Like many farm children, Julene Bair left home as soon as she could, headed for what she hoped would be a more exciting life in San Francisco. The Ogallala Road: A Memoir of Love and Reckoning ($26.95) opens years later when Julene inherits part of her father’s farming empire. She knows his empire was built by plowing the prairies that enchanted her in childhood, and by mining the Ogallala aquifer, the sole source of water on the western plains. But now her family, like many other irrigators, pumps over two hundred million gallons out of the aquifer each year. Julene returns to Kansas to search for one of the few springs that still flow out of the aquifer. She happens on an even rarer find—Ward, a Kansas man who owns a ranch in the beautiful Smoky Valley. A single mother, Julene hopes that Ward will become the father her son has always wished for. Meanwhile, she struggles to reconcile her love for her family’s land with their abuse of it, and ultimately becomes a crusader for the Ogallala aquifer. Her page-turning story is a uniquely American saga of love, farm and family in our challenging times.
Julene Bair is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and the Iowa Nonfiction Writing Program. Her essay collection, One Degree West, won several regional awards and was a finalist for the Mountains and Plains Booksellers Award. She has taught at the University of Wyoming and the University of Iowa and currently lives in Longmont, Colorado. Bair has written editorials on the Ogallala Aquifer, most notably for USA Today and the New York Times.
A love affair unfolds as crisis hits a family farm on the high plains