In 1964 Annick Smith came to Montana with her husband Dave and their boys. In a fertile valley where meadows tip downward toward the Big Blackfoot River, they found what they had dreamed of: 163 acres of ranch land with a view of creek, hills, and the Rattlesnake Mountains. The Montana of which Annick Smith writes in this spirited and generous book is the not-so-distant West of outlaws and pioneers, Indians and soldiers, range inspectors and cattle thieves. Smith writes of her friendship with Norman Maclean, who memorialized the Big Blackfoot in A River Runs Through It, and she eloquently makes the case for preserving the fragile wild environments that are our sacred places.
The last few pieces of the book, in which she talks of trips and expeditions she made, alone or with Kittredge, to Europe and Alaska, did not interest me quite as much as the early part of the book. Although the quality of her writing is undiminished, these "filler" pieces gave the book a kind of uneven feel. In the end, the stories of her family, her large circle of friends, and the land where she has lived for over forty years, are the best. (I was reminded, while reading Homestead, of two other, younger Montana writers, husband and wife Tom and Jennifer Groneberg, also transpanted Chicagoans. Between them they have written three memoirs now: The Secret Life of Cowboys, One Good Horse, and Road Map to Holland. If you want a fascinating and heartfelt look at more recent, modern ranch life in Montana, try these.) I'm glad to have found and read Annick Smith's fine book about Montana and its charms.