I recently reread one of my favorite books, a book of memoir-essays by Wyoming writer Mark Spragg. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys reading about a passionate connection to the mountains, to wild and domesticated animals, to the seasons, to nature and to each other.
Where Rivers Change Direction, originally published in 1999 by the University of Utah Press, is a brilliantly written account of Spragg’s upbringing on the oldest dude ranch in Wyoming, a remote spread on the Shoshone National Forest. The Shoshone just happens to be the largest block of unfenced wilderness in the lower 48 states.
Mark Spragg gives literary life and homage to the wild and unforgiving landscape where he was raised, and where he has returned to as a man. There are paragraphs I have written down to keep near me when I need inspiration as a writer. And there are passages that so perfectly describe life in the mountains that I wonder why I even try to say it any differently.
Spragg’s stories are rich with setting, character and vivid storytelling. He writes of his first horse, the hard work of the ranch, spending a winter alone in the wilderness, being tracked by a bear, his difficulty living in more populated areas, his mother’s death and more.
Here’s an excerpt from one of my favorite essays in the book, “My Sister’s Boots.”
“After breakfast, it is just dawn. My father and I stand on the lodge porch looking south. He holds a mug of coffee, and it steams in the cool air. He sets the coffee on the porchboards and lights a cigarette and takes the mug up again and sips and leans against the rail. The thick stand of lodgepole and fir along the creek casts a block of pointed shadow to the west. We stand in the fringe of that shadow. In front of us and to the downlight side of each sage is fallen a furred plum of lesser shadow. The nightchill has dropped and holds fast against the valley floor. The songbirds have risen to the heat. They preen and skitter in the topmost limbs of the pines. The mountain across the valley is thrust up brightly in the morning light.“
Spragg’s novels are wonderful reads, as well. He has a new one out right now, titled Bone Fire, and I have it reserved at the library. I can’t wait.
Read more about Mark Spragg in this online interview with the author.
Have a good book recommendation to share? Please comment below!
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