Synopses & Reviews
For Eileen O'Keeffe McVicker, born in 1927 to an Irish immigrant sheep rancher and a school teacher, growing up on a homestead in the West made for "a hard, happy life with layers of riches."
McVicker's memoir of a childhood spent on the southern slope of Steens Mountain offers a real-life, personal account of eastern Oregon history. An "outdoor child" all her life, McVicker tells stories that revolve around life on the ranch-tending sheep, picking wildflowers, doing chores-and describes everyday adventures: a rabid coyote threatens the family; a wild mustang stallion tries to kill her father; a Merino buck sheep leaps through the schoolhouse window.
Images of Steens country wild sagebrush and juniper country, with rugged vistas in every direction are woven throughout her recollections, which share the profound sense of place found in the best Western memoirs. While vividly describing ranch life, Child of Steens Mountain also explores universal issues of parenting, making a living, and growing up. The homesteading life built a child's character and confidence, and as she reaches adulthood, McVicker, raised to be independent and responsible, ultimately defies her parents to follow her own path.
McVicker's neighbor and friend, Barbara J. Scot, edited and organized the narration while preserving the author's distinctive voice. In an afterword, Scot reflects on McVicker's experiences and describes the collaborative process including a visit to the old homestead site that led to this book. Historian Richard Etulain, whose own childhood was spent on a sheep ranch in the West, provides an overview of sheep ranching and homesteading in Steens country in his foreword.
Whether intrigued by Oregon history, the high desert country, or memoirs of homesteading life, readers will be unable to resist these appealing stories of growing up amid the natural beauty of Steens country.