Editor's note: “Deep Creek: Finding Hope in the High Country” is the winner in the Creative Nonfiction category of the 2020 High Plains Book Awards.
Pam Houston’s “Deep Creek: Finding Hope in the High Country” is a series of essays covering the period of her life between the time that she purchases a ranch in the Colorado high country (for 5% on a twenty-year note) and the recent past. The note promises payments of money that she did not have. The book follows her trials and tribulations in holding onto the property including a large wildfire that threatens it. Shortly after the fire, she is able to make the final payment.
The author uses novelistic devices to tell a true story, so there is dialogue and a real story to keep things moving along. Houston's writing is honest and realistic, as is the love of her various ranch animals — the Irish Wolfhounds, horses, sheep and burros — which play a large role in the book.
The story is one of being at the ranch but having to go away to afford it, as she is unable to turn down writing or teaching assignments that she is offered. The colorful characters who tend the ranch and the animals while she is away add to the vibrancy of the story.
The essay on fire that threatens her ranch is particularly meaningful to me. I know just how she feels, as I had a fire threaten my “home away from home” 12 years ago. This essay is perhaps a little too long and gets bogged down by the details of the fire.
I think you will enjoy this book. It is realistic and down to earth, and one walks away when finished with the book thinking that you know the author well.
Bernard Rose is a retired Professor of Economics from Rocky Mountain College and is a member of the board of the Billings Public Library Foundation, among others.
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