A Good Summer Read

Before we dive into all the hustle and bustel and beauty of summer, I wanted to share four more good reads. So, as you settle into that backyard chaise lounge or relax by you cabin at Elk Lake, you can enjoy a taste of Montana (or at least the 'real west') if you bring one of these along!


Author: Willa Cather

Genre: Historic Fiction

Setting: Nebraska

The vast majority of Montana is grassland - rolling hills covered with grass and or grass and sage. However, to date, I have not found that one quality, worth-every-minute read which leaves one feeling like they've been there - experienced that. So, I took the next best option - I listened to a classic set in Nebraska when their grasslands ruled.

Willa Cather's book has been dubbed a romance, but it certainly doesn't fall anywhere near the modern sweaty, steamy romance pile. Yes there is affection, even some love and hate, but true to the classics of old (which managed to tell a good story without being 'R' rated), Willa's book touches the heart without leaving one scrambling for a scrub brush for their mind!

This lovely story reads more like a 'journal' focused on a boy (Jim) and a Behomeian immigrant girl (Antonia). It is set in Nebraska's early days when fences were non-existent and homesteading was the norm. Willa takes one into the heart of this often tough life and allows her reader to feel the hardships and challenges as well as the joys and delights. From the dugout to city comforts, Jim (our narrator) follows Antonia's life.

I truly enjoyed this book and gladly award it 4 stars. If you're looking for a way to experience some of the history of the area, take the time to read (or listen) to this one.


Author: Hughie Call

Genre: Historic Fiction

Setting: Montana

I learned about "The Shorn Lamb" from a Montana ranch wife's blog. Her modern-day Montana ranching family raises cattle and sheep. Thus when she spoke highly of Hughie's story, based upon her 'experience' (not her life) as a Montana sheep rancher's wife, I had to find a copy. It did not disappoint.

While this story is a bit more of a 'romance', once again the 'real' story is the life lived by the folks seeking to make their way in an often harsh and unforgiving - yet always beautiful and enchanting land.

Hughie sets her book in a more modern era - I'm guessing the 70's. The heroin is a young widow who is struggling to make a go of her husband's ranch after his accidental death. The hero, John, bring a maimed hand and a mysterious tragic past into our story. Through numerous challenges and trials the two learn mutual respect which eventually turns to love - for each other and an orphaned little girl.

The bulk of the story, however, focuses around ranch life. Set somewhere in the Ruby Valley, Hughie's story draws the reader into the joys and struggles of living life against the odds. Her descriptions of working the sheep, the life of the shepherd, and sheering day are particularly poignant. Her knowledge of and love for Montana ranch life are clearly seen.

This book is simple and delightful. Definitely a pick if you want to experience a little local culture without ruining your brain's vacation. I'd give it 4 stars.


Author: G.A. Henty

Genre: Historical Fiction

Setting: The Rocky Mountains

The last two books are from one of my all time favorite authors. Few people have heard of G.A. Henty - and to their loss. A prolific author, Mr. Henty wrote over 140 books and short stories aimed at young men and women from around the world. A British novelest, he was born in 1832 and died in 1902. He began his career as a war correspondent. His stories, which some say began as after dinner tales for his own children, are drawn from his extensive experience and travels. All are quite historically accurate making them an enjoyable way to build your historical knowledge too.

Most of Mr. Henty's works are set in places where the British empire had control. Therefore they have taken me to exotic locals like India. Some even dare to step back into the distant past. Thus I've traveled to Moses' Egypt. A few are set in the United States - as are the two I will review today.

The Hero of the first book, "In The Heart of The Rockies" is Tom, an orphaned English boy who travels to Colorado to meet up with an Uncle. Uncle Harry had left for the states several years earlier in search of gold.

Set mostly in Colorado and New Mexico, the story takes us from Indian fights to a dangerous trip through the Grand Canyon in a horsehide canoe, and back again. It is an interesting read far above today's 'typical' young adult mind-mush. In fact, in my opinion, Henty's books are interesting enough for an adult OR an adventure-minded middle schooler. I'd recommend you buy at least one (I'd stick with more 'known' locals to start), if not for yourself, for a young reader you know.

I almost always (almost because I have picked up a few books which dealt with subjects / places which just couldn't capture my interest) recommend Henty's books without reserve. Thus I give this book 5 stars.


Author: G.A. Henty

Genre: Historical Fiction

Setting: American Southwest

While the setting of this final book was not as 'close to home' as I had hoped, the story, nonetheless, does a great job of bringing its reader into the life and times of the early west. Certainly this qualifies is a first-rate tale told skillfully by a time-honored author.

The title, "Redskin And The Cowboy" can be a bit misleading. While Cowboys and Indians do play a role, this story takes us from American gold mines to lush English estates and back to an early American settlement.

The hero faces numerous trials and tribulations along his road, yet his experiences also bring to life the early days - days of large cattle drives, cattle rustlers, expansive miles-square ranches, and all the challenges and excitement which went into living in America's early days.

Once again Henty's tale is packed full of page turning adventures. I'd definitely give this a 5-star rating.

Thus we come to the end of another book review - and the end of another winter. Spring has taken firm hold here at Elk Lake. Thus, next time, we will be back to focusing on the beauty out my back door. Until then, enjoy!

Lady of the Lake


Centennial Winter Photo Anthology - March 2013

First off, an apology. After posting regularly to Elk Lake News for the past several years, the 'writing juices' needed a break. Thus the silence. The time off has been delightful - and, hopefully, has recharged my creativity and sparked a few new post ideas. We'll see. Thank you for coming back to see if we're still around!

Winter's baton has officially passed to spring, but letting go can come hard in the Centennial. One day spring rules. Next dawn rises, its crown hidden by fresh snow. Yet solar power will not be denied - laying bare more ground each day. Even fading before my eyes, the snow's beauty still remains - at least in the photos captured when its kingdom stood secure.

Thus, one month remains to share- a time of pristine beauty when winter white christened with diamond carpets.

March shone as winter's gem - sparkling sunny days and crisp cool nights. Saphire blue crowed emerald green sprinkled across cut crystal carpets.

Sunny days do not deepen snow. Yet, March sun rays do not hold the power to subdue. Thus day after glorious day we enjoyed spring snow under bright skies.

Best of all, a firm base and good coverage provided great snowmobiling. One afternoon we decided to 'take a drive'!

How many and which animals can you spot in this photo? Unfortunately I was too slow. The eagles had taken flight.

Pain from beauty? Sometimes - it almost hurts to view something so lovely, so perfect, so pristine!

Yet, pristine skies day upon day, covered their face when spring announced its arrival. Winter replied, "Oh, really?"

Spring snow changes the snowshoeing experience. Surprises appear from under the snow like rabbits from a hole. Snowshoes do not sink, but dog feet pick up baggage.

And so the winter drew to a close - glorious in color, grandeur, and beauty. Nine years and I still find it hard to believe "I" am the one blessed to look upon such rare delights!

Lady of the Lake