Home Below Hell’s Canyon

After Five Five-Star Books in a row, I didn’t expect to read a sixth stellar book.  A friend loaned me this book, and I decided I’d better read and return it.  We had swapped books of local pioneer stories and the one I sent her wasn’t really that good.  I approached Home Below Hell’s Canyon with a neutral attitude. 


This book whirled me around.  During the Depression Grace and Len Jordan bought a sheep ranch in Hell’s Canyon.  With their three young children, they worked to make a go of it.  Danger, isolation, toil, trials were daily companions.  Jordan does not resort to high drama, nor does she syrup the narrative. 

Our determined frugality did not ease much, even at Christmas.  In the youngsters’ stockings there would be something practical and something they had longed for, with a treat of candy and apples.

The life of the Jordan family was so foreign to a typical family’s life in 2010.  Risks had to be taken, decisions had to be made, chores had to get done…all without a husband a cell phone call away.  The pace of life was measured, time was carefully apportioned for the family and ranch hands to be fed and provisioned.  It was typical to can 1,000 quarts of fruits, vegetables and meat for the year to come.

A  canyon is a bad place for real wrongs, far worse for fancied ones.

What fascinated me was the education of the children using the Calvert School’s correspondence course.  The Jordans homeschooled before homeschool was a word!  The way Grace Jordan met the challenges of educating the kids while running a ranch is worth the cost of the book. 

From the first day of school it was clear that only by setting a rigid program would we ever protect ourselves from the double threat of alien interruptions and our own natural inertia.

This book is worthy. I hope to re-read it down the road.  Satisfying stuff.

Creation is making something from nothing; and creation is as bad for tying up a man’s day- and night-time thoughts as the drug habit.  Yet it is soul-satisfying, and for the weeks that we were involved in the carpentering and plumbing arts, we had never been happier.

Len Jordan went on to become governor of Idaho and a US Senator. 

We got word that we might have trouble disposing of our wool unless it was certified as shorn by a union crew.  A sheep-shearer’s union in the depths of the Snake Canyon was patently absurd, but the 1938 path of the American livestock man, a normally independent and rugged creature, was certainly not strewn with government roses.

Grace Jordan wrote four more books, taught journalism and English at various Idaho universities and has an elementary school named after her. 


2 thoughts on “Home Below Hell’s Canyon

  1. +JMJ+I think it sounds great! I’d love to know about a family’s daily life in such a foreign, as you say, world. And it’s good to know, given the time period, that this isn’t a tragedy but a true story with a happy ending. Grace Jordan sounds amazing. =)PS–I found you through the Semicolon Saturday Review of Books.

Comments are cinnamon on my oatmeal!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s