A Sandhill Memoir
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 The hardworking and long-suffering wife of an early Wisconsin ecologist delivers an impressive if occasionally long-winded account of economic survival and ecological commitment during the Depression. Both an autobiography and a paean to her husband, Grange's narrative is filled with unrelentingly hard labor, tragic reversals, and, ultimately, vindication. In the teeth of the Depression, Wallace Grange left a federal post in Washington, D.C., dragging a loyal, generally uncomplaining Hazel to northern Wisconsin to raise pheasants. Never profitable, the venture was marred by two house fires, an ambitious but financially unsuccessful rabbit trapping and shipping operation (hence the title), and a continual struggle with bad roads and harsh weather. Moving farther west into central Wisconsin, the Granges purchased some 15 square miles of marshy farmland where they slowly began to restore the ecosystem to its presettlement condition, and establish a viable game farm with natural habitat for deer, grouse, prairie chickens, and muskrats, among other species. Along the way, Wallace Grange, a contemporary and friend of the naturalist Aldo Leopold, authored several landmark studies arising from his work with wildlife and ecosystems. Grange, however, concentrates not on her husband's science but on their struggles and victories, played out against the backdrop of a time when modern technology had made few inroads and the science of ecology was as yet poorly understood. Written for publication in the '50s but not issued until now, Grange's musings are quaintly styled, with a number of creaky, outdated allusions and clichÇs; a blow-by-blow report of her husband's longstanding, finally triumphant battle against the Wisconsin Conservation Commission's attempt to unfairly revoke the couple's game farm license is tiresome, as are some running observations about inquisitive tourists. Still, there is plenty to be learned about a time when hard work did have its rewards and when couples stayed together through hardships and disagreements; and animal lovers, especially, will find delight in Grange's memoirs.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1996
ISBN: 1-883755-08-5
Page count: 356pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1996


NonfictionVISITING TOM by Michael Perry
by Michael Perry