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Pam Houston's Hope

Meet the author, professor and Creede, Colorado ranch owner

Photo by Michael Blakeman

When Pam Houston’s first book, Cowboys Are My Weakness, was published to great success in 1993, she was 31. Her main home was a lemon-yellow Toyota Corolla and a North Face VE 24 tent. That year, on a drive through Colorado, with book money in her pocket, she fell head-over-reason for a ranch at 9,000 feet near the headwaters of the Rio Grande. A $21,000 down payment gave her title to 120 acres, a small house and a tilting barn. Now 56, Houston divides her time between teaching writing at University of California-Davis and life on the ranch. Her just-published memoir, Deep Creek: Finding Hope in the High Country, weaves the threads of her life story with that of her homestead.

The destructive forces in Houston’s childhood were many and major. She retells them with a straightforward honesty that elevates their haunting effect. It’s in the wild places that Houston finds safety—hiking, sleeping under an open sky, white-water rafting, working on the ranch.

“When I started [this book], I was attempting to express my love for a piece of land that has defined the largest portion—by far—of my life,” she says. What she found was that the land loved her back, allowing a deeper connection with her friends, her community, her new husband and her beloved animals (two horses, two Irish wolfhounds, 12 Icelandic sheep, two mini-donkeys, six chickens. And Mr. Kitty). “When you give yourself wholly to a piece of ground, its goodness enters your bloodstream like an infusion.”

Houston’s strength and labor bring her joy and peace and hope in a world that daily challenges those feelings and threatens the landscape she adores. Her fighting heart is a mountain of inspiration. By sharing her hope so exquisitely, she provides us with some of our own

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