Forget the romantic view of the handsome cowboy set against the beautiful mountain backdrop, real life is hard and uncompromising in the American West - and Proulx's stories of Wyoming people never let you escape this fact. Yet she writes about such a brutal and bleak existence with such intensity and beauty it almost takes your breathe away.
A Young Montana cowboy, somewhat vain, had skimped on coat and mittens and put all his wages into a fine pair of handmade boots. He crossed into Wyoming territory thinking it would be warmer, for it was south of where he was. That night he froze to death on Powder River's bitter west bank.