‘Badluck Way’ Author on Tour, in Leadville on Tuesday
By Carrie Click
When Bryce Andrews took a job at an expansive Montana cattle ranch near Yellowstone, he didn’t intend to write “Badluck Way: A Year on the Ragged Edge of the West.”
His nonfiction account came from daily notes he took about working with cattle, confronting predatory wolves and observing how people, wild places and animals coexist – or sometimes how they don’t.
“I kept notes because I had a strong desire to share the story with people,” Andrews said of his year at Sun Ranch. “But I wasn’t presumptuous enough to think I’d become a published author. I felt lucky to have been part of a rare, wild story, and I wanted to share it.”
Andrews’ memoir is Colorado Mountain College’s Common Reader selection this year. Every year, the college’s students, faculty and staff vote on a book to read together. The general public is encouraged to participate in this “group read,” and the author is invited to come to multiple CMC campuses to give talks to the public and students.
From Oct. 19 through Oct. 26, Andrews will visit seven CMC locations, meet with students, lead talks and discuss with audience members how his experience working on a ranch can serve as a microcosm of the American West. This Tuesday, Oct. 20 Andrews will be in Leadville at 7 p.m. up at the college.
Deadline for the local art and creative writing contest is Friday, Oct. 16. The winner gets to have dinner with the author on Oct. 20. For more information on the Leadville contest, please contact Kelli McCall at email@example.com. The college is also sponsoring a collegewide art and creative writing contest, with cash prizes for six winners. The deadline for submissions is Nov. 20; more information is available at coloradomtn.edu/commonreader.
Published in 2014, Andrews’ book has received high praise. Best-selling author and Colorado State University animal science professor Temple Grandin writes that “this book will make you have deep thoughts about our relationships with the land, nature and animals.” The book also received first place in the 2014 Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Award for Nonfiction.
Intensely creative work
Before writing “Badluck Way,” Andrews earned a bachelor’s degree in environmental humanities, a major he helped to establish at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Wash. Following graduation and bitten by wanderlust, he found a job listing through Montana State University’s range sciences department that led him to work at Sun Ranch.
Although he had experience helping out on a family friend’s ranch during the summers while growing up, his upbringing was far from life in the country. Born and raised in downtown Seattle, he lived with his mother, an artist, and his father, the director of an art museum, just a few miles from the Space Needle.
Andrews said he enjoyed the contrast of city life with his work at Sun Ranch, which was all-encompassing, leaving little time to think of writing a book.
“Agriculture is intensely creative work,” Andrews said. “And Sun Ranch is near one of the wildest landscapes you can find.”
At the University of Montana in Missoula, Andrews studied for his master’s in environmental studies with an emphasis in writing. There, his notes changed form and a book began taking shape. He said it wasn’t effortless. Half of it became his master’s thesis and he finished the other half after making a New Year’s resolution to do so. The first agent he contacted who read the manuscript agreed to represent him.
“I’ve never been in a formal writing program,” Andrews said. “But I’ve had a lifelong focus on storytelling and the rhythm and lyricism of language. Language is the medium we move through — like fish through water. A writer’s challenge is learning to see that water, rather than looking through it — to use language purposefully and intentionally.”
‘Not the same person’
Now 32, Andrews said that CMC’s Common Reader tour will be especially interesting, since he has continued to grow and develop since writing “Badluck Way.”
“It was nearly 10 years ago,” he said, since he experienced the world at Sun Ranch as “an attentive novice. Ranching [on that level] was outside my experience, but that’s not the case anymore. I’ve worked on and managed ranches for nearly a decade. I recently sold a beef cattle operation in Missoula, and I do some consulting aimed at making ranches work better.”
That experience should make for interesting interactions when Andrews tours CMC campuses.
“I’m really looking forward to my time in Colorado,” Andrews said. “During the book, my life was rife with challenges. I was trying to figure out how to negotiate gray areas. The person in the book is a version of me from about eight years ago. There will be three of us there: the audience, me and the guy in the book. We’ll be able to look at it from all sides.”