Sandra Day O’Connor is in the news today saying that the Supreme Court should have stayed out of the 2000 Bush/Gore election. So I thought I would take the opportunity to review her book, which I just finished, entitled The Lazy B: Growing Up on a Cattle Ranch in the American Southwest. She co-wrote it with her brother Alan.
Since I grew up on a cattle ranch, I love reading these kinds of stories. They fill me with nostalgia for my childhood home. Since ranching in the Southwest is very different from ranch in NE Oregon, there really were quite a few differences between her upbringing and mine.
I loved the long descriptions of people who lived and worked on the ranch. I loved the honorable attitude of the farmers. This is something I’ve heard people give lip service to my whole life, but it’s something I’ve grown to appreciate more as I get older and see how it plays out in the real world. The people described in the book were completely honest with their word. In many ways, they selflessly sought the best outcome for each situation. In my world, people are far more self-serving and ambitious to a fault. It was refreshing to see how doing the right thing for the whole group was consistently best for the individual.
Of course, there were politics. O’Connor, like in her time on the Supreme Court, was a good politician in the book, pointing out problems, analyzing them, but never really taking a stance one way or the other. Good politicians and critical thinkers know that it’s usually more complicated than that. It’s usually not “one way or the other.” So I appreciated that nuance.
I would have seen more critical commentary of her father and a deeper portrait of her mother. The father calls the shots and wins every argument to a fault. The brother is cocky and bullheaded–even in adulthood. The mother seems typically suppressed for the time period. Everyone grew up, married, had children, and the lifestyle of the ranch–though beloved–was no longer sustainable because of the changing social and financial landscape. To me it represented a tragedy that could have been explored in more detail.