‘Unfinished Life’ author tells own tale in memoir

By Leslie DeLooze
Feb. 3, 2007

BATAVIA – During February and March, “A Tale for Three Counties” is
presenting its fifth annual community reading program. Readers in
Genesee, Orleans and Wyoming counties are encouraged to spend time
reading An Unfinished Life by Mark Spragg and then talk about the
book at book discussions or informally with friends and neighbors.
The author will visit the area in March to talk about his writing.
If you have already read An Unfinished Life, get to know author Mark
Spragg through his memoir, Where Rivers Change Direction. The title
refers to the remote area of Wyoming where Mark grew up with his
family, a mountainous region near Yellowstone Park and the
Continental Divide.
The Spragg family owned the oldest dude ranch in the state, and much
of the memoir is about growing up close to the land and working as a
cowboy. It is hard to imagine the amount of responsibility that
Spragg and his younger brother were required to take on, the
demanding and dangerous situations they sometimes faced, and the very
basic conditions in which the family lived.
Today we might think that the life he led was one of privation, but
his account of it is both exuberant and grateful. The remote area in
which the family lived had no television and during the winter
months, there was no running water in the cabin Mark and his brother
shared. The brothers read from their father’s massive collection of
books, and participation in community events like the annual
Christmas pageant or a livestock auction were grand occasions.
Lessons about the natural world, the psychology of humans, and the
ways of horses come from many different experiences: other ranch
hands – geezers who are old before their time, visitors to the dude
ranch trying to be macho hunters or cowboys for a week, and working
long days among animals.
The story is told vividly with words that appeal to the senses. The
reader can feel the searing heat and numbing cold of the extreme
climate, smell the sagebrush and see the colors of the forests and
This coming-of-age story is understated, funny, suspenseful, and
bittersweet. It’s not a common story, especially for its 1960s period
and it could be enjoyed by many ages of readers. Themes of growing
up, horses, survival, family dynamics and first crushes make it
immensely readable.
Each year in “A Tale for Three Counties,” we have been treated to
fine novels with authors who have been kind, enthusiastic and genuine
during their visits. That tradition is certain to continue this year.
Information about Tale for Three Counties is available at Richmond
Memorial Library, 19 Ross St., Batavia, other public libraries in our
counties, Genesee Community College and online at

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Courtesy of Batavia Newspapers Corporation

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