Sunday, March 18, 2012

Half Broke Horses

After years of scrimping and saving every penny she can, Lily Casey Smith decides she's going to do something for herself.  She signs up for flight lessons.  Her flight instructor, like my father's flight instructor, was named Gus.

And Gus knew a thing or two about feeling a gaggle of children.  His specialties were beans and the tastiest salad dressing you ever will try.  I promise.

Gus's Beans
1 lb hamburger
1 onion, diced
1 garlic clove, pressed
1 green pepper, chopped
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can tomato sauce
4 cans pinto beans
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder

Brown hamburger and drain fat, add to crock pot. 
Saute onion, add to crock pot.
drain beans, add to crock pot.
add remaining ingredients.
Cook on low 5-6 hours.

Gus's Salad Dressing
1 purple onion, chopped
2 cups sugar
3 cups vegetable oil
1 cup white vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp celery seed
1 tsp poppy seed
1 tsp dry mustard

Add all ingredients to blender or food processor, blend one minute.  Transfer to serving container.
After you've tried out Gus's specialties, you should check out Half-Broke Horses.
Half-Broke Horses is a family history written by Jeannette Walls. Walls started out trying to write the story of her mother, Rose Mary, but found she could not tell the story quite right unless she started with her mother's beginnings, Lily Casey Smith. Lily's story is one of poverty, hard times, and fierce determination. Her life's motto was this: when God closes a door he always opens a window. You just have to look for it.

As a young girl, Lily helped her father break horses on their Texas ranch. At 15 she struck out on her own with nothing but a few belongings and her horse. She rode 500 miles to a teaching job in Arizona. After several short stints as a teacher in rural towns, Lily finds that she will have to take on odd jobs to keep food on the table.  These included poker player, bootlegger, and horse racer. Lily gets married, has two children, and finds herself managing a considerably sized cattle ranch in Arizona.

While this book was written after The Glass Castle, I wish that I would have read it first. I found myself wondering how and why Rose Mary, with a teaching degree from college, chose the vagrant lifestyle she did. I think I would have had more sympathy for her in Jeannette's story if I had known more about her upbringing.

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