By Ann Daum
“My father’s ranch is now a testament to the fact that cattlemen and coyotes can live in peace,” Ann Daum writes. But it wasn’t always so. Reared on her father’s thirty-thousand-acre ranch, Daum grew up to become a rancher herself, raising sport horses. And in The Prairie in Her Eyes, she captures the beauty, despair, rewards, and loneliness of ranching in the modern West.
Daum’s essays rise and fall with the undulations of the prairie and can pack a punch like South Dakota weather. She writes about actual artifacts buried in the prairie soil, as well as of what lies hidden in the lives of people who live there and the “white line” you can never go beneath without drawing blood. Warm memories of her girlhood on the ranch turn cold as she recalls brutalities both casual and calculated—the writhing of a captive coyote, a ranch hand’s predatory sexuality, and the horrors of a chicken research facility.
Unflinching and understated, Daum breaks the silence that for too long has marked (and marred) the lives of western women. With humor and insight, her essays touch on different aspects of rural life and convey her vision for a good life in the west.