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Lazy B
Cover of Lazy B
Lazy B
Growing Up on a Cattle Ranch in the American Southwest
Borrow Borrow

What was it in Sandra Day O'Connor's background and early life that helped make her the woman she is today-the first female justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, and one of the most powerful women in America? In this beautiful, illuminating, and unusual book, Sandra Day O'Connor, with her brother, Alan, tells the story of the Day family and of growing up on the harsh yet beautiful land of the Lazy B Ranch in Arizona. Laced throughout these stories about three generations of the Day family, and everyday life on the Lazy B, are the lessons Sandra and Alan learned about the world, about people, self-reliance, and survival, and the reader will learn how the values of the Lazy B shaped them and their lives.

Sandra's grandfather first put some cattle on open grazing land in 1886, and the Lazy B developed and continued to prosper as Sandra's parents, who eloped and then lived on the Lazy B all their lives, carved out a frugal and happy life for themselves and their three children on the rugged frontier. As you read about the daily adventures, the cattle drives and roundups, the cowboys and horses, the continual praying for rain and fixing of windmills, the values instilled by a self-reliant way of life, you see how Sandra Day O'Connor grew up.

This fascinating glimpse of life in the American Southwest in the last century recounts an interesting time in our history, and gives us an enduring portrait of an independent young woman on the brink of becoming one of the most prominent figures in America today.

What was it in Sandra Day O'Connor's background and early life that helped make her the woman she is today-the first female justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, and one of the most powerful women in America? In this beautiful, illuminating, and unusual book, Sandra Day O'Connor, with her brother, Alan, tells the story of the Day family and of growing up on the harsh yet beautiful land of the Lazy B Ranch in Arizona. Laced throughout these stories about three generations of the Day family, and everyday life on the Lazy B, are the lessons Sandra and Alan learned about the world, about people, self-reliance, and survival, and the reader will learn how the values of the Lazy B shaped them and their lives.

Sandra's grandfather first put some cattle on open grazing land in 1886, and the Lazy B developed and continued to prosper as Sandra's parents, who eloped and then lived on the Lazy B all their lives, carved out a frugal and happy life for themselves and their three children on the rugged frontier. As you read about the daily adventures, the cattle drives and roundups, the cowboys and horses, the continual praying for rain and fixing of windmills, the values instilled by a self-reliant way of life, you see how Sandra Day O'Connor grew up.

This fascinating glimpse of life in the American Southwest in the last century recounts an interesting time in our history, and gives us an enduring portrait of an independent young woman on the brink of becoming one of the most prominent figures in America today.

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Excerpts-
  • Chapter 1 Early Memories

    When Time, who steals our years away, Shall steal our pleasure, too, The Memory of the past will stay, And half our joys renew.
    -Thomas Moore, "Song"

    The earliest memory is of sounds. In a place of all-encompassing silence, any sound is something to be noted and remembered. When the wind is not blowing, it is so quiet you can hear a beetle scurrying across the ground or a fly landing on a bush. Occasionally an airplane flies overhead-a high-tech intrusion penetrating the agrarian peace.

    When the wind blows, as it often does, there are no trees to rustle and moan. But the wind whistles through any loose siding on the barn and causes any loose gate to bang into the fence post. It starts the windmills moving, turning, creaking.

    At night the sounds are magnified. Coyotes wail on the hillside, calling to each other or to the moon-a sound that sends chills up the spine. We snuggle deeper in our beds. What prey have the coyotes spotted? Why are they howling? What are they doing? Just before dawn the doves begin to call, with a soft cooing sound, starting the day with their endless search for food. The cattle nearby walk along their trail near the house, their hooves crunching on the gravel. An occasional moo to a calf or to another cow can be heard, or the urgent bawl of a calf that has lost contact with its mother, or the low insistent grunt, almost a growl, of a bull as it walks steadily along to the watering trough or back out to the pasture. The two huge windmills turn in the wind, creaking as they revolve to face the breeze, and producing the clank of the sucker rods as they rise and fall with each turn of the huge fan of the mill.

