A Few Good Horses, by Pierce Burns. Austin: Gap Creek Press (12109 Shetland Chase, 78727), 2008. Well designed back hardback and excellent cover. ISBN 9780615164892. $24.95, 174 pp. Notes, index, many photos. http://www.pierceburns.com
Burns, who now lives in Austin and visits the ranch, offers more than a few good chapters on his family's heritage through smooth, readable prose, and the reader's sense of being there pervade the social life and customs of many folks, not just those in about Brown County and the Hill Country.
Although the recounting reaches back to the 1840's and forward to the 1940's, the best
and main focus is his life during the Teens, Twenties and Depression. He begins the tome as a
five-year-old boy, Christmas 1939, in the presence of "heroes, giants, and saints" at his
grandfather's knee. And there're blue northers, a secret marriage ("We gotta tell Daddy we're
married. We can't go on like this"), careful food calculating (people and livestock), circuses in
Brownwood, swimming in the mountain creek, the school bus incident, Sunday Best, building
the fence ("Needs to go another six inches"), and Papa and Uncle Billy's building of the ranch
and distant expeditions despite hard times. It was a time of Tall women, going about birthing,
clothing, rounding up cattle and sheep. By the way, they did find the lump of silver left after the
grandparents' house burned.
The chapter, "Killing Hogs and Canning Food," takes me back to my father's killing
chickens and my mother's preserving figs. The grace and precision of the descriptions there, and
throughout the volume, suggest the author's keen memory and technical bend (he holds patents).
And the volume is patently good. It touches the heart, mind, and a documentary
testament to real life.
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