Happy Humpday! Blanche’s Book Club chose the latest read at random, among the shelves in the library. I really did sort of stumble up on it, thought the title was cool, and then saw a quote of praise on the back from Michael Perry, author of “Population 485: Meeting Your Neighbors One Siren At A Time“, which is a book I absolutely LOVED. Just in case the title sounds interesting to you, here is the description from Amazon:
Welcome to New Auburn, Wisconsin, where the local vigilante is a farmer’s wife armed with a pistol and a Bible, the most senior member of the volunteer fire department is a cross-eyed butcher with one kidney and two ex-wives (both of whom work at the only gas station in town), and the back roads are haunted by the ghosts of children and farmers. Against a backdrop of fires and tangled wrecks, bar fights and smelt feeds, Population: 485 is a comic and sometimes heartbreaking true tale leavened with quieter meditations on an overlooked America.
So, anyway, the book I picked up and read was “The Secret Life of Cowboys” by Tom Groneburg. Here is the description from Amazon:
In this classic memoir, a young man facing a future he doesn’t want to claim has an inspiration—Go West. Tom Groneberg leaves behind friends and family, follows his heart, and heads to a resort town in the Colorado Rockies, where he earns his spurs as a wrangler leading tourists on horseback. Later, Groneberg moves to Montana, where he works for wages at a number of ranches before buying his own ranch. Demystifying the image of cowboys as celluloid heroes,The Secret Life of Cowboys is a coming-of-age story as stunning as the land itself and a revealing look at America’s last frontier.
Okay, yes, Tom Groneburg leaves behind his family and his friends – he leaves traditional college life as we know it and learns to be a proper ranch hand, by being thrown into the work and simply doing it every single day. But, Groneburg did have the love of his life by his side, so he wasn’t alone in that sense.
A few scenes in this book really got me – like when Groneburg learned to build a fence for cattle, and it took him hours to simply dig a hole, get the post in, and then start threading wires. He learned to lead horse trail rides for tourists, and dig a well to get water to his freezing cabin. The guy lived off barely any money, worked at all hours, and even learned how to ride a rodeo horse in an arena, decades after most people should.
I loved the courage in this book, despite the fact that I could relate to barely anything in it. A review from David Abrams in January Magazine sums it up nicely:
The Secret Life of Cowboys is a first-rate account of men and women whose lives revolve around hard land and stubborn animals. Through his portraits of ranchers, wranglers and rodeo champs, Groneberg goes beneath the stereotype of saddles, saloons and sagebrush.
Good-bye, John Wayne. So long, Gary Cooper. It’s time for you to ride into the sunset of mythology. This a book that tells it like it is, showing both the joys and the dark agonies of life in the modern American West. What Frank McCourt did for Irish poverty, Groneberg does for Montana ranching.
Truth be told, this book is not so much about the hidden secrets of cowboys as it is about Tom Groneberg, disillusioned kid from Chicago who goes west in search of purpose. “I chased a dream and it kicked me in the teeth,” he writes. “Yet I find myself falling for it again and again.” It’s a cliché from the Me Generation, but Groneberg does”find himself” in the hard work, the unforgiving land, and the company of horses.
If you’ve ever ridden a horse, fantasized about the west, or hell, been fascinated by a sunset – this book is for you.
The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “Who Do You Love?” by Jennifer Weiner. Want to read it with us? We’d love to have you! Share your thoughts on the book with us via the blog comments, email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or on Twitter & SnapChat @OrangeJulius7.