HATTIE BIG SKY
By Kirby Larson
From Inside Cover:
Vida, Montana 1918
For most of her life, sixteen year old Hattie Brooks has been shuttled from one distant relative to another. Tired of being Hattie Here and There, she summons the courage to leave Iowa and move all by herself to Vida, Montana, to prove up on her late uncle's homestead claim. "At least now my letters will be more interesting," she writes to her good friend, Charlie who is fighting the Kaiser in France.
Under the big sky, Hattie braves hard weather, hard times, a cantankerous cow, and her own hopeless hand at the cook stove. Her quest to make a home is championed by new neighbors Perilee Mueller, her German husband, and their children. For the first time in her life life, Hattie feels part of a family, finding the strength to stand up against Traft Martin's schemes to buy her out and against increasing pressure to be a "loyal" American at a time when anything-or anyone-German is suspect. Despite daily trials, Hattie continues to work her uncle's claim until an unforeseen tragedy causes her to search her soul for the real meaning of home.
Hattie Big Sky is a little book with a HUGE heart. Hattie is a character that will stay with you long after you've finished the story.
It's starts with her receiving a letter from an uncle she doesn't remember-
Being of sound mind, I do hereby leave to Hattie Inez Brooks my claim and the house and it's contents, as well as one steadfast horse named Plug and a contemptible cow known as Violet.
Chester Hubert Wright
Uncle to Hattie Inez Brooks
H-Bring warm clothes and a cat.
What first grabbed my attention was the location of the story-Montana is just over the hill from where I live in Idaho and I know how cold those Montana winters get-well below 0. Also the knowledge that this story is based on the author's great-grandmother who actually did prove up her claim in Montana as a young woman. I just knew I had to read her story.
Hattie leaves Iowa and the closest thing she has ever had to family to claim a piece of property that an unknown uncle has left her. With very little money, the orphan is mostly hanging on to hopes and dreams as she heads into the unknown-Vida, Montana.
What she finds when she arrives is a shack, not a house and 320 acres of unfarmed land.
To fulfill the requirements of proving up her claim she will need to cultivate 40 acres and build a fence around her property-and she only has ten months to do it. If she fails to meet these requirements to land goes back to the bank and she gets nothing.
Hattie is such an easy character to love and cheer for as she faces the many hardships of a first time homesteader.
I was so wrapped up in her story I was disappointed to reach the last page. I was left wanting to know more about the life and times of this amazing young woman.
This book is available at the Salmon Public Library. I would recommend it for readers 12 and up. I will be purchasing my own copy to give to my own daughter and I look forward to her getting to know Hattie Brooks.