ALONG THE YELLOWSTONE RIVER AND AMID SANDSTONE BLUFFS near Miles City, the four Brink sisters grew up with the kind of life ever fewer children experience these days.
They milked cows, drove tractors, hunted, herded sheep, rode horses and explored.
Among the interesting events, was the arrival of 100 German prisoners of war to help harvest sugar beets, which were vital to make gunpowder.
“Hitler’s Master Race prisoners looked around for ranches to own since they intended to win the war,” Jeanie wrote. “That was really scary because it was obvious they liked our ranch and the war was not going well.”
Francie’s narrative brings to life a cattle drive, which “begins in an atmosphere of anticipation.”
The drive followed the old Yellowstone Trail, stringing cattle along in a leisurely pace over four days.
“Even then in the 1940s and 1950s, most ranchers trucked their cattle if they went so far,” Francie wrote. “But Dad was old-fashioned about this.”
He found trailing the cattle easier on the animals. Sometimes it was hard on the cowgirls, though, with St. Elmo’s Fire flashing around cattle during one storm and cold and wind a challenge on other drives.
What Women Want Magazine, Great Falls Tribune
A PARTICULARLY BRIGHT SAPPHIRE SHINING HERE IS Montana Stirrups, Sage and Shenanigans by the Brink sisters: Francie Brink Berg, Anne Brink Krickel, and Jeanie Brink Thiessen. Not only are these ranch women from eastern Montana experts in every aspect of ranch life, they’re well-educated, witty writers, and natural-born storytellers.
This book should be on the shelves of every school library in the state of Montana and few neighboring states besides. The women take turns as narrator, each sharing vivid episodes of their lives growing upon the Brink ranch near Miles City, effortlessly drawing the reader into their world—baling hay, topping beets, killing rattlesnakes, hunting deer, driving farm trucks at ten years old.
These authors have made a book that you will want to keep near the bedside all winter long. You’ll also want a copy to hand to your children the next time they pester you for the iPad.
Montana Book Roundup, Montana The Magazine of Western History
ENTERTAINING, THE BOOK IS A COLLECTION OF nearly 100 stories from their growing-up-years. Enhancing these gems are an incredible array of family photos and sidebars on topics such as preparing a cowboy bedroll and how a cream separator works.
Suitable for all ages, the stories capture a time when children were given a great deal of responsibility and relied on their imagination for entertainment. The book is brimming with tales of hard work, adventure, near misses, and resourcefulness that set the sisters on a course for professional success. In addition to providing hours of personal enjoyment, it would be an excellent choice for reading aloud to students or seniors.
Western Culture News & Reviews,
Tri-State Livestock News
IMAGINE, DECADES BEFORE CELL PHONES, sending your twelve- and fifteen -year-old daughters off on horseback to herd a hundred head of cattle 40 miles, and having them encounter a raging snowstorm.
This collection of reminiscences by three sisters is a delightful telling of their memories of growing up with loving, caring parents who instilled a set of values that successfully guided them through their lives. The authors reflect on a “forgotten era,” the time between the end of a pioneer-homesteader mentality and the coming of modern mechanized ranching and farming methods. It was a time of transition—economically, politically and socially.
Humor highlights many of their stories. Put four lively female siblings together and hilarious pranks ensue. Often, the unwitting hired hands were their targets. Told in engaging detail, with humor and clarity, the stories illustrate a wholesome and cherished way of life.
—State of the Arts, Montana Arts Council
SHARE IN THE HUMOR, WISDOM AND DANGER as the sisters describe their experiences growing up and working on the Brink Ranch. (Their book) captures the spirit of the Old West with stories of ranching during a time that required hard work and courage.
The authors’ mother came west by covered wagon in 1905, and their father ran wild horses out of the Missouri River Breaks in 1909. Both their parents passed the ways and values of the Old West to their daughters, who now bring them to life in their new book.
“We’ve endeavored to capture that time and those long-ago challenges with integrity, a fresh sense of adventure and humor,” Francie said.
The sisters also tell a social history of ranching families across the West. The authors’ stories and more than 260 historic photographs take readers back to the hard times of the Depression and deep into the home front battles of WWII.
An Old West epic told with modern flare, “Montana Stirrups, Sage and Shenanigans” will have you in the saddle until the last page is turned.
—Sidney Herald, Sidney, Montana
THESE HEARTFELT STORIES cry out to be shared with everyone—especially if you love Montana. Humor, hardships, ingenuity and family strength—a must read for anyone who has grown up on a ranch. These stories capture the fun, joy, trials and tribulations of growing up on a ranch in Montana. Should be required reading for all Montana history classes. An assignment students will enjoy!
