Clara: In the Post Office
by Linda Hasselstrom
I keep telling you, I’m not a feminist.
I grew up an only child on a ranch,
so I drove tractors, learned to ride.
When the truck wouldn’t start, I went to town
for parts. The man behind the counter
told me I couldn’t rebuild a carburetor.
I could: every carburetor on the place. That’s
necessity, not feminism.
I learned to do the books
after my husband left me and the debts
and the children. I shoveled snow and pitched hay
when the hired man didn’t come to work.
I learned how to pull a calf
when the vet was too busy. As I thought,
the cow did most of it herself; they’ve been
birthing alone for ten thousand years. Does
that make them feminists?
that I don’t like men; I love them – when I can.
But I’ve stopped counting on them
to change my flats or open my doors.
That’s not feminism; that’s just good sense.
Linda M. Hasselstrom is a real South Dakota rancher who has roamed across miles of grassland with no company but her horse, and she’s been thrown, kicked, stomped, defecated on and bitten by horses and cows.
“A ranch,” she has written, “is not just any patch of rural ground. And the old saying, ‘All hat, no cattle’ is more than a joke; buying a hat or a few cows won’t make anyone a rancher.”
Hasselstrom has spent much of her life birthing, doctoring, corralling, branding, ear-marking and otherwise caring for real cows. “Nobody,” she insists, “punches cows.”
She notes that, “The jacket of a popular author’s book says that she lives on a ‘forty-acre ranch.’ No real rancher could make that statement.” Similarly, Hasselstrom says, “only uninformed journalists could write, ‘Mr. Jones lives on his 10-acre emu ranch.’ The correct way to write that sentence would be, ‘Mr. Jones lives outside town with his emus.’ Forty acres, ten acres– those are home sites, not ranches.”
Hasselstrom battles such Western myths every day in her writing as well as in her daily life. Three times when she’s been thrown from a horse, she received a concussion, but was never able to get to a hospital. She insists the resulting brain damage has made her a true rancher, as well as providing incentive to write about real prairie life.
Hasselstrom says, “I wear the label ‘cantankerous’ with pride, though I try hard to work with my neighbors rather than against them.” She supports the volunteer fire department and the town cemetery as well as local historians working with both old-timers and newcomers to preserve area culture.
Her ranch hosts the Great Plains Native Plant Society’s Claude A Barr Memorial Great Plains Garden, the world’s only botanic garden dedicated to plants of the arid grasslands of the nation’s center. The Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory has established a riparian protection area along Battle Creek on her ranch.
Hasselstrom is the full-time resident writer at Windbreak House Writing Retreats, established in 1996 on her ranch. In addition she is a speaker for Road Scholar educational travel, and has served as an online mentor for the University of Minnesota’s Split Rock writing program. She’s also an advisor to Texas Tech University Press.
Hasselstrom’s writing has appeared in dozens of anthologies and magazines; a poetry collection, ‘Bitter Creek Junction’ won the Wrangler for Best Poetry Book, National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, Oklahoma City, OK. ‘Bison: Monarch of the Plains’ was named best environmental and nature book of 1999 by the Independent Publishers Association.
More information on Hasselstrom’s life and writing appears on her website http://www.windbreakhouse.com and in ‘American Nature Writers.’ Editor John Elder; Charles Scribner’s Sons. Find her blog at http://www.windbreakhouse.wordpress.com
LINDA HASSELSTROM YOU ROCK!
Biography comes from Amazon.
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