By the Book: ‘Land Rush’ Reviewed

"Land Rush" by Gary Reiswig
"Land Rush" by Gary Reiswig

Gary Reiswig, author of stories about Oklahoma boyhood—his own and that of his parents and grandparents—has solid East Hampton history.

Though he was born in Texas and grew up in Panhandle country, embracing homesteading and becoming a farmer, preacher and educator, Up North he and his wife became owners of the Maidstone Arms from 1979 to 1992 and also of the J. Harper Poor Cottage, now called The Baker House 1650, from 1996 to 2004. He also became a successful author, writing Water Boy, about his young days on a football team, and the well-regarded book, The Thousand Mile Stare: One Family’s Journey Through the Struggle & Science of Alzheimer’s. The Reiswigs can trace their family history to the 1760s.

Now, in Land Rush (Archway Publishing), a collection of six memoir sketches, subtitled “Stories from the Great Plains,” he describes his formative years growing up in a wholly different place in a wholly different time in the country, recollections augmented by homey photographs and maps. The charm and interest of the stories come from the reader’s awareness that that wholly different time was not that long ago, though The Plains have certainly changed. Here was America when hard work was often brutally physical, including, for farm boys, learning how to castrate a young bull; when family bonding was rare because chores ruled and made for taciturn relationships; when a beloved dog could be put down because he could no longer work; when an uncle could come back from serving in the war irrevocably damaged in spirit. Through it all, however, some fascinating history emerges, including how buffalo sent to the Wichita Mountain Preserve in western Oklahoma in 1906 were purchased from The
Bronx Zoo.

The writing is impressively stark and simple, evocative without ever becoming sentimental or nostalgic. His widowed mother gave him and his brother, both Ph.Ds., “every educational and cultural advantage she could find.” A deeply observant Christian, she also gave him a sense of grace.

It shows.

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