The Supreme Court justice, writing with her brother, turns in an affectionate portrait of life on a desert ranch in the years before WWII.
“Most any place provides better grazing than the sparse, open high desert country south of the Gila River on the border of Arizona and New Mexico,” O’Connor and Day write. Nonetheless, that is where their grandfather, a transplanted New Englander, chose to homestead in 1880, selecting as his cattle brand a “B” lying on its side, whence “Lazy B.” Business was good in those early years, less good by the time O’Connor and Day’s parents, whom they call DA and MO, took over an operation that covered nearly 160,000 acres, much of it owned by the federal and state governments. The authors write with insight and much good humor about the daily business of ranch life, offering notes on cowboy culture, the training of horses, “the almost constant presence of flies,” and the difficulty of supplying cows with a supply of drinking water on a hot, vast range. Readers seeking insight into the origins of O’Connor’s conservative judicial politics, though, will note few direct professions of faith in these pages, though occasionally the justice lets fly against “big government” and scorns the efforts of the Bureau of Land Management and other agencies to curtail overgrazing on federal lands in the interest of preserving the fragile desert grassland—efforts, she and Day suggest, that led to their decision to sell the family ranch in 1993, thus bringing more than a century of ranch history to a close.
A valuable and welcome addition to the regional literature and to that of ranching, though possibly of limited interest to readers in greener climes.