FENCING OUT RAIN is a moving memoir written in accessible, poignant prose. I felt truly transported into the place - the grand, rugged expanses of Colorado ranchland; as well as into the time - the early 50's when things may have been simpler but life was far more physically demanding and precarious.
Rex's boyhood was so different from that of boys today (imagine telling a kid these days that he can't have video games, TV, or even electricity!). But it is one that we should wish that all young boys could experience. His connection to nature, to wildlife, and to the seasons and rhythms of the land is something that is mostly lost to current and future generations of American youth. But experiencing it through Rex's powerfully evocative stories and descriptions, you feel it in your bones as he must have felt it in his. It made me want to chuck my iPhone and cappuccino-maker, escape this concrete jungle where we all hide behind our closed garage doors, and go take up residence in a ranch-house warmed by hand-hewed logs, eating foods hand-tilled from the rich local soil.
Ah, what a dream that is! Unfortunately most of us can only live it through others, and that is the best part about FENCING OUT RAIN: you don't just read it, you live it. You feel the biting cold of the blizzards piling head-high drifts against your door, you trudge across the miles of rolling, windswept range, you become attuned to the startling abundance of life in the fields and streams. And in the end you discover how the land becomes a part of you, permeating your soul and infusing your being. And you feel richer for it.
This book gives an in-depth study of a lost lifestyle...one that can never be reclaimed in these days of the internet, cellphones, and corporate farms. Back then life was a pretty simple equation: work hard, produce something, make what you need, help your neighbors, and survive. The descriptions of how this family managed to carve a rich life out of the remote land at the edge of civilization are fascinating, sometimes funny, and always inspiring. The quirky characters (eccentric neighbors, "marginals", and even a mysterious faith healer) will keep you enthralled. The value of hard work in developing the boy's character as he grows into a man is clearly evident throughout, and should provide food for thought for today's parents. There are also some interesting historical tidbits: I was intrigued by Rex's take on government subsidies to farmers to NOT grow food. The final scene, in which the adult Rex returns to visit, gave me chills and moved me to tears.
In the end, while I realize that Rex had no choice but to leave and build his life away from his beloved land, I couldn't help but think...go back! Go back! You belong there! And it made me want to go visit it, to see for myself the magnificent land in which this book immersed me for a short but glorious time.
A memoir concerning growing up in the rural western United States