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Eye of the Blackbird: A Story of Gold in the American West Paperback – April, 2001

5.0 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

. . . not only chronicles her experiences of living in total isolation for three years, but it also brings the rich history of the gold rush back to life. -- Jackson Hole Guide, May 23, 2001
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 298 pages
  • Publisher: Johnson Books (April 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1555663125
  • ISBN-13: 978-1555663124
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 5.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,722,316 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By A Customer on May 28, 2001
Format: Paperback
The book Eye of the Blackbird is many things: Holly Skinner's personal diary, a history of the Western U.S. as told by the early searchers for gold, and a broad-reaching book that places the reader with Skinner as she lives, explores, and searches for gold in the mostly unsettled modern West. Holly Skinner has been variously employed as a wilderness ranger, forest fire fighter, wrangler, and a rider in a wild west show, and also has a BS degree in anthropology, history, and journalism from the University of Wyoming. She brings all that background to her experiences as a gold prospector in this book, and with the research demonstrated in her over 200-book bibliography, weaves a fascinating story of history and her own personal experiences living in the West and looking 'just over the next ridge' for a strike that will 'show some color' in her miner's pan. In Eye of the Blackbird, Skinner ranges from personal meditations in her cabin amidst the sagebrush, to well-researched tales of the people who made up the western gold rushes from California in 1849 to the Klondike in 1898. This is a book that I think offers a lot for everyone, and it's very difficult to pigeonhole its appeal. You don't have to be a history buff, or even interested in the West or gold - just pick up this book and let Ms Skinner take you away.
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By M on September 16, 2006
Format: Paperback
If you've suffered, like I, through award winning books by writers who move west with their trust fund, build a mansion in the pristine wilderness and declare, by some warped sense of reality, themselves a naturalist and an expert on the west, take flight in the "The Eye of the Blackbird": Holly is a genuine western authority.

Holly has thoroughly researched the flight plan, bringing the reader along many threads on the ascent which become woven into a cohesive story of the west. Holly has mastered the art of building a solid platform and lifting the reader along with the story. This style is refreshing compared to the typical self proclaimed naturalist style of relating their view with the condescending undertone screeching; if you don't see it, you don't belong in the club.

This book is a treasure and I'm certain that Holly will eventually gain the recognition she deserves.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Book was in excellent condition and service was fantastic!
Great story about a woman in the wilds surviving just like they did 100 years ago.
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Format: Paperback
This is one of the better history lessons on the big gold rushes of North America, told through the lens of someone prospecting the old camps at South Pass, Wyoming. Skinner does an excellent job of recapping the various major stampedes, starting with California and ending with the Klondike, and she has a great feel for what to keep. She uses historical figures such as Samuel Clemens to tell the various stories, taking us from camp to camp, but always settling back into her tiny ramshackle cabin in Wyoming to pause and reflect. She pulls together excellent vignettes from the South Pass area, including the doomed Willie's Handcart Company tragedy, then segues to bigger events, such as Custer's Last Stand that served to open up the Black Hills to mining.

Skinner is a perfect person to tell these stories, what with her family background in Wyoming and her own formidable geological skills. She patiently explains the economics of converting from prospector to miner, and she makes it clear that she is the former. She seems to have panned colors from every major and minor creek near her, and even tried tracking down a rumored Spanish diggings. She understands the lure of prospecting, the excitement of gold fever, and how it drove even those who struck it rich to return again and again to the mountains.

Skinner is both a story-teller and a reporter, and she has done an impressive job of weaving in facts, figures, biographies, and tragedies. She allows herself to be the focal point that keeps everything tied together, but manages to stay almost as mysterious at the end as she is in the beginning.

My only quibble is a small one - I'd like to see more maps. I've been to South Pass and seen the area, but I found myself pulling up a few of my own maps to get a clearer picture.
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