Coyotes Always Howl at Midnight
Coyotes Always Howl at Midnight
Tales of a '70s Rancher's Wife
Perfect Bound Softcover
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Expecting high adventure, a widow naively moves to Colorado and marries a widower, owner of Poco Reino, a small ranch in the mountain-clad San Luis Valley. Both have young children: she, a 13-year-old son; he, a 6-year-old son and an 8-year-old daughter.

From day one -- with no prior experience -- the author turns into a stepmother and ranch hand. The results: often disastrous, other times quite funny.

Close encounters with animals she's only seen or driven by before leave her screaming in terror, or feigning bravery beyond the call of duty. "Me, touch a chicken?" "There's a snake on my windshield!"

The livestock sale barn, learning to ride a horse, raising a brood of 65 fancy-breed chickens provide surprising awakenings. And she never expected to be tramping in the mountains with a husband who is first, a biologist, and second (she discovers), a part-time rancher.

The children share the adventure. Their fun, and not-so-much fun, activities are described thoughout.

"Women are still pioneering -- and still venturing West."

HORSES ACTUALLY became a significant preoccupation for us.

Soon after Chris arrived at the ranch, Veryl bought him a horse at the sale barn: a beautiful Palomino – golden tan with a white mane and tail. Chris named her “Lady.”

Chris had taken riding lessons before coming to Colorado, and now to have a horse of his very own was to him an incredible event.

He rode Lady as often as he could, learned Western riding, and soon entered various horse shows in the valley and in New Mexico. Too young to drive a car or pickup, he also used Lady as transportation to the nearby homes of friends.

One summer day he rode across Highway 160, just one road south of Poco Reino, to a ranch on the other side. To do so, he had to pass the local KOA Kampground.

On his way back, this young teenager dressed in his usual jeans, “cowboy” hat, and boots was hailed by one of the campers. Surprised, Chris stopped Lady and found himself surrounded by travelers from somewhere other than the West who ooo-ed and ah-ed at this “real” cowboy, and snapped numerous pictures.

(In some vacationer’s picture album, Chris – at the time, probably the greenest “cowboy” in Colorado – no doubt lives as an example of that camper’s brush with the “real” West.)

Lady, however, gave Veryl, Chris, and me a scare one afternoon when we were carting her back to the ranch in our pickup truck’s stock bed from a horse show in Monte Vista, a town 17 miles west of Alamosa.

On one of the lonelier flat stretches of the highway, the horse suddenly decided she wanted to get out. Clearly she had not been tied down securely, and was able to get her front feet up over the right edge of the stock bed.

Veryl pulled over sharply to the side of the road, and we all jumped out, afraid that the entire truck would tip over.

Just then, a car carrying three local ranchers pulled up behind us.

The men, seeing the danger, quickly ran to our truck; one jumped in with the horse, the others began maneuvering Lady’s feet off the edge of the stock bed. The struggle lasted some time, but fi nally Lady was on all four of her feet and rehitched — this time properly — to her place in the truck.

No charge, they said. Thank you’s from us. Just an example of the “code” and neighborliness of the West.

In 1971, the author, Audrey Keen-Hansen, was a widow with a 13-year-old son for whom she very much wanted a father. She happened to meet a widower raising two children, ages 6 and 8. They needed a mother. The two parents decided to put the families together, but to do so, Audrey who had always lived in the city, had to move to her new husband's ranch in an isolated Colorado Valley. This book is about how she suddenly became a ranch hand and stepmother, and her adventures in doing so. Lots of mistakes; lots of laughs. A former broadcaster, news writer, and college professor. the author earned her B.A. and M.A. in Speech Communications from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and taught at Western Illinois University and the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. She currently lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She currently lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico.


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