‘Ordinary Skin’ Delves Beneath the Surface of Ranch Life

ordinary skin book review cover

Ordinary Skin is a collection of essays that reveals Amy Hale Auker’s appreciation for the beautiful details she observes in the environment that surrounds her and her authentic experiences cowboying for a living.

ordinary skin book cover
Ordinary Skin | Hardback | 182 pages | Release Date: July 2017 | Publisher: Texas Tech University Press | $24.95 |, and other online booksellers

“If the wind is blowing, we set the five-gallon water container beside the windmill to fill and hope the horses don’t knock the pipe off. When it is full we slip an ax handle beneath the plastic loop in the top and each lift a side to carry it to the cabin. Gail often mentions how many times he awkwardly staggered to the house with a heavy fiver of water before I got here. I like it that I am here now, to lift my end of things. ” –excerpt from Ordinary Skin: Essays from Willow Springs

The cover of Amy Hale Auker’s latest book, Ordinary Skin: Essays from Willow Spring, features a close-up photo of a dragonfly, its transparent wings glowing with spots of sunlight. But what appears delicate has unseen strength, and so it is with Auker and her writing.

Ordinary Skin is a collection of essays born of Auker’s experiences as a daughter, granddaughter, mother, sister, wife and rancher. The topics are wide-ranging: living in a remote cow camp, gathering cattle, dealing with the challenges of children and aging parents, and encountering varied wildlife.

Animals—both wild and domestic—and nature play a major role in Auker’s writing. Her appreciation for seemingly minor details of the world that surrounds her is inspiring. And she clearly understands—from her own experiences—the life of a cowgirl, or a woman who cowboys for a living.

“A few months ago, I passed out a survey to a handful of women who have cowboyed for a paycheck,” she writes. “I was not surprised to discover that most of them don’t have a strong affinity for the word cowgirl. Many of them cited semantics or wryly wrote something about rodeo queens. These women more often think of themselves as cowboys or ranch hands, or simply ranch wives. But no matter what we call her, she is out there.”

The book’s 35 essays are a collection of astute, wide-ranging observations on the oddities and wonders of life: sometimes joyful, sometimes sad, sometimes surprising, always thoughtful, and worth every minute.

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