LAZY B: Growing Up on a Cattle Ranch in the American Southwest

Sandra Day O'Connor, Author, H. Alan Day, Author, H. Alan Day, Joint Author , read by O'Connor. Random House Audio $29.95 (0p) ISBN 978-0-553-71469-2

Windswept plains, herds of cattle, ornery horses and hard-bitten cowboys fill the childhood memories of Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who grew up on the Lazy B, a Texas cattle ranch. In this memoir, she writes of the ranch's history, from its founding in the 1880s by her grandfather to the sad moment when the family sold it in 1986. O'Connor gives a detailed account of ranch life: the hard work, the urgent dependence on rain, the colorful characters who worked on the ranch, the bureaucracy of government officials and land-use permits, and her own happy childhood memories of hours in the saddle. The mood is warm and nostalgic: she does not mention any conflict with her parents, failed romances, serious illnesses or other negative experiences, other than a brief comment that she wasn't happy in one school and switched to another. O'Connor frequently stresses that to succeed in ranching, one had to be tough, resilient and hardworking, but she contrasts that toughness with the ranchers' warm hearts. Talking of her babyhood surrounded by cowboys, she says, "My babysitters were tobacco-chewing, unshaven, unbathed, Levi-clad and tough as nails, but they would talk baby talk and try for hours to keep baby Sandra happy." O'Connor is not a professional narrator and it shows: she is clearly "reading aloud" without spontaneity, and her reading is mostly one-note, without the varied inflections and shades of emotion that a professional narrator would bring. Still, her voice is pleasant, with a slight Texas twang, and she conveys warmth and affection for her childhood home. Simultaneous release with the Random House hardcover (Forecasts, Dec. 10, 2001). (Jan.)