Wolves and ranching will never co-exist. Despite government-overseen reintroduction, despite reimbursement for predation, wolves are hunters and cattle are easy prey. As soon as I read the blurb, I knew this memoir wouldn’t end without blood being spilled. Yet Bryce Andrews’ easy voice and excellent writing drew me, and I was uncontrollably along for the collision when predator and unintended prey met.
A first-hand account of life on a modern day cattle ranch, Andrews has a wonderful way with words and a voice that is strong and draws the reader in. His descriptions of the beauty of the ranch and the land in Montana read smoothly and are not bogged down in excessive detail. His concise yet poetic way of “speaking” truly makes this memoir. He can make you laugh with one sentence and have you yearning for the wild mountains of Montana in the next. His words paint a picture before your reading eyes until you feel as if you are standing knee-deep in a Montana winter with snow battering your face and the wind burning your skin. It’s rare an author can capture such a scene without overtelling and dulling the sensation, but Andrew’s succeeds and excels at it.
I appreciate the author’s honesty. Nothing is sugar coated, not the description of the wolves’ kills or the daily grind or the grim task of dealing with cows maimed by predators. This is what life on a ranch is truly like. It’s a glimpse into a world and a life that most of us will never know, and Andrews made me both relieved and saddened by that fact as I read.
I wasn’t certain I wanted to read this book at first. I love wolves. I followed their reintroduction into Yellowstone and read every book on the subject I could get my hands on. With this being a cattle ranch set in the wilds of the west, I knew there would be wolf encounters, and I had a pretty good idea of how a ranch hand would deal with a wolf; yet Andrews surprised me. He seemed as enchanted with the wolves as I am. In fact, in his first encounter with one, he was too awed to do anything other than watch. In the end, the hardship of trying to co-exist with wolves and the gruesome actions that must be taken to stop predation changed Andrews, but not in the way I was expecting. I think Andrews says it best himself: “The ranch’s two predominant qualities were beauty and brutality.”