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Continued from Cow Camp!

As I read through mother’s journals, her strident generalizations and labels jump out at me. But it was her strident opinions that provoked our clashes, even when I mostly agreed with her. To my horror, I recognize that same tone in my own unbidden opinions.

Her vocabulary is full of “westerners, easterners, New Yorkers,” “Bears are generally not dangerous to man, the average city man does not know this.” Why man instead of people? She was blind to her own sexism. Yes, it was a different time. But other writers of the times knew better, Rachel Carson and Eudora Welty to name just two. Then there’s the city/country prejudice. Perhaps that validated her resolution to live in the west. I can’t help but snort over her cravings for urban food like soy beans, which didn’t become an edible item in western states till the following century.

And there are the dates. Or the lack of dates. Or the lack of connection between dates. She arrived in Cody in April. Sometime between May and the third week of April, Yry conceived. I have found no written proof, no letters gushing of a momentous meeting, no excitement about impending changes, no mention of queasiness or worry. But facts will incontrovertibly support this claim. It had to have happened during that brief visit to “the dentist” in Sheridan before she arrived at the Rhoads’ ranch.

Her love of the high country remained true. Her heart thumped in tune with the weather when sharp peaks pricked the clouds cruising overhead and goaded the sky into clashing, gashing thunder and lightning that shattered the sky like broken glass, cracking and rumbling against granite and dumping quick, drenching rains over the dusty land below.

She marveled at dazzling sunrises and sunsets and observed how the landscape morphed beneath the sun as it marched westward each afternoon. She reveled in the solitude, just her, the weather, the animals, and the mountains. Even returning, hot and thirsty, to her cabin to discover a dead mouse in her third dipper full of water couldn’t dim her enthusiasm. She was amused by the riotous yip yapping of coyotes. She gulped in the thrill of surprising a bear in a clearing and watching its undulating buttocks disappear into the bushes.

In early July the larkspur bloom faded and she returned from cow camp to resume more mundane ranch chores. Every chance she got, she broke away for a ride into the breaks just to be out there, alone, with the sky for a hat. As her horse picked its way through rocks, cacti, and sage, her mind floated. Surely by now, she had to know what lurked in her belly. My own gut lurches empathetically as I consider the questions and fears that had to be tumbling over each other. What would she do? What could she do? What answers could the ropes of clouds stretching over the distant horizon offer?

A letter from her father bemoaned that he had not yet managed to secure household help for Norah. They were talking about perhaps moving to a smaller flat in the future.

It seems, as if you have not the slightest inclination and wish to come East and pass some time with us.

I have no news from the other side, (Germany) and we are thinking often of grandmother Emma, Willy, Valeria, and their children. What a terrible time they are passing through! Are they still amongst the living and what will be the news?

Well, keep healthy and cheerful and be heartily greeted and embraced by your father.

Continued