Although she won both a National Book Award and a Pulitzer Prize in 1994, Annie Peoulx didn't become a hot property until her novel The Shipping News (2001 and her short story Brokeback Mountain (2005) were made into movies. What she did with the money she made from those movie deals was to buy a section (640 acres or one square mile) of land in Wyoming and build herself a house on it. Once the house was well under way she realized that she wouldn't be able to live there in the winter because the county doesn't plow her road when it snows.
Bird Cloud, the name Proulx gave to her new property, has the North Platte river running through and contains the mouth of Jack Creek, named after Ute Jack, a Ute Indian of some small renown. I can't seem to find the place on Google Maps. There is a cover photo of the magnificent high cliff which Proulx's new house overlooks, across the river but still on the property. We're talking some serious real estate here.
Proulx bought the land from The Nature Conservancy. She is critical of that organization for it's failure to keep the neighboring ranches' cattle of of the overgrazed section and implies, in the book, that The Nature Conservancy is a front for cattle business interests. The fact that her six miles of expensive barbed wire fence don't succeed in keeping those cows off the land lead me to suspect that this issue may have had a role in The Nature Conservancy's putting the land up for sale in the first place. I'm thinking that they concluded that it was best to spend their finite resources on something other than a futile effort to build the perfect fence.
The book begins with a bit of history of Annie Proulx's French Canadian and New England Yankee parents and ancestors, going back briefly to the 17th century. She quickly brings the book around to the main subject, which could be read as a textbook on how not to build a house. This is important to me because I am in the beginning stages of a house construction project of my own. It's not my first, though. I gather it was hers.
Except for taking more than two years to build and running over budget by a couple of hundred thousand dollars, and that little thing about the snowplowing, Proulx got just what she asked for in her house. She remains friends with her general contractor, an important thing, since he often comes and plows her out when it snows heavily before she heads south to New Mexico for the winter. (It seems to happen every year) Not so much the concrete finisher(s).
It is a wonderful place, with elk, coyotes, bald eagles, golden eagles, pre-Columbian dwelling sites and stone (for tools) quarry and lots of rich history. I would love to visit. If the author would like to extend an invitation . . .
Published at Imagineering.