Holding the Reins


A slice of the lives of four young girls.  Written by Marc Talbert with photography by Barbara Van Cleve.

Hard cover 103 pages. 

Pure Quill is the current exhibit in the Anne W. Marion Gallery at the National Cowgirl Museum. See more on Van Cleve in our Hall of Fame.

Four girls from Western states are the focus of this glimpse into life on the range and at home. Those who are dreamy eyed about the romance of being a "cowgirl" are in for a reality check. There are no luxuries here; instead there are long hours of hard work and, for one teen, a homemade dress for the prom. Surrounded by family, community, and the animals they care for, each girl pragmatically describes and participates in the activities that are vital to ranching. Readers who are curious about how sheep and cattle are castrated will have their questions answered in matter-of-fact details. Branding, sheep docking, and inoculations are all carefully explained. From barrel racing to butter making, the young people have lifestyles that many readers will never experience. Although this book clearly describes what they do, it is less successful in creating real interest in who they are, resulting in a somewhat dry presentation. The black-and-white photographs depict many of the activities described, and hints of the girls' personalities show through in some of them. They add a warmth that is sometimes less evident in the text. This look at these unique lives will educate those who have no clue about the realities of ranching.
Carol Schene, Taunton Public Schools, MA

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