Childhood on a Dude Ranch

Where Rivers Change Direction by Mark Spragg

The most poignant recollection of boyhood I’ve ever read. While reading the chapter “My Sister’s Boots,” I actually had to put the book down because I almost began to weep (while reading in a restaurant; that will not do). This author is just that good. Spragg grew up on a Wyoming dude ranch, where, from a tender age, he worked alongside the hired men. I’m not sure whether he either inherited his stoic ways from his tough, quiet father or his strong mother; or whether he learned them from the men he worked with (and lived with – during part of the year, he slept in the bunkhouse). An honest, beautiful book about a sometimes brutal, mostly wondrous boyhood and the young adult years that followed. It was awarded the Regional Book Award by the Mountains and Plains Independent Booksellers Association. This group has selected a fine list of winners, and Where Rivers Change Direction is certainly award-worthy. It reminds me of other excellent memoirs of rural childhoods: Lazy B: Growing up on a Cattle Ranch in the American Southwest by Sandra Day O’Connor and H. Alan Day, and The Road from Coorain by Jill Ker Conway. But of these three, Spragg’s book is the one I know I’ll need to re-read.