Rough Breaks: A Wyoming High Country Memoir
by Laurie Wagner Buyer

University of Oklahoma Press, 2013. ISBN 978-0-806-14375-0.
Reviewed by Janet Caplan
Posted on 09/08/2013

Nonfiction: Memoir; Nonfiction: Nature/Place/Environment

Rough Breaks by Laurie Wagner Buyer could have, in my opinion, just as easily been called Tough Breaks. Either way, the writer introduces us to a life in Wyoming's ranch country that is extremely difficult.

The memoir spans a period of about six years in the 1980's that Buyer spent on the O Bar Y Ranch in Wyoming's high country. She'd been living just north of the ranch when she and her partner go their separate ways and Laurie signs on for work and board with Mick Buyer, owner with his wife Margie of the O Bar Y.

Over time, Laurie becomes close to the family and develops a personal relationship with Mick, a tough rancher totally committed to the land and a way of life. The family dynamics, while somewhat unusual, eventually work themselves out.

Laurie partners with Mick not just in a romantic way but in her dedication to the ranch land, livestock and wild animals it shelters. Through Buyer's fine prose, we are afforded generous views of the day to day life on the O Bar Y ranch, from baling hay, mending fences, caring for sick and new born animals, feeding them and much more. Money is always a problem, we learn, and the struggle seems endless.

Buyer's description of the environment—the land, the rivers that run though and the severe climate that the ranchers and their charges endured—is vivid. At times I felt as if I were sinking into the deep snows that obliterated the trails and roads that the ranchers worked so hard to maintain, or fighting against the heavy winds and rains blowing across the landscape.

This readable memoir showed me a glimpse of a way of life I knew nothing about. And what a rough/tough life it is. So much seems to come at these ranchers so quickly, and reacting properly and swiftly is critical, as is self-reliance and reliance on family and neighbors. Laurie Wagner Buyer brought this home to me in a well-written, compelling memoir that held my attention throughout.

Laurie Wagner Buyer is an award-winning poet, memoirist and novelist. Her books include When I Came West, Across the High Divide, Side Canyons, and Spring's Edge. She spent over 30 years living and working on remote ranches in the Rocky Mountain West and now lives in Texas. Visit her website.

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