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Prairie Soul

Prairie Soul

Finding Grace in the Earth Beneath My Feet

Now available as an ebook on Amazon Kindle Store.

Author: Jeffrey A. Lockwood

Price: $14.00

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Now available as an ebook on Google Play and in the Amazon Kindle Store.

One man's evocative journey of ecological, moral and spiritual discovery unfolds on the high plains of Wyoming and stretches to the grasslands of France and central Asia. Lockwood is a professor of natural sciences and humanities at the University of Wyoming and author of Grasshopper Dreaming

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Prologue

Here Are My Conditions

Twisted Thoughts and Crooked Roads

Baring My Soles

Prayerful Science

The Good Hunt

Sanctuary

Becoming Native

Xenophobia

Steppe Into the World

Song of the Loire

Epilogue

Like grasses and grasshoppers, Wyoming ranchers are connected to the land in ways that defy rational analysis. These people would wilt if uprooted and wither if transplanted. Take Jim Hageman, one of Wyoming's ablest rancher-legislators. I've come to know Jim in the course of using his ranch for my studies of grasshoppers. At age seventy-four, for Jim to leave his ranch would be to quit living. I've listened to him recount stories of his clan on bone-rattling rides across his ranch and over biscuits and gravy in his simple home near Fort Laramie. The Hagemans have raised six children and thirty foster children on the ranch.

Sunbaked and calloused, with crows' feet etched into leathery skin, Jim is a nurturer who understands the potentials and limits of that which he loves. He knows every sandy wash and rocky ridge that wanders across his expanse of parched prairie, where grasses tipped with needle-sharp seeds cling fiercely to the thin, desiccated soil, creating the tough look and harsh feel of a Marine Corps crew-cut. Cottonwood Draw provides the only hope for shade beneath grizzled, century-old trees. Thousands of windswept acres stretch between Hell Gap on the ranch's northern border to the lazy North Platte River on its south-a ribbon of liquid silt described by the pioneers as "too thick to drink and too thin to plow." His land is not pretty. But it is beautiful, especially at sunset when the grasses gleam like gold, the cottonwoods glimmer with emerald leaves, and the sky turns to sapphire.

Jim's land and his family are deeply entwined, just as Indian paintbrush is inextricably linked to the roots of sagebrush. His maternal grandfather came to the territory as a cowboy in 1879; the Hagemans accepted this land as their home eleven years before the nation accepted Wyoming as a state. And so, while Jim can readily grasp economic theory-a rancher-legislator spends a lot of time worrying about money-accepting a million dollars for his land is inconceivable.

"Like Thoreau's Walden Pond, Ed Abbey's southwestern desert or Wendell Berry's rural Kentucky, Lockwood's home country and study of grasshoppers lead us to universal themes?spirituality, the place of religion in science, the relationship between humans and the places they live, grasslands and ecology, the importance of family and friendship. Prairie Soul provides an acquaintance with the life and mind of the author that intrigues, enlightens and challenges the reader."

—Robert Roripaugh, Wyoming Poet Laureate, 1995-2002

"In these soulful essays, Lockwood pricks our minds and our consciences as sharply as grassland cactus pricks the bare foot of the sojourner."

—Alyson Hagy, author of Graveyard of the Atlantic

"Jeffrey Lockwood's Prairie Soul reminds us not only that the infinite and the infinitesimal exist side by side but also that practicing ecology is a way of practicing prayer. Whether he is hunting for grasshoppers on the Wyoming plains or studying locusts in Kazakhstan, Lockwood brings a sense of reverence and love to his work. An entomologist with a mystical bent, he invites us to walk mindfully on the earth, always relishing our contact with the land, yet always conscious of the mark we leave behind. Engaging and filled with delight, Prairie Soul is a celebration of an understated landscape, a tribute to the 'austere abundance' of the North American steppe."

—Susan Hanson, author of Icons of Loss and Grace: Moments from the Natural World

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