Ankle High and Knee Deep: Women Reflect On Western Rural Life
by Gail L. Jenner

TwoDot, imprint of Globe Pequot Press, 2014. ISBN 978-0-762-79211-5.
Reviewed by Ann McCauley
Posted on 09/09/2014

Nonfiction: American Women in Their Cultural/Historical Context

It is a joy to read this eclectic collection of stories and essays by fifty-four country women from the west. But you don't have to be from the west or even from rural America to enjoy this anthology.

Ankle High, Knee Deep is organized into seven categories: Fortitude, Horse Sense, Community, Self-Reliance, Memory, Resilience and Lessons. Inspiring real life stories by these hard working, strong women pack each section, and overwhelm me with admiration and respect for them.

I'm a Pennsylvania country girl; I grew up on a farm with horses, so it isn't surprising that the Horse Sense section is my favorite, though the other sections tie as close seconds.

"Bugsy," the horse rescue story is riveting. Spring floods suddenly swell Colorado's Elk River and a horse is stranded. I was right there rooting for Bugsy's safe recovery. Palpitations and all!

"Daddy's Girl" is a poignant essay about the cycle of life. It is also the name of the writer's horse. The writer states that those who live, work, and grow up with animals, learn the lessons of life, and death comes naturally. However, when her horse dies, she realizes that "our drive was defined by our hope to sustain life, and in the end, the failure to do so is simply against our nature."

Every year we hear about the great fires of the west, but the Resilience section drives home the personal horrors of these news reports. The first-person descriptions take the reader to the scene of the fires. In "Watching my Hills": "The storm had moved in and just seemed to stop. Thunder rolled. Lightening came in rapid flashes that sought the earth. It seemed to suck the oxygen right out of your pores. Then to the north—two miles away—a strike. And almost immediately a blaze in the dark... One night several years ago, I counted thirteen blazes from my lookout post..."

This is a book with appeal for everyone. As a country girl, I've read many books about city life to gain understanding of a life different from my own. If you have country roots, of course you'll love it. However, if you are citified, born and bred, you will appreciate your country cousins like never before.

Read an excerpt from this book.

Gail L. Jenner is a former secondary history and English teacher who is married to a fourth-generation cattle rancher. She and her husband live on the original 150 year old homestead in the mountains of northern California where she works on the ranch and writes full time. Visit her blog.

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