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Lazy B: Growing Up on a Cattle Ranch in the American Southwest Hardcover – January 22, 2002

4.1 out of 5 stars 98 customer reviews

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Amazon.com Review

Deep in the granite hills of eastern Arizona in 1880, H.C. Day founded the Lazy B ranch, where U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and her brother Alan spent their youth, a time they recall in this affectionate joint memoir.

"We belonged to the Lazy B, and it belonged to each of us," write O'Connor and Day. "We thought it would always be there." Weathering events from the Great Depression to cyclical drought, they worked the ranch's 300 square miles alongside a colorful crew of cowboys, learning the ways of cattle, horses, and people, lessons they share in well-turned anecdotes. They also learned a system of values that "was simple and unsophisticated and the product of necessity," one that has followed them into the larger world. Court watchers and fans of Western writing alike will take pleasure in this multigenerational account of life on the range. --Gregory McNamee

From Publishers Weekly

This memoir-cum-natural history evinces a clear picture of the American Southwest during the early to mid 20th century. Though O'Connor's name initially conjures images of austere black robes and the halls of justice, a very different person emerges from the childhood recalled here. A collaboration between O'Connor and her brother, the book recounts the lives of their parents "MO" and "DA" (pronounced "M.O." and "D.A.") and the colorful characters who helped run the Lazy B ranch. Growing up on the Gila River flowing from New Mexico to Arizona during the 1930s and '40s, the children quickly learned about the desert's abundant and dangerous creatures and plants. And no experience of Western ranch life is complete without the constant struggle for water leading to disputes over grazing rights. Though life was often harsh, MO kept her children educated and imbued with a sense of dignity. The authors' keen sense of loyalty to their childhood home endures: "Life at the ranch involved all of these components association with our old-time, long-suffering, good-natured cowboys; living in isolation with just one another and with few luxuries; ... seeing the plant, animal, insect, and bird life of the Southwest close at hand; and enjoying the love and companionship of MO and DA." O'Connor attended Stanford University, realizing the dreams of her grandfather and father; there, she took a class from a law school professor and started down the path leading to the U.S. Supreme Court. Day ran the Lazy B until its sale in 1986. The authors' delight in Lazy B enhances this quiet account of a bygone era. B&w photos throughout. (On-sale: Jan. 29)

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.


