Cover image for Burning fence : a Western memoir of fatherhood
Burning fence : a Western memoir of fatherhood
Lesley, Craig.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : St. Martin's Press, [2005]

Physical Description:
viii, 357 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PS3562.E815 Z47 2005 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



In "Burning Fence, " acclaimed novelist Craig Lesley turns his keen eye toward two difficult fathers and an alcohol-damaged Indian foster child, Craig's own "son," Wade. Abandoned by his shell-shocked father, Rudell, Craig grew up with his stepfather, Vern, a tough, controlling railroader. When events turned nasty, Craig, his mother, and his baby sister fled on the night train and arrived at an Indian reservation where his mother found work. Decades later, convinced he would be a better father than Rudell or Vern, Craig takes in the troubled Wade.
But desperation over Wade's violent acts motivates Craig to seek out Rudell in remote Monument, Oregon. Craig hopes his father, a reclusive coyote trapper and poacher, will help raise his disturbed grandson. There Craig meets his colorful half-brother, Ormand, a would-be East Coast hit man, now "born again."
Skillfully capturing the rural humor, rugged characters, and hardscrabble life of Eastern Oregon, "Burning Fence" presents a searing reflection on fatherhood and offers remarkable insight into the landscape of the Western heart.

Author Notes

CRAIG LESLEY received the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Award for The Sky Fisherman, Winterkill, and Talking Leaves . He teaches at Portland State University in Portland, Oregon, where he lives with his wife and two daughters.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

In his first, clean stab at nonfiction, novelist Lesley ( Winterkill The Sky Fisherman), comes to terms with his larger-than-life, largely absent father--and how that troubled bloodline influenced his own difficult journey as a dad. In a novelistic narrative, Lesley limns a 1950s eastern Oregon boyhood that was occasionally idyllic but mostly chaotic. His father, Rudell, abandoned the family after returning from World War II, leaving ostensibly to pick up a flashlight left at a relative's house. It's like something out of a Springsteen song, but when Lesley confronts his father about it years later, he can't or won't remember. While Lesley endures adolescence with a menacing stepfather, Rudell lives the pioneer life with a child bride. ?A crack shot who guides rich hunters to elk in the fall, he also builds incredibly durable fences for ranchers. Haunted by his abandonment, the adult Lesley strains two marriages as he attempts to prove himself better than his old man by taking in an emotionally disturbed Native American boy who suffers from fetal alcohol syndrome. When Lesley brings the boy to visit Rudell in hopes his father might provide desperately needed guidance and help, the results are heartbreaking. But Lesley never succumbs to the temptation of creating pure heroes or villains. These people are as raw and real as a rare elk heart bleeding on the plate. --Frank Sennett Copyright 2005 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

Tricky business, fathers and sons," writes novelist Lesley (Stormriders) in this magnificent memoir of growing up in the 1950s in a hardscrabble American family. Lesley tells a gut-wrenching story of betrayal, abandonment and redemption. His father, Rudell, left the family when Lesley was a young boy, and his mother struggled to make ends meet, traveling from town to town around central Oregon seeking "a fresh start" and usually finding disappointment and heartbreak. Lesley persevered, however, excelling in school, attending college and finding a career teaching. Perhaps seeking atonement for his father's sins, Lesley took in a Native American boy. Later diagnosed with fetal alcohol syndrome, the boy proved more than Lesley could handle and was eventually sent to a foster home. Lesley renders subtle, compassionate portraits of the people in his life: his cruel stepfather, "quiet in a threatening way"; his uncle Oscar, "the kind of straightforward, stand-up guy a small town relies on"; and his half-brother, who "didn't get the calling to be a minister until after the devil tempted him to be a hit man." Try as he might, Lesley could not escape the pull of his father. Even after his mother made him promise to stay clear of Rudell, Lesley sought him out, turning to him in a last-ditch effort to save his desperately troubled adopted son. Tavern brawler, prospector, elk hunter, fence builder, Rudell burned with down-market charisma and drew Lesley to him. Never mawkish or sentimental, Lesley's work makes something beautiful from the wreckage of a tumble-down family. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. IX
I Train Time
1 Burning Monumentp. 3
2 Cherry Treep. 8
3 The Carnivalp. 13
4 Cowboy Coffeep. 20
5 Iodinep. 26
6 The Leperp. 33
7 Hoboesp. 43
8 Ronna and Razzle-Dazzlep. 53
9 Baby Stepsp. 72
10 Polka Dotp. 77
11 The Portland Rosep. 91
12 The Freeman Ranchp. 109
II Back To Monument
13 Newton and Annap. 115
14 Madrasp. 120
15 The Old Manp. 131
16 Umatilla Army Depotp. 142
17 Rudell and Raylenep. 160
18 Estacadap. 170
19 Hit Manp. 187
20 Oregon Cityp. 193
21 Hardmanp. 207
22 Monumentp. 216
23 Martinp. 226
24 Long Creekp. 230
25 Brandyp. 241
26 Snipersp. 253
27 Efremp. 267
28 Ormandp. 274
29 Prospectingp. 284
30 Rustyp. 287
31 Greyhoundp. 292
32 Smokersp. 300
33 Elena and Kirap. 305
34 Black Icep. 310
35 Prairie Cityp. 321
36 Peckerp. 328
37 Sunflower Flatp. 332