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A French Girl On The Prairie

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An historic True Story.

In 1910, at only 12 years old Marie Delos leaves Paris for Montana with her mother, having arranged to meet up with a cousin. She tells the story of her incredibly hard life, in the middle of a spectacular and dangerous land. An unusual and fascinating narrative set within French and American history.

The book includes original pictures taken in 1911.
Translated from French by Bonnie Samuels.

Excerpt #1 – Begining

All started very simply. My great grandfather on my father’s side, Irénée Belloc, left to make his fortune in Peru. He married Manuela, the daughter of his boss, who had just left a convent. From this union bore four Peruvian children, of which one was my grandmother. My great grandfather returned to France having made his fortune and constructed two magnificent private hotels on the Avenue Monceau. The first to house his family, the second to accommodate the bank he was preparing to found. He was a terrible player, and he played and so he was ruined.

Excerpt #2 – Page 12

We left a Paris relatively civilised and arrived in this town where there were still no cars. The day and a half on horseback necessary to reach the ranch obliged us to have to find somewhere to sleep on the road. This first contact allowed us to quickly comprehend the flavour of the country.

We stopped at a ranch, a railroad ranch. These ranches were very primitive, made for postmen or for people travelling from one ranch to another who didn’t own their own horses. A woman ran this place. My cousin asked her: “I would like sheets for this woman and her daughter”. So the nice woman said: “Good, very good.” She knocked on a door, and shouted “Get out of there!” A guy who had been sleeping deeply came out of the bedroom, tousled, his boots in one hand, his saddle in the other. The hostess said to us “There you are, go in.” They had to sleep in the same sheets as that boy; that was the bedroom with the sheets.

Excerpt #3 – Page 14

In winter, the temperature was generally minus thirty degrees. Once it was minus forty. At that time, in the largest room there wasn’t a chimney. In the mornings, it was frequently minus eighteen degrees. Afterwards, it could go to twenty above straight away; it was sufficient to burn some coal. The animals also had to be cared for in this cold weather. We had to hitch them up. We took off our gloves, tightening quickly the harnesses, and then even quicker putting back our gloves on. My cousins’ beard was vitrified. Our glasses had icicles hanging from them. All this might sound like we lived a passionate life, but it was very hard.

Excerpt #4 – Page 22

We went looking for coal, just before wintertime. There was a place where the ground opened up into an immense coal seam. It had probably been burning for years. There were large cracks which certainly shouldn’t be approached. We heard the roar of burning wood, and even saw in certain place the glow from the fire. We brought back what had already been burnt, well, what was left. When the household was at a sufficient distance away, we had a large wagon and horses and we transported this coal. In this way our homes were heated. These cracks shouldn’t have been very far away from water as in winter the animals approached there for the heat. It was a madly amusing place to wander round. In my eyes it was quite normal that this big expanse was burning. It was part of the landscape. Everybody went to get their coal in this place. Maybe, its still burning now, or maybe as we took so much coal the phenomena has lost a little of its intensity ! I never posed any questions, on the why or where of things, but I can still hear the roar, see the fire and next to it a pile of coal we had brought back.

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