—Ardis J. Rice, Librarian
Lewis and Clark County Library
HOLD ONTO YOUR HATS AND GRAB THE REINS; these three Montana-raised women are taking you for an authentic ride into ranch life as they lived it. Reading their lively narrative, you’ll know what it’s really like to rescue drowning cattle from Yellowstone ice jams, butcher roadkill to help Rez friends, move cattle in blizzards. You’ll see the hazards of ranch life from overturned tractors to snakebite to wheatfield fires. You’ll welcome stranded travelers, hunt deer and elk, and enjoy the bounty of a ranch garden, and make doughnuts and divinity.
—Linda M. Hasselstrom
Author of No Place Like Home: Notes from a Western Life
and 13 other books on Ranching and the West
A GREAT BOOK OF RANCH LIFE STORIES that those of us involved in ranching can relate to. And
for those not involved it gives a great perspective of how ranch families become so dedicated to a livelihood that it shapes the personality of family members for a lifetime. Helps our urban cousins see that their food is raised by caring families.
—Watty Taylor, President
Montana Stockgrowers Association
WITH PLENTY OF ADVENTURE, HUMOR, DRAMA, and the drive to succeed that were the foundation of old west stories, Montana Stirrups, Sage, and Shenanigans is a fine pick for those who seek more of these stories of legend. Enhanced with many historic black and white photographs.
—Midwest Book Review
GROWING UP NORTHWEST OF GLENDIVE I had many of the experiences described by these authors. Their vivid and action-packed stories will help us old-timers tell our grandchildren and great-grandchildren of our lives back then.
This book reminds me of the patriotism of our family and community during World War II, the closeness to the land, the stewardship we felt and the satisfaction of hard work. Knowing I was doing my part contributing to our family’s well being was a great maturing experience.
In my lifetime I’ve seen dramatic changes, as chronicled here. These authors tell it like it was in colorful, fast paced stories. Historically accurate, this book is a pleasure for all who appreciate the spirit of the west.
Governor of Montana
THE MEMORIES in Montana Stirrups, Sage and Shenanigans are a treasure. When they strike a harmonic chord in the memories of the reader it is a double gift.
—Rev. Warren S. Craig
First Presbyterian Church
IT'S GREAT TO HAVE THE HISTORIC SIGNIFICANCE of this ranch documented. Without these authors’ research and memoirs the details would be lost to Montana history. Their former ranch was headquarters for one of Montana’s early ranches, which ran thousands of cattle on both sides of the Yellowstone River in the 1880s, and is crossed by historic trails. It is now possible to find, through this ranch, remnants of the 1877 Ft. Buford Trail and the 1913 Yellowstone Trail—and to actually walk in the ruts of these early trails.
Lewis and Clark County Rancher
President LP-Bar, Inc.
MONTANA STIRRUPS, SAGE AND SHENANIGANS captures a fascinating time in Western American history, that interesting bridge between the hardscrabble life of Montana ranchers before and after modern mechanization took hold on the plains. This is a time when horses were all-important, and the tales of ranch life, as told by three sisters, reveal that in delightful fashion.
Ranch life in Montana during the 1930’s and 40’s had its share of glamour, and this book captures that sense of the Big Sky Country, while introducing us to the disgusting “tobacco juice” spit out by the thousands of grasshoppers that would plague them in a dry year. And if you didn’t know that sugar beets were grown in the Yellowstone Valley to provide essential sugar for the war effort (for explosives, not a soldier’s sweet tooth), you’ll learn about it here.
This is the dramatic story of one ranch family, told by three sisters who lived and breathed what today is an American Epic. There is no greater authority than those who straddled a horse to round up cattle or ran a stick-shift truck through the muck and snow, or ran out to guide broken-down motorists on Old Highway 10 to the aid and comfort of their ranch house.
The fabulous Brink sisters will educate, enlighten and entertain you, all the while revealing the grandeur that is ranch life in Montana.
—David Borlaug, President
Lewis & Clark Fort Mandan Foundation
THE BOOK BRINGS BACK LONG-FORGOTTEN memories—the way we did things back then. Very different from ranching now.
—Patty Spears Helm
Helm Hereford Ranch
THE HUMOR, SPUNK AND SPIRIT of these sisters shines through the pages of their joint memoir of ranch life. Their personal stories describe an era when living ten miles from town brought a degree of isolation and self-sufficiency almost unfathomable by today’s standards. The bond between these sisters seems forged by the demands of ranch life, the extremes of Montana’s climate, and their own inventive natures.