Badluck Way: A Year on the Ragged Edge of the West (Hardcover)
January 2014 Indie Next List
“Andrews spent a year on an 18,000-acre ranch in Montana that was touted as being committed to the well being of the land, livestock, and wildlife. All goes well in his rugged new life until wolves begin their relentless plundering of the summer herds. In a heartbreaking meditation on life, ethics, animal rights, and conservation, Andrews struggles to keep his herding responsibilities and his fascination for the wolves in balance. Passages in which he channels the wolves are truly haunting, suggestive of a kinship that presages his anguish as he is required to brutally eliminate one of them. This is an elegant, lyrical account of a sensitive, conservation-minded cowboy in the American West of the 21st century.”
— Darwin Ellis, Books on the Common, Ridgefield, CT
The gripping memoir of a young man, a wolf, their parallel lives and ultimate collision, Badluck Way is also an ode to the satisfaction of hard work on some of the wildest and most beautiful land in the world.
“Mine might have been a simple, pretty story, if not for the wolves. In late July, they emerged from the foothills . . .”
In this gripping memoir of a young man, a wolf, their parallel lives and ultimate collision, Bryce Andrews describes life on the remote, windswept Sun Ranch in southwest Montana. The Sun’s twenty thousand acres of rangeland occupy a still-wild corner of southwest Montana—a high valley surrounded by mountain ranges and steep creeks with portentous names like Grizzly, Dead Man, and Bad Luck. Just over the border from Yellowstone National Park, the Sun holds giant herds of cattle and elk amid many predators—bears, mountain lions, and wolves. In lyrical, haunting language, Andrews recounts marathon days and nights of building fences, riding, roping, and otherwise learning the hard business of caring for cattle, an initiation that changes him from an idealistic city kid into a skilled ranch hand. But when wolves suddenly begin killing the ranch’s cattle, Andrews has to shoulder a rifle, chase the pack, and do what he’d hoped he would never have to do.
Badluck Way is about transformation and complications, about living with dirty hands every day. It is about the hard choices that wake us at night and take a lifetime to reconcile. Above all, Badluck Way celebrates the breathtaking beauty of wilderness and the satisfaction of hard work on some of the harshest, most beautiful land in the world. Called “an important meditation on what it means to share space and breathe the same air as truly wild animals” (Tom Groneberg, author of The Secret Life of Cowboys), Badluck Way is the memorable story of one young man’s rebirth in the crucible of the West’s timeless landscape, a place at the center of the heart’s geography, savage and gorgeous in equal measure.
About the Author
Bryce Andrews was born and raised in Seattle, Washington. He studied at Whitman College and the University of Montana, and has managed several cattle ranches in the West. He lives in Montana.
“This book will make you have deep thoughts about our relationships with the land, nature, and animals.”
— Temple Grandin, author of Animals in Translation
“One could find no better guide than Bryce Andrews for a journey along the shifting border between the wild and the tame; a daunting frontier filled with unsettling truths, blood and beauty. His wonderfully crafted prose is lean, yet rich in the telling details of seasons spent on a Montana ranch overseeing a shaky co-existence between cattle and wolves. Andrews is a keen-eyed ecologist, a skilled ranch hand and, best of all, a self-examining student of life with a young man’s inclination to push past fear and caution toward an embrace of risky, life-altering experience. In Badluck Way, Andrews shuns both cowboy romanticism and environmentalist sermonizing and illuminates the inescapable conflict between human economic imperatives and the compulsions of animal instinct. His book is a gripping tale of the West, raw and real.”
— David Horsey, columnist and cartoonist for the Los Angeles Times
“This memoir of life as a contemporary, ecologically minded Montana cowboy is heartfelt. Andrews' language often sings. Told in a refined version of a campfire ghost story, his narrative took my breath away.”
— Jana Harris, author of Horses Never Lie about Love
“An important meditation on what it means to share space and breathe the same air as truly wild animals.”
