and blisters. My favorite story as a child was of how I fainted in the garden ...
If you liked Breaking Clean, try these:
Proulx's first work of nonfiction in more than twenty years, Bird Cloud is the story of designing and constructing her dream house. It is also an enthralling natural history and archaeology of the region, and a family history, going back to nineteenth-century Mississippi riverboat captains and Canadian settlers.
By turns cattle rancher, forest ranger, outfitter, masseuse, wife and mother, Bell vividly recounts her struggle to find solid earth in which to put down roots.
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