This I Can Leave You: A Woman's Days on the Pitchfork Ranch. By Mamie
Sypert Burns. Foreword by David Murrah. (College Station, Tex.:
Texas A&M University Press, 1986. Pp. xxviii+281. Foreword,
preface, introduction, illustrations, afterword. $16.95.)
Although Mamie Burns grew up on a farm, she was really a city girl
from East Texas when she moved with her husband, D, to the giant
Pitchfork Ranch in West Texas in 1942. D, the new foreman, was thrilled
with his job and with the ranch, but Mamie was uncertain what her role
would be. Romantic notions of ranch life did not correlate with reality.
Mamie's greenhorn curiosity, her wide-eyed wonder at her new life, and
her ability to laugh at herself are what make this book a delight.
About five years after the Burnses moved to the Pitchfork, a guest
challenged Mamie to write about her experiences and the ranch people.
From that moment until D retired in 1965, Mamie took notes. "A whole
way of life evolved" in her effort to write "The Book" (p. 4). She stashed
paper and pencil in every room and every pocket, and then stashed
notes in every drawer or pigeonhole. In 1973 she began to organize her
notes. She worked continuously on the manuscript until she turned it
over to the Ranching Heritage Association in Lubbock a few months
before her death in 1982.
Mamie's approach to documentation was literary rather than histori-
cal. She took "some literary license in telling certain of the incidents,
used a few fictitious names, too, but in the main my stories are true ...
Names have been changed to protect the guilty" (p. xx).
In addition to being entertaining, Mamie's book is important for sev-
eral reasons. First, the Pitchfork Ranch, 165,000 acres in Dickens and
King counties, is an historic Texas ranch. Secondly, the period of time
covered by her reminiscences, World War II to the mid-196os, has not
been treated extensively in Texas ranching history. Thirdly, the woman's
view of ranch life is one that has not been aired to any great extent. For
these reasons, Mamie's reminiscences take on a significance beyond
what she imagined.
This I Can Leave You is an interesting and cleverly written combination
of family history, anecdote, folklore, and fiction, told with wit and en-
thusiasm and a touch of impertinence.
Southwestern University MARTHA MITTEN ALLEN
Seven Pnes: Its Occupants and Their Letters, 1825- 1872. By Camilla Davis
Trammell. (Dallas: Southern Methodist University Press, 1986.
Pp. xii+289. Foreword, preface, photographs, illustrations, after-
word, endnotes, appendices, index. $17.95.)
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 91, July 1987 - April, 1988. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101211/. Accessed May 30, 2015.