Product Details

  • Hardcover: 318 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; 1st edition (January 22, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375507248
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375507243
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (98 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #832,107 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Despite her status as the first woman appointed to the Supreme Court and her background as a Stanford graduate and prominent lawyer, Sandra Day O'Connor was not--repeat NOT--a child of privilege. Granted her Daddy ran a cattle ranch spanning two states and she never really wanted for anything, but the childhood which she relates (with her co-author, brother Alan) in "Lazy B" was a most challenging, liberating, independence-building one indeed.
Her grandparents started this life and her parents took over--running a huge cattle ranch, raising three children and instilling traditional values of frugality, self-reliance and hard work. We learn about her dad, DA; her mom, MO; and several interesting, independent cowboys, among them Rastus, Jim Brister, Bug Quinn and Claude Tipets. Just names in a review, these lonely, uneducated, but remarkable men take on real life--real cowboys in the twentieth century! Here's an example: Brister, to tame an unruly horse, wrestles it to the ground in a display of awesome strength--while sitting on its back!!
Sandra accompanies her dad on his treks around the huge ranch fixing windmills, rounding up cattle, fixing fences, and, in general, doing the work of the ranch. She is an important part in the running of the ranch. Her father barely acknwledges her when she is late delivering lunch to the men working far from the homestead--despte the fact that she has had to change a flat tire on the ancient truck with its frozen lugnuts all by herself.
The book stays focused on her childhood, her family and the ranch. We learn about her adult life, including her appointment to the Supreme Court in just a few pages. At first I was surprised at such a cursory treatment of such an important career. But in learning about her childhood upbringing on the Lazy B we really learn all about the adult Sandra Day O'Connor. This is an interesting read both as biography and as the evocation of a vanished time and place. I recommend it highly.
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By A Customer on February 1, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Sandra Day O'Connor and Alan Day have written a book that portrays ranch life in a desolte area of Arizona and New Mexico so vividly that the reader is swept away to a place and time that can be visited only through reading the Day's memoirs.
Most people know little of southwestern ranch life except as presented through Hollywood's interpretation on the silver screen. "Lazy B" reveals the every day struggles of ranchers and cowboys, with intimate knowledge of and compassion for the characters, the cattle and for the land. The authors share what it was like to grow up on a ranch far from a paved road and without neighbors or playmates. Some of the antics are side-splitters. The hard work and uncertainties of life on the ranch are told in a way that touches the reader's sensitivities.
It was hard to put "Lazy B" down while reading it and I was sad when I finished it; it was something joyful and heart-warming to look forward to every evening. I heartily recommend "Lasy B" for its marvelous stories, its historical value, its humor and the strength of character it presents. One of our country's most prominent women and her brother have given us a wonderful gift by sharing their lives in this book.
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Format: Paperback
Growing up in a city, I always wondered during car trips through ranchland how the people there lived. Was it a hard life? Lonely? Were they like us in the city?
I knew from movies and TV that calves in pastures were grown into large steers through a gradual process of fistfighting and gunslinging, with the cowboys taking frequent breaks to drink whiskey and play poker. But that was only part of the story. What role did the women and children play? Why the windmills? Who provided basic services?
All these questions and more have now been answered by a Supreme Court Justice, of all things. Lazy B is Sandra Day O'Connor's memoir of her girlhood on a ranch in the desert Southwest. The simple unaffected style of her writing is just right to convey the power of the story: a family living on a desolate ranch for 113 years--a happy family, a resourceful and persistent family.
The Day ranch had already been operating for 50 years when Sandra was born in 1930, and was still going strong when she was appointed to the high court 51 years later. The Days didn't have hot running water until 1937, but when they did it was from a solar heater designed by Sandra's father--40 years ahead of the solar energy craze of the 1970s.
That sort of self reliance and innovation is one of the main themes of the book: when they needed more water they built windmills to bring it up out of the ground. When the windmills broke, they fixed them. Before the windmills and solar heater, the limited hot water for bathing was used in sequence: first Sandra's mother, then her father, then the children, then the ranch hands, if they had any interest in the water that remained. Not a cushy life, but several of the cowboys liked it enough to stay at Lazy B for over 50 years.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a very pleasant book to read. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and her brother Alan Day have written a memoir of growing up on a cattle ranch in the Southwest. For those who have little idea what is involved in ranching the book is very educational. Sandra and her brother point out the degree to which their lives revolved around the limited water available. The ranch contained windwills which often pumped water from depths as deep as 300 to 500 feet into containers for the cattle to drink. Much ranch work simply involved maintaining and fixing problems with the windwills when they fell into disrepair. Other jobs with which most non-ranchers have little familiarity include branding cattle, marking their ears, nursing sick animals, rounding up strays, and fixing fences that have fallen down. Its not the kind of work one sees in big cities and one definitely sees how different a lifestyle ranching is/was.
The description of the various cowboys who worked on the ranch was fascinating. What I found most amazing was that almost all of them lived to very old ages, despite limited health care and working in a dangerous occupation. One story that stays in my mind is the cowboy who died at age 75, but only because he was thrown from a horse at a rodeo event and broke his neck!
Sandra Day O'Connor certainly had a different life than most children. She spent summers working on her ranch with her family. The rest of the year she spent living with relatives in El Paso, TX attending primary and secondary school. It was a life that seemed certain to breed quite a bit of independence. Seeing this, it is not at all hard to imagine Sandra as the first woman U.S. Supreme Court Justice.
The authors' book fails only in one sense.
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