Book Reviews

Go To Hopkins & Company Homepage

Go to Executive Times Archives


Go to Book Review List


Lazy B: Growing Up on a Cattle Ranch in the American Southwest by Sandra Day O’Connor and H. Alan Day




Click on title or picture to buy from




Some memoirs, like Angela’s Ashes, dig deep into the lives of the characters, and we come away from such books with a deeper understanding of human nature. Lazy B: Growing Up on a Cattle Ranch in the America Southwest is a new memoir by United States Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and her brother, Alan Day, and it merely scratches the surface of family life, so we barely get to know any of the characters. It’s more like looking over someone’s shoulder as they flip the pages in a photo album. By the time we’ve flipped three hundred pages, most of which are as barren as the southwestern landscape, we do come to learn of the forces that helped form the character of the Day family members. Here’s an excerpt from the chapter on horses:

When we were children we always had some good and gentle horses to ride. I had a fine bay horse named Flaxy, a big white horse named Swastika, and, best of all, a little brown horse named Chico. A local man named Dick Johnson had captured Chico out of a herd of wild horses. Dick traded Chico to DA, and he was trained at the Lazy B. He never grew very big, so he was easy for children to mount and dismount. Chico enjoyed children and never bucked, jumped, ran off, or got cranky. We could ride double or triple and it was all right with Chico – bareback or with a saddle. We could get on and off on either side. If one of us fell off, Chico would stop, freeze, and not even put his hoof down until we were back on top. He would move at the pace he thought we could handle. With very small children, he would never get out of a walk. With bigger children, he would trot. With a rider big enough to know how to ride, you could do anything on Chico. He was a good cow horse and could work cattle with the best of them.
I learned to ride on Chico, and later Ann and Alan did also. Years later our own children, the grandchildren, learned to ride on him.
When Chico was about twenty-five years old he ‘retired.’ He was still in good health, and he stayed in the horse pasture. For a time, we had a pet deer at the ranch, and the deer liked to follow Chico around. They were together several years. Then our old boxer dog began to follow Chico out into the pasture. If Chico stayed out a couple of days, so did the dog. When they finally came into the headquarters, the poor dog would be so thirsty he would drink at the water trough until we thought he would be sick. But when Chico went back out to the pasture, the dog went too. Finally, the dog came in one day without Chico. We suspected then Chico had died. We saddled up and rode out into the pasture until we found his carcass. It was a sad time at the Lazy B for all of us. Chico had been an important part of all our lives.”

The above excerpt was among the most emotional in Lazy B. For the most part, the writing is dry like the desert, and detached or distant from the people, events and place. It captures the structure of a way of life that seems to be gone today, and describes enough detail for readers to appreciate how special and unusual the Lazy B ranch was, and what an amazing place to grow up.

Steve Hopkins, February 20, 2002


ă 2002 Hopkins and Company, LLC