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. Notes, index, many photos. $24.95, 174 pp. http://www.pierceburns.com/
Pierce 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.
Burns' great-grandfather fled Ohio due to something they don't talk about much and came to Texas in 1847. There, he established a flourishing family and a then came a fine ranch.
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. They made ends meet. As a stereotype, think of them as somebody you'd want in your family.
By the way, they did find the lump of silver left after the grandparents’ house burned.
As for the cover photo, I'd almost swear they took one of my family's photos and put their kids in it. But they don't a hole in their t-shirt, at the navel, like I did.
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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