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Christian Week Review

Flower child finds home on the range

Yes, I Really Was a Cowgirl, by Nancy Fowler Christenson (Wetaskiwin, Alberta: Ogden Fish, 1997), is reviewed by Debra Fieguth.

First she was a ski bum, a casual drug user, an adventurer and a flower child who wrote poetry and songs at the drop of a hat. But when Nancy Fowler took a job cooking for cowhands at a huge cattle ranch in the interior of British Columbia, she was transformed, little by little, into a flapjack-flippin', lariat-swingin', chaps-wearin' cowgirl — who wrote poetry and songs at the drop of a Stetson.

Yes, I Really Was a Cowgirl chronicles the mid-1970s adventures of Nancy Fowler Christenson, who now lives a more sedate life with her husband and four children in Alberta. Based on her diaries, the self-published book is personal, descriptive, humorous, and very real.

Besides being packed with graphic accounts about mice in the soup and performing surgery on cows, this is also the story of how Christenson was awakened spiritually, how she came to know God and commit her life to serving Him. What makes the book work is that she puts herself back into the mind of the anti-Christian, hedonistic young woman she was in her early '20s. Back then, she didn't just ignore Christians, she explains, "I despised them."

Hard-living lot

The ranch she went to work on wasn't exactly a righteous place. Cowhands were a hard-living lot; booze and bad language flowed. The new cook had to learn to specialize in steak and potatoes rather than granola and yogurt, and wear cowboy boots instead of sandals, but spiritually, she fit right in.

After her boyfriend was killed in a hang-gliding accident, she returned to the ranch for another summer. In the meantime, a flighty young woman she had never had any use for had become a Christian. "She had gone to some kind of Christian women's meeting in Merritt and had got 'born again.' Margie Graham, air-head, was now an air-head for Jesus. Terrific."

Yes, I Really Was a Cowgirl will be enjoyed by anyone who was young in the 1970s, especially those who abandoned the "establishment" for an alternative lifestyle. Christenson has a flair for telling stories — you can almost smell the smoke drifting up from the campfire in the evenings while she spins her yarns. More importantly, she documents how it was possible for someone who was dead set against Christianity to make that leap of faith herself.

Christenson says she's had trouble getting her book into some Christian bookstores because managers see it as too graphic. Secular stores have no problem, however, and that's where the book needs to be, because Yes, I Really Was a Cowgirl really is a convincing testimony.

   Christian Week, June 10, 1997
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