— Tom Groneberg, author of The Secret Life of Cowboys
“Exquisitely written and unflinchingly honest, this haunting memoir about one man’s complex relationship with wolves and the wild will stay with you long after you finish it, oh so reluctantly.”
— Patricia McConnell, author of The Other End of the Leash
“In this unforgettable memoir, Bryce Andrews conjures the modern West with all its grit and conflict. At core lies the old grudge between livestock protection and predator control. This fine memoir contains meticulous details of onerous ranch work--the unexpected violence of herding cows, the backbreak labor of building fence. Haunting and lyrical, this marvelous work belongs on everyone's bookshelf alongside other Western Classics.”
— Craig Lesley, author of Winterkill and The Sky Fisherman
“In Badluck Way, cattlehand and writer Bryce Andrews takes us on a fascinating ride through one of the most beautiful landscapes and thorniest issues of today’s American West—how can the newly reintroduced wolf and traditional cattle ranching coexist? Badluck Way is by turns an adventure story of a young man on a sprawling Montana ranch, a thoughtful reflection on the ranching life, and a visceral exploration of the cruel amorality of the natural world. Beautifully written, Andrews’s book delivers a powerful emotional punch.”
— Peter Stark, author of The Last Empty Places
"An evocative, poetic account of rugged terrain, the men and animals who inhabited it, and the complex realities of sustainable agriculture."
"Andrews paints the rural landscape with such precision that the land becomes its own character, and his story [is] a finely tuned love song for the West."
“Lyricism draws you in close; blunt, raw honesty holds you there… For Andrews, the mystery, grace, intelligence, and humanness of the wolves is palpable in his encounters… Badluck Way recounts in visceral detail what it means to make a ‘living from a hard place’ and the immense privilege and sorrow accompanying the work. It’s a celebration of the merits of hard work and a tribute to a livelihood… Badluck Way succeeds as a portrait of stubborn grit and hard choices."
“Lyricism draws you in close; blunt, raw honesty holds you there… For Andrews, the mystery, grace, intelligence, and humanness of the wolves is palpable in his encounters… Badluck Way recounts in visceral detail what it means to make a ‘living from a hard place’ and the immense privilege and sorrow accompanying the work. It’s a celebration of the merits of hard work and a tribute to a livelihood… Badluck Way succeeds as a portrait of stubborn grit and hard choice."
“Andrews' … poetically rendered portrait of the wolf pack working the edges of the ranch provides a counterpoint to the humdrum reality of his daily chores. His extended meditation on the pack is also the scaffolding for the book's design. The wolves' tale is in italics, providing a visual voice. Badluck Way is a beautiful book.”
“Andrews gives a thoughtful, haunting view of the business of ranching and the harsh realities of living in tandem with nature.”
Badluck Way is also a story about a search for an identity, one that readers can identify with even if their own adventures were not quite so gritty. It’s about labor, and finding one’s purpose in it… His story reaches its crescendo when a pack of wolves start to prey on the cattle he’s bound to protect… Andrews offers a fresh and complex perspective…”
"An elegant memoir."
“A taut depiction of ranch life that balances ranchers’ concern for their domestic animals with his own appreciation of the wild ones nearby.”
“Haunting and elegiac… Andrews honors the men, the land and the animals that populate the Sun Ranch... Beautifully written and viscerally honest, Badluck Way introduces a powerful new voice in environmental writing.”
“Montana rancher captures the old and new West in memoir… Captivating… Andrews’ lyrical style effortlessly floats from one page to the next with exquisite poetic interludes comparing his own journey to that of a lone wolf….Andrews' transformative journey is captured with vivid sensory details of the harsh and beautiful realities of living on a Montana ranch while trying to coexist with a local wolf pack. He meticulously weaves the lives of the wolves and the lives on the ranch, provoking the reader to empathize with both parties. From one chapter to the next, Andrews transports the reader to the majestic Montana landscape with prosaic imagery…. honest and eloquent testimony creates a thought-provoking tale of a life-changing experience. This commemorative memoir illustrates a contemporary spin on the West while capturing the inescapable brutality of the hard work that shapes what it means to be a cowboy.”