The Best Short Stories of William Kittredge


“Kittredge paints with these colors: sky blue, night black, blood red. Nature has more—but none truer.”—The New York Times Book Review

"We were meat hunters. You spent money for shells, you brought home meat. I saw Teddy Spandau die on that account. Went off into open water chest deep, just trying to get some birds he shot. Cramped up and drowned. We hauled a boat down and fished him out that afternoon."

—from “The Waterfowl Tree”

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“Kittredge paints with these colors: sky blue, night black, blood red. Nature has more—but none truer.”—The New York Times Book Review

"We were meat hunters. You spent money for shells, you brought home meat. I saw Teddy Spandau die on that account. Went off into open water chest deep, just trying to get some birds he shot. Cramped up and drowned. We hauled a boat down and fished him out that afternoon."

—from “The Waterfowl Tree”

A master storyteller and essayist, William Kittredge is best known for his unflinching vision of the hardscrabble landscape of the West and the people who survive and die in it. His stories are stripped down but bristle with life to offer a dusty, relentless landscape; the smell of freshly turned dirt; the blunt conversations about work that needs doing; and the rare, quiet moment of reflection that amounts to nothing less than poetry. This volume represents the best of Kittredge’s stories, available together in a handsome edition.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Kittredge’s stories—graceful, savvy, expansive, poignant, and sometimes even grave—tell us that it is our affections, not our courage or our toughness or our willingness to be unequivocal, that keeps us from one day to another. And that is a truth worth hearing. I only wish there were more of these stories.” —Richard Ford
Library Journal
Like their creator, the characters inhabiting this collection have firsthand knowledge of the perils of farming and ranching in Oregon, Montana, and Idaho. In "Breaker of Horses," for instance, Jules Russel lies on his deathbed recalling the horseback-riding accident that claimed the life of Ambrose Vega, head man at Black Flat Ranch. Characters in other stories contend with poverty, alcohol abuse, and infidelity, either in combination or separately. Kittredge treats his characters neither benevolently nor maliciously but with the same detached intimacy with which he regards the grand landscape of the American West he evokes so beautifully. The author of both story and essay collections and a memoir, Hole in the Sky, Kittredge is the winner of multiple writing awards and fellowships-and it's obvious why. Recommended for all libraries collecting Western American literature.-Faye A. Chadwell, Univ. of Oregon Libs., Eugene Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781555973841
  • Publisher: Graywolf Press
  • Publication date: 5/28/2003
  • Pages: 200
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 8.62 (h) x 0.67 (d)

Meet the Author

William Kittredge grew up on a cattle ranch in southeastern Oregon and taught creative writing at the University of Montana. He is often praised as one of the most important voices on the American West. He now lives in Missoula, Montana.

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Table of Contents


Thirty-Four Seasons of Winter

The Waterfowl Tree

The Van Gogh Field


Be Careful What You Want

Do You Hear Your Mother Talking?

Balancing Water

The Stone Corral

Breaker of Horses

Momentum Is Always the Weapon

The Soap Bar

We Are Not in This Together

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First Chapter

The Best Short Stories of William Kittredge

By William Kittredge

Graywolf Press

Copyright © 2003 William Kittredge
All right reserved.

ISBN: 1-55597-384-1

Chapter One

from "Be Careful What You Want"

Pinkie and me came from Montana to the highlands on Steens Mountain, nearby to where we used to live, to the old sheepherder's camping ground in the aspen grove at Whorehouse Meadows. Grace, my sister, traveling with a new boyfriend, was there ahead of us. Eighty miles to the west, across the cold desert and into northern California, I could see the shadow of Bidwell Mountain. We ran close to 7,500 mother cows between here and there. Three generations of our people lived in that country where nothing flows to the sea and people take care of their own individual selves. Which is the way we lived until Pinkie and I decided to sell the ranch and take the money. We turned that country life into all the first-class airplane tickets you'd ever want. Grace relocated in Santa Fe. Travels like a racehorse was what they used to say about Grace, when she was running her roads. Lean and sun-dark herself, Grace was wearing a pair of wide-hipped white shorts, clean and ironed, but very short. There they were, chorus-girl legs on a woman turning forty-three, purple flecks from broken veins hardly noticeable. She had mud on her bare feet and was touching her tongue to her teeth. "This one is Vito," Grace said, and I figured, Yeah, that one is Vito. He was leaning against a buff-colored two-seater Mercedes-Grace always traveled in style. Just one sober Sunday morning telephone call, and Grace had lured Pinkie and me into serious family medicine. Grace was in love again, and out of money. So this lad with the rings on his fingers, and no shirt in sight, this was Vito. Maybe twenty-six, twenty-eight, too many rings, grinning and shy as a new dog while Grace did the talking, one of those suntanned boys who finds you when you got some dollars in your pocket. Vito was half-owner of an adobe motel on the outskirts of Taos, called The Submarine, and Grace had moved her Indian art gallery into his building. As Pinkie said, that mean little streak she can show, "Paying to hook up her business." "Vito, you come over here," Grace said. "These are your new relatives." Our Woman, as my father like to call my mother, named Grace out of hope. "So maybe she'd be different than your father and me," my mother would say, grinning. My mother was one of those ranch women who go horseback after cattle while some hired lady keeps the house. Nowadays she lives on a mountain north of Santa Barbara, looking over the Pacific, she's big in the Nature Conservancy, and she blesses me for selling the ranch. "Otherwise, after your father died," she says, fixing me with those blue British eyes, "I'd of never left that son-of-a-bitching desert."


Excerpted from The Best Short Stories of William Kittredge by William Kittredge Copyright © 2003 by William Kittredge. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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