I have a friend, a talented singer/songwriter who has a life that revolves around kids and husband, around ranching and the desire to perform. She is much younger than I, busy with the struggles of a busy life, young kids, and making do on wages that aren’t always quite enough. Her husband spent years on a ranch, they settled in, became part of our community. And then one day their lives turned upside down. His job on the ranch ended. They would ultimately uproot children who only knew one home, and move to another ranch many, many miles away.
I remember her pain as they lost not only a job, but also a home. One they never owned, but that was theirs nevertheless.
“Circling Back home: A Plainswoman’s Journey” reminds me of my friend’s story. Author Darcy Lipp-Acord is a woman from South Dakota not New Mexico like my friend, and she has six children not two. But the call of the land and a lifestyle that leads these two women to support husbands as they move from one ranch job to another, is the same.
There is no permanency in being the hired cowboy. It can be a great job, one that lasts for years, or it can be a year or two of unfulfilled dreams and low pay before moving to something hopefully a little better. Lipp-Acord takes you through the years with her family growing from marriage to one daughter and then four more girls ... and a son. She weaves the stories in the way her grandmothers quilted or crocheted heirloom blankets and throws.
Lipp-Acord is an essayist who draws inspiration from planting and harvesting gardens of vegetables and flowers, and from hikes with a favored dog to find a patch of wild raspberries. She has a love-hate relationship with ranching. Truly relishing the freedom for children to play in the outdoors, she rails at the demands on her husband who like most ranchers spends long hours working for “the boss” resulting in loss of family time.
Between ranch jobs and children, Lipp-Acord falls back on her own profession, teaching literature to schoolchildren, and she carves out a place and the time to do her own writing.
This is a book written over the course of decades; it is drawn from her journals and from her childhood. It bounces back and forth an intermingled telling of the stories of her grandmothers, parents, and siblings and those of her daughters, son and husband.
Passages in this book are truly lyrical and captivating, but honestly, I found the back-and-forth mingling of her childhood with her modern life sometimes distracting and hard to follow, especially in the cases when she switches the story line from one paragraph to the next with no transition whatsoever.
If you’ve hired on as a ranch hand, though, you will surely appreciate her telling of a story that is almost universal in its theme. On the occasion of one move, she wrote, “Letting go of this place tears at my heart. I’ve planted gardens and flowers here, buried old horses and baby foals here, conceived and borne three children here. In five years, a place can become such a part of your soul that leaving it feels like leaving your self.” ❖