By Mary Clearman Blew
In language equivalent to the wild fantastic thing about significant Sky state, Mary Clearman Blew provides us a glimpse into the lives of her relatives as she lines their connection to Montana’s traditional and human panorama. starting along with her great-grandparents’ arrival in 1882 in Montana--still a territory then--Blew relates the tales that make up her life.
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Additional info for All but the Waltz: A Memoir of Five Generations in the Life of a Montana Family
I was teaching again, a little awkwardly after years in higher ed administration, and finding time to write. Then, at Christmas, 1 opened the envelope from my sister and took out the print of my great-grandparents' photograph and looked at a face as familiar as my own pulse: a man whose handsome arched brows and eyes, forever fixed beyond me into the middle distance, were my father's to the life. Haunted, I sat and studied the fine lines, the familiar mouth and cheekbones, the austere shape of the head.
Abraham discovered that writing about the northern plains was another means of transforming them into space he could measure and control. The draft of his short story shows he was aware of the conventional Western of his day and the ways in which its melodramatic plot line defines perspective. The forays of his stereotypical scout against stereotypical outlaws seem oddly juxtaposed against an actual landscape that I can locate today. Perhaps Abraham himself was aware of the distance between the West as romantic invention and the West as he knew it, for it is on his description of the real landscape that he lavishes the most care.
A picture taken about this time shows the family on horseback in the big meadow below the ranch buildings. My father wears a light shirt, a dark vest, and chaps. His hat, characteristically, shades his face, obscuring it, but a cigarette juts white from the shadow, and the tilt of his shoulders, the angle of his stirrups, his seat on his big strawberry roan mare Sandy, are lines I would recognize instantly, anywhere, in my sleep. Beside him is my mother on Pardner, his top horse. My sister Betty and I, at ages five and eight, sit astride the gray ponies.