    The Lazy B Ranch straddles the border of Arizona and New Mexico along the Gila River. It is high desert country-dry, windswept, clear, often cloudless. Along the Gila the canyons are choked with cottonwoods and willows. The cliffs rise up sharply and are smooth beige sandstone. The water flowing down the riverbed from the Gila Wilderness to the northeast is usually only a trickle. But sometimes, after summer rains or a winter thaw in the mountains, the river becomes an angry, rushing, mud-colored flood, carrying trees, brush, rocks, and everything else in its path. Scraped into the sandstone bluffs are petroglyphs of the Anasazi of centuries past. Their lives and hardships left these visible traces for us to find, and we marvel at their ability to survive as long as they did in this harsh environment. High up on one of the canyon walls is a small opening to a cave. A few ancient steps are cut out of the bluff leading to it. To reach it now requires climbing apparatus-ropes and pitons. The cave's inner walls have been smoothed with mud plaster, and here and there is a handprint, hardened when the mud dried, centuries ago.

    Every living thing in the desert has some kind of protective mechanism or characteristic to survive-thorns, teeth, horns, poison, or perhaps just being too tough to kill and eat. A human living there quickly learns that anything in the desert can hurt you if you are not careful and respectful. Whatever it is can scratch you, bite you, or puncture you. When riding horseback, you have to watch where you are going. The branch of a hardy bush can knock you off; a hole in the ground covered with grass can cause your horse to stumble or fall. When you take a spill, it might be onto a rock or a cactus. When you get off your horse, it pays to look first to avoid stepping in an ant den, on a scorpion, or in the path of a snake. Over the years, Alan, Ann, and I each had our share of falls from a horse, insect bites, injuries, and other dangerous events, which we learned...

About the Author-
  • Sandra Day O'Connor was born in El Paso, Texas, and attended college and law school at Stanford University. She has been married to John O'Connor since 1952, and they have three sons. Nominated by President Reagan as associate justice of the United States Supreme Court, she took the oath of office on September 25, 1981, the first woman to do so.

    H. Alan Day is a lifelong rancher who, after graduation from the University of Arizona, managed the Day ranch, the Lazy B, for thirty years. He also purchased and ran ranches in Nebraska and South Dakota, where he established a wild-horse sanctuary that, under contract with the U.S. government, cared for fifteen hundred wild horses. He lives in Tucson.


    From the Hardcover edition.
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    December 10, 2001
    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.

  • School Library Journal

    June 1, 2002
    Adult/High School-Three generations of the Day family worked a 300-acre ranch straddling the Arizona-New Mexico border, from the 1880s to 1986. During that time, family members experienced all the aspects of Western life that most of us today can only encounter through films or books. Reading Lazy B, teens will find themselves in the middle of cattle roundups, stampedes, floods, and drought. Through photographs, letters, personal experiences, and anecdotes, the authors present a slice of day-to-day life on a working ranch in the 20th century. Readers meet the cowboys, learn what it takes to break a wild horse, find out how a roundup works, and see the government's growing role in ranching and farming. This is not the book for those wanting to learn the secrets of O'Connor's successful rise to a seat on the Supreme Court. But for those wanting a glimpse of a rapidly disappearing way of life, this title presents an engaging and compelling account.-Pamela B. Rearden, Centreville Regional Library, Fairfax County, VA

    Copyright 2002 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Library Journal

    December 1, 2001
    Supreme Court justices tend to be reticent about their background, and they often disclaim its influence on their thinking. Thus, a memoir purporting to disclose "how Sandra Day O'Connor became the woman she is today" promises to be exciting. This memoir is, however, one of the least revealing examples of the genre. When O'Connor was growing up, her family owned the Lazy B ranch in Arizona. But after the age of six (except for one year in high school), O'Connor lived with her grandmother in El Paso during the school year, an experience about which she says little. Her descriptions of life on the ranch thus rely heavily on summers and vacations and accounts from her brother, Alan, who stayed and ultimately came to run the ranch until it was sold in 1986. We learn about breaking horses and cattle round-ups and the foibles and personalities of various ranch hands. But the book contains only brief descriptions of O'Connor's parents and almost no discussion of ideas. The episodic organization is choppy and the writing often stilted. Still, this book may have an audience. For large public libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 10/1/01.] Cynthia Harrison, George Washington Univ., Washington, DC

    Copyright 2001 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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