EXCERPTS

  • PROLOGUE

    Page 1 Excerpt

     

    The Little North Fork of Crazy Woman Creek, aptly named for my life, tumbles out of the mountain through this land of mine, meanders across the plains, marries into the Powder River, the Yellowstone, the Missouri and finally the Mississippi. I think on the pioneers, the guts it took to travel this tough country in the 1800s.  And I remember the courage it took me to leave the East, the comfort of the familiar, to make a life out of the scraps of myself.

     

    Pages 2 & 3 Excerpt

     

    I hear the roar of falling waters reverberate in this tight valley, and in a short distance away half hidden by cottonwood and ponderosa pine trees I see the waterfall. Hollowed-out cups of granite give me footholds on a huge boulder. I reach the pool’s edge, stand tall before the pounding water, the spray, and watch droplets dancing in the sunlight. I take off my boots and socks, shirt, jeans, and under clothes. . . .  In one motion I turn, face the falls, and dive flat into the water. Oh My God it is cold.... I stand. I let out a howl. I am damned glad to be alive. I am seventy-eight years old and not proud of every moment.

     

  • CHAPTER 1

    Plantation Living

    Page 5 Excerpt

     

    We climb in the flat-bottomed boat, which is painted deep green. Jimmy sits down on the back bench, takes up a paddle and strokes evenly through the water, maybe letting a drip fall into the boat as he switches the paddle from one side to the other. This "each side paddling" keeps the boat steady and straight in the canal, Jimmy tells me. He will choose the lure. The lures are made of two brightly painted pieces of wood hinged in the middle, so that each part wriggles like a fish or some kind of bug. Four hooks dangle off the metal rods in each section of the lure. All the lures have names: Scrubber, Pirate, and She-Devil. Jimmy says it matters which one he chooses. It all depends on the time of day, and where the sun is. I am glad Jimmy knows so much about fishing and hunting and about the alligators and snakes--which are poisonous, which harmless. I feel safe being with him.  I am six years old.

     

  • CHAPTER 9

    My God, What Have I Done?

    Page 95 Excerpt

     

    John gave me a gold charm for my bracelet, a small book with two pages. The first had the previous day's date engraved on it, the date of our engagement. I was so surprised at his thoughtfulness that I could only mumble trivialities. ”I am touched, so touched, John. Thank you. I can wear it always.” And I kissed him quickly on the cheek, not the passionate kiss like last night in the cab.  “The following page is for the date of our wedding,” John said as he sipped his martini, recovering from my public display of intimacy. “And the opposite page for the births of our children.”

     

    That was it: the words birth of our children. Those words zinged into me, piercing.

     

  • CHAPTER 16

    Moving On

    Page 178 Excerpt

     

    What a tawdry end to twelve years of married life. I was in shock. I felt cheated.

     

    The years of effort in creating a loving environment at home, the striving to help John at work, from travel to those endless dinner parties, and the love I thought John Sargent and I shared, all was inhaled into the void. The tenderness that had once been there between us was gone. My heart was breaking . . .

     

     

  • CHAPTER 18

    Why Don't I Learn to Keep My Mouth Shut?

    Page 193 Excerpt

     

    Because of all the publicity, the train ride, the bake sales, and the tours to save the Sheridan Inn, I felt pressed to write a letter of encouragement to the public in the early summer of 1967. The following is part of that letter I wrote to the editor of the Sheridan Press.

     

    The building is more than the peeling clapboard walls, its importance is more than the fact that Buffalo Bill or any other man slept here. It is our heritage, a symbol of the people who believed in America, believed enough to move West to create a life in the wilderness. They, their spirit, built the Inn and made it a meeting place that became the center of the community.

     

    I felt the Sheridan Inn commanded a place in the community; it was, and is, an architectural and historical site of importance. If we don’t know where we have come from, we cannot know who we are, or where we’re going. The building stood as a talisman for the community, a well honored and noteworthy historical structure. While I had been by it many times, I'd never been in it.

     

     

  • CHAPTER 21

    Anger to Action

    Page 234 Excerpt

     

    I taste color sometimes when I am deeply concentrating in the beginning, middle, or toward the end of a painting. It does not always come to me succinctly. I have to murmur it, caress it, place my brush or rag (I use both) on the glass door palette, poke at the colors laid out before me, let my eye rove over the generous mounds of paint. The sensation palpably lush, invites my whole being to choose color. The choosing feels so intense, but in the end the choice is random. I try one, then another hue, thin it down with gel or matt medium, slap the brush on the canvas, let the paint fly, the drips roll. Sometimes I find I have held my breath until I left my brush off the canvas.

  • EPILOGUE

    Page 271 Excerpt

     

    I learned I could not be who I wasn't.