Boulder City Magazine® August 2010 Issue
by Fran Haraway
Half Broke Horses
by Jeannette Walls
Jeannette Walls wrote The Glass Castle, a memoir highlighting one of the most dysfunctional yet entertaining families ever recorded. In Half Broke Horses, the novelized life of her grandmother, Mary Casey Smith, Jeannette Walls tells of triumph overcoming tribulation - almost daily!
Boulder City Magazine®
|Mary Casey’s mother considered herself a lady, and she worked hard to keep her three kids “genteel.” Her father was a Luddite who said that machinery killed the soul and who argued that mankind’s ills would be cured by Prohibition and phonetic spelling. He raised carriage horses, and his kids could break and ride anything equine.
The family lived in that area of west Texas called the High Lonesome, but bad luck sent them to Santa Fe, New Mexico. Mary’s education was sporadic but she was brought up with her father’s Theory of Purpose: If you don’t find your Purpose, you’re just taking up space on the planet. Trying to locate that Purpose, the seventh-grade graduate passed an exam enabling her to teach in a one-room schoolhouse in Red Lake, Arizona. Then World War II ended, and certified teachers needed positions again, so Mary was out of a job.
A few years in Chicago showed her that city life was not part of her Purpose, so she came back west, married “Big Jim” Smith and became a rancher in Ash Fork, Seligman, and Peach Springs, Arizona, among other places. The Smiths’ successes can be explained by Big Jim’s comment on the failure of the Hohokam Indians: “They thought they could civilize the desert and it was their undoing. The only way to survive in the desert is to recognize that it is the desert.”
Mary Casey’s story of ranching in the American Southwest was one of hardship and happiness. Mary’s and Jim’s creative ways of dealing with the setbacks that the economy and the weather were constantly handing them form a handbook for making good times out of hard times. As Mary’s father, the breaker of horses, always said, “The most important thing in life is learning how to fall.”
If you are interested in this book or would like to learn more, contact me at info@bouldercity magazine.com.
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