Stuck in the Middle

Reviewed: Badluck Way: A Year on the Ragged Edge of the West by Bryce Andrews

Badluck Way is something of an enigma: it has political tension, a little blood, wandering and detailed prose and eloquent, precise nature writing, but this memoir about a 23-year-old Seattleite-turned rancher fades to grey against its vibrant Montana landscape. After graduating college, Andrews gets a job as a ranch hand on the Sun Ranch south of Ennis, Montana. There, he endures hard physical labor, from repairing barbed wire fences to hauling gallons of water across the ranch for thirsty cattle. But behind the recounts of physical strain and precise images of the Montana wilderness is a story of the tension between the conservationist movement in Montana and the ranchers affected by the reintroduction of wolves to the area in 1995. Instead of focusing the memoir on this fascinating discourse between a community of people trying to stay afloat in a sinking economy and environmental conservationists attempting to save a species, Andrews remains in the middle of the argument, delicately observing from all sides as part rancher, part city boy with a love for wildlife, part wolf sympathizer.