In These Hills

Overview


After a lifetime spent writing and working on his family’s cattle ranch outside of Helena, Montana, Ralph Beer has gathered his best magazine essays into one collection called In These Hills. In thirty-three essays he provides a moving and elegiac tribute to lives now passed, an often humorous homage to the provincial, and an attempt “to fathom the place where we live . . . to decipher who we are,” as he writes in his introduction.
 
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Overview


After a lifetime spent writing and working on his family’s cattle ranch outside of Helena, Montana, Ralph Beer has gathered his best magazine essays into one collection called In These Hills. In thirty-three essays he provides a moving and elegiac tribute to lives now passed, an often humorous homage to the provincial, and an attempt “to fathom the place where we live . . . to decipher who we are,” as he writes in his introduction.
 
Beer, praised as one of the finest writers in the West, offers an authentic literary voice paired with a lifetime spent exploring a particularly beloved piece of land. From his first experience with a wheat harvest, to the winter rebuilding of a 1947 Dodge Power Wagon, to his moving exploration of an old family mystery, these essays slice sharply under the sod of our embedded romanticism, exploring not only the brute hardships of a living made from cattle ranching but the inextricable satisfaction of it as well. As Beer himself says in the final pages of this collection, "Stories outshine instruments of gold. Stories outlast stone."
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Editorial Reviews

Montana Magazine

"[A] moving tribute to Western rural life."—Clark Whitehorn, Montana Magazine

— Clark Whitehorn

Montana Senior News

“A celebration of the ordinary, day-to-day life of a small operation farmer/rancher/writer, who, just because of the circumstances, because a sort of jack-of-all-trades. . . . Thanks to Ralph Beer’s sincere and meaningful essays all of us can preserve a bit of our Montana memories and dreams.”—Montana Senior News
Montana Magazine - Clark Whitehorn

"[A] moving tribute to Western rural life."—Clark Whitehorn, Montana Magazine
KLIATT
Add this collection of essays to the proliferating literature about ranching in Montana. Beer is a fifth-generation rancher, a descendent of Welsh immigrants who came to America, then to the Helena Valley, to find freedom and a livelihood. They found these, but paid a high price in unrelenting labor, isolation, and the need to cope with a harsh environment. Current in their line is Ralph Beer, who went off and got a college education then found, in his life on the ranch, a rich mine of material for writing. In his essays, which are not arranged in chronological order, Beer evokes the work of the ranch: fencing, fixing, cleaning, and animal care. He also deals with and sometimes even loves machines: the Power Wagon he reconditioned and uses to clear snow, pickups of a certain age, and the motorcycle "that smoothed out around eighty." He is a dreamer and philosopher (and sometimes a hard drinker) as well as his own best ranch hand. He reflects often on the ancestors who, no matter how hard they worked, could never get it all done. He loved his grandfather who took him along on jobs around the ranch and taught him most of what he knew. He sees the culture of the countryside changing as people from elsewhere, mostly California, build fancy homes and fence their own little acreage off from the rest of the world. His wife Margaret, a true partner to him, joins other ranch women each day in the drive to town to earn a much-needed paycheck. Though this reviewer frequently had to reach back into her own farming roots to gain meaning, the audience for these essays includes, and may be primarily aimed at, the citified reader who dreams of what life must be like in the country. Beer both feeds theromanticizing and makes clear to that reader that difficulties await. KLIATT Codes: SA-Recommended for senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 2000, Univ. of Nebraska Press, 180p., Ages 15 to adult.
— Edna Boardman
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780803262096
  • Publisher: University of Nebraska Press
  • Publication date: 6/1/2003
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 180
  • Sales rank: 1,010,099
  • Product dimensions: 0.42 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 6.00 (d)

Meet the Author


Ralph Beer has worked as a ranch hand, swamper, clerk, cannon cocker, logger, heavy equipment operator, battery rat, carpenter, and whiskey taster. He and his wife, Maggie, recently sold the Howard Beer Ranch and have gone on to other things, though they dearly miss their cows. Beer is the author of the Spur Award–winning novel The Blind Corral, and his essays have been included in the anthologies The Last Best Place and Montana Spaces.
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Table of Contents

Foreword: Names of the Living: Ralph Beer in the New West
Introduction
The Big Dusty 3
City Limits 8
As a North Wind Works the Drifts 13
Coming into the Country 17
Seeds of Discontent 24
All We Can Stand of Hell 28
Apologies to Ed Abbey 32
All the Way Home 38
Carried Away 42
Storms 47
A Rebirth of Wonder in the Regenesis of Significant Steel 55
Golden Days 61
Killing Things 66
Labors of the Fall 70
At the Bridge 74
That Famous Horse He Rode 79
Balancing Water 85
Whose Woods These Are 88
Moving Fence at Castle Rock 92
Partners 97
Rolling Stock 105
After the Honeymoon 110
Bloodlines 114
Country Boys 119
Higher Education, Unexpected Turns, and Good Fashion Sense 124
Second Wind 128
Silver 131
When a Horseman Rides By 135
All Over Again 141
The Last Buffalo 154
Picking Rocks 156
Fall Fencing 161
At Rest 166
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