December 09, 1985 12:00 PM

by Gretel Ehrlich

Probably it takes someone who has spent most of her adult life in a city (and can brag that she knows every stop on New York’s Broadway local) to see Wyoming with wide-open eyes. The author tells in this chronicle how she went West to make a documentary film on sheepherders, and, after her partner in the project died, stayed on. Eventually she did everything that men do. She looked after a flock of sheep with only a horse and dog; she learned to cowboy (the word is used as a verb out West) and survive horrendous storms and subzero months. She knows the heat and dust and dryness in a land where rainfall is scant but where melting snows from the mountains set off violent spring flooding. Best of all she knows the people—the shy, fumbling, skillful and brave men and the resourceful, tough, sensible women. Ehrlich’s quotes give a reader even more of the Westerners’ essence: ” ‘Now don’t go telling me these lambs are cute,’ one rancher warned me…The next thing I knew he was holding a black lamb. ‘Ain’t this little rat good-look-in’?’ ” Occasionally the author, a poet who now lives in Shell, Wyo., lapses into imprecise overwriting (“a cloudburst slapped down on us like a black eye”). Otherwise these evocative meditations are intelligent and rewarding. (Viking, $14.95)

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