Briefly Noted: ‘Badluck Way’ by Bryce Andrews

Badluck Way: A Year on the Ragged Edge of the West, by  Bryce Andrews, Atria Books (January 7, 2014), 256 pages

badluckwayAn “Indies Introduce” selection on the January Indie NEXT List, Badluck Way is a memoir about a 23-year-old Seattle man’s work experiences on the Sun Ranch in southwestern Montana.

Writing in the Missoula Independent, Kate Whittle notes that a lot of “starry-eyed men and women” visit Montana, can’t fit in, and soon leave.

“Author Bryce Andrews,” she says, “is one of these adventurers who found a better fit in the West, and learned to love it for things that even native Montanans might not appreciate…

“He’s become a 21st century kind of cowboy, one who’s studied environmental science and conservation, understands the importance of riparian habitats, and he can ride an ATV, rope a heifer, fix a fence and knock back a few beers at the saloon afterward. He can read landscapes like some of us read a street map; he prefers the habitat of open spaces and jagged peaks.”

From the Publisher

Andrews - Simon & Schuster photo. Click on the photo to see the book video on Andrew's author's page.
Andrews – Simon & Schuster photo. Click on the photo to see the book video on Andrew’s author’s page.

In this gripping memoir of a young man, a wolf, their parallel lives and ultimate collision, Bryce Andrews describes life on the remote, windswept Sun Ranch in southwest Montana. The Sun’s twenty thousand acres of rangeland occupy a still-wild corner of southwest Montana—a high valley surrounded by mountain ranges and steep creeks with portentous names like Grizzly, Dead Man, and Bad Luck. Just over the border from Yellowstone National Park, the Sun holds giant herds of cattle and elk amid many predators—bears, mountain lions, and wolves. In lyrical, haunting language, Andrews recounts marathon days and nights of building fences, riding, roping, and otherwise learning the hard business of caring for cattle, an initiation that changes him from an idealistic city kid into a skilled ranch hand. But when wolves suddenly begin killing the ranch’s cattle, Andrews has to shoulder a rifle, chase the pack, and do what he’d hoped he would never have to do.

From the Book

“On my first morning in the bunkhouse, I woke up shivering and listened to the harsh squalling of magpies. Through a little window, past trim boards cracked and shrunken by age and exposure, a handful of stars still pocked the predawn sky. I lay motionless as they faded into the daylight. An insistent, hissing wind slipped through gaps in the window casing. The Madison wind is pitiless. It is a sandblasting, constant presence, meant for howling around the eaves of broken shacks and the scattered bones of winter-killed cattle. Passing cold and dry across my skin, it reminded me how far I was from Seattle.”

97% of the ranch is protected by conservation easements.
97% of the ranch is protected by conservation easements.

Author Interview

In a Bookselling This Week interview, Andrews talked about the challenge of looking after dumb, slow livestock on a vast range with quick-witted predators.  “I hope that Badluck Way conveys a deep appreciation for the work of ranching and an equally strong sympathy for wild animals, like the wolf,” he said.

This book brings readers lyrical prose, common sense, violence and a growing appreciation for the continuing need for understanding in the co-existing world of rangers and wild animals.


Malcolm R. Campbell’s contemporary fantasy novels, including “The Seeker,” “The Betrayed,” and “The Sun Singer,” are set in northwestern Montana.