Barefoot-Hearted: A Wild Life Among Wildlife

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9780375504389: Barefoot-Hearted: A Wild Life Among Wildlife

"The Wyoming Centennial Wagon Train ended in Cody in a dismal, torn-down drive-in movie theater. Before setting up the corral, we were forced to clear away shards of glass, bent nails, broken lumber. My prairie skirt and petticoats hung ragged and clay-caked, and under a droopy Stetson my frizzled hair appeared at once greased and starched beyond human recognition. A cloud, a sort of vaporousness, redolent with fresh acrid sweat on top of powerful stale sweat, hung thickly about me. Laced, as it was, with a woman's sweet musky secretions, and all gone past ripe, oddly it was a pungency I savored. Such goaty piquance, though, was cause to be shunned in any town setting.

The look of my world had changed. Gone were the high-dollar designer clothes and the zipping around fabled Marin County in a candy-apple-red 1966 Mustang convertible. It was true that I unfailingly sought the ironies in life and, with a kind of dual personality, shifted easily through incongruencies such as town strolls in high heels and backcountry hiking in bare feet; the bucket seats of a classic automobile and the broken-down bench of a beater truck. It was only during the years that Iíd worn white overalls, taped drywall, and come home every night much like Charles Schulz's Pig Pen, flaking a cloud of dried white mud bits onto the rug, that I'd felt moved to keep my fingernails painted red. Now I was to slip farther than ever planned toward one end of my seesaw and then, incredibly, by conscious design, inch out even farther."
--from Barefoot-Hearted

With more than 1.5 million copies in print, Kathleen Meyer's groundbreaking international bestseller, How to Shit in the Woods: An Environmentally Sound Approach to a Lost Art, has been widely embraced by the outdoor community and has found its way into myriad places: national parks, outdoor leadership schools and scout-troop headquarters, the camp tents of those who have discovered that it is amusing out-loud reading, and the bathroom-literature baskets of households around the world.

Now, from the Rocky Mountain West, Meyer brings us Barefoot-Hearted: A Wild Life Among Wildlife, a coming-into-the-country story told with the frank, dry humor and sharp research of her first book. The country, in this case, is Montana's tall, reaching landscape with its ever underfoot wild critters; the on-tenterhooks territory of a new romantic relationship; and the pressure cooker that is our precarious global imbalance. Meyer finds herself in midlife standing out under yawning skies, surrounded by sagebrush and cactus, having fallen for the Irish charm of itinerant farrier Patrick McCarron. As partners, they travel across three mountain states with draft horses and a covered wagon and then set up housekeeping in a seventy-five-year-old dairy barn.

In this primitive structure, the author rapidly discovers she's living with troops of mice, a nursery colony of seventy-five bats, sexually fired-up skunks, and more flies than in a pig shed. She tells of a freakish season that or-phaned seventy-seven bear cubs, an unusual fly-fishing trip on a famed blue-ribbon trout stream, the visitations of moose, and the discovery of a den of wolves.

Meyer's prose is original and inspired, playful yet provocative. She carries us vividly back to the settlers' old West while pondering modern-day dilemmas, those of fitting into this fast hurtling world, of determining amid the earth's rising extinctions of species, whose planet it is, and of managing to stay empowered residing with a man who "stands six feet six and beats steel on an anvil for a living." A personal chronicle of conscience and a love story of rare and quirky dimension, Barefoot-Hearted catapults readers into new realms of thought, deftly guided there by Meyer's sense of the ironic, the randy, and the humorous.

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Review:

Memoirs by urbanites who homestead in the country and learn hard lessons in the bargain are many, but few attain the depths of a Walden or Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. Readers of those books will want to spend time with Kathleen Meyer's sometimes playful, sometimes somber Barefoot Hearted, which brings a resolutely modern sensibility to some ancient problems--among them, how to live with the creatures on whose homes humans have intruded, and how to learn the arts of self-sufficiency.

Meyer, the author of the indelicately titled but highly useful How to Shit in the Woods, recounts how she and her partner set about making an old Montana barn into a fit home. The job was daunting, she learned: in winter, the place was so cold that she had to bundle up in gear befitting an Antarctic explorer, no easy garb for, well, performing certain functions. And, she found, the barn and its environs had become a shelter for many animals, some of which she welcomed (among them bats and, strangely, skunks), some of which she reluctantly waged war against (specifically a never-ending army of mice). She sets those challenges against a thoughtful, ongoing discussion that touches upon important philosophical issues: the responsibilities of those who live on the edges where civilization and wilderness meet, and the responsibilities of humans to preserve what little of wild nature is left in a time of wholesale extinction and slaughter.

Wise, literate, and often moving, Meyer's memoir is required reading for anyone contemplating a move to places beyond the avenue--and for anyone who values a good story well told. --Gregory McNamee

From the Back Cover:

"Barefoot-Hearted is both wise and knowledgeable; warmhearted and truly funny, and above all, honest."

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