This House of Sky: Landscapes of a Western Mind

This House of Sky: Landscapes of a Western Mind

Ivan Doig

Language: English

Pages: 336

ISBN: 0156899825

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

A haunting, magnificently written memoir by Ivan Doig about growing up in the American West


Ivan Doig grew up in the rugged wilderness of western Montana among the sheepherders and denizens of small-town saloons and valley ranches. What he deciphers from his past with piercing clarity is not only a raw sense of land and how it shapes us but also of the ties to our mothers and fathers, to those who love us, and our inextricable connection to those who shaped our values in our search for intimacy, independence, love, and family. A powerfully told story, This House of Sky is at once especially American and universal in its ability to awaken a longing for an explicable past.

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pills. Whenever she felt the first signs of angina, usually needlelike sensations at the tops of her arms, she would pop a nitroglycerine pill into her mouth as if it were an aspirin, determinedly sit still for a few minutes, and be up and at some chore again. Outwardly, she aged hardly at all. I compare photos of her taken five years apart, and they seem to have been snapped within the same minute, the identical pursed smile beneath the resolute upper face and gray-white field of hair. I found

a little every day, until the carcasses began to make dark humps on the white desert of snow. It was early June of 1920 before spring greened out from under the snowdrifts in the Basin. We had about 60 head of cattle left, and about half a dozen horses, and not a dime. The losses killed whatever hopes had been that the Basin ranch would be able to bankroll Dad and the other brothers in ranching starts of their own. Like seeds flying on the Basin's chilly wind, they began to drift out one after

he could tip down a glass of beer willingly enough, Dad was not what the valley called a genuine drinking man. With him, alcohol stood a distant second to the company he found along the barstools. The pattern is gone now, even from White Sulphur Springs, but in its time it was as ordered and enlivening as a regimental trooping of the colors. I come to it yet, even as Dad with me at his waist did, a night or two in mid-week and Saturday nights without miss, as a traveler into a street lit with

which sluices them through smoothly. He watches too for lame or sick ewes, to be singled out later and put in the hospital herd. A black ewe blurs past, a marker sheep. Dad can glance across a band of sheep for its markers—a black ewe here, over there, one with a floppy ear, beyond, one with a Roman nose—and estimate closely whether the entire thousand ewes are there. The sheep don't look all alike to me, but neither do they look as separate as Dad sees them. Each ewe is different as a person to

soldiering and family line. On the other hand, she made a perplexity for the Hoot men when they came to visit Dad, with her refusal to withdraw and leave the conversation to the males. Her abrupt verdicts of the world were beyond their ken— Ach, veil, perhaps, Mizzus Ringer, perhaps, but yet— and our rankly household must have been as mysterious to the Hutterites as their ordered family regiments were to us. Yet Dad evidently was a sensible enough soul on any topic except women, and their

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