Holmes, Cora, Good-bye, Boise...Hello, Alaska. Reiman Publications. 274 pages. Many color photographs.

The title has a ring of the 1940s, which is apt. Although it begins in 1979, there is a flavor of the last remnants of the frontier. Conquering the West has a long history that conveniently leaves out the people already living there and the conversion of pristine wilderness into European patterns of farms and cities, not to mention strip malls and tumbleweeds.

The sheep ranch on Chernovski Harbor, Unalaska Island, was established in 1918 and apparently is still going, so it does have a bit of antiquity on its side.

Milt Holmes came to the ranch in 1948 as foreman, and bought it in 1964. He married Cora, a woman with two young sons, and the whole family settled in. Cora is honest about the problems. She was overprotective of her boys, the children quarreled a lot, and she was terrified of horses and small boats.

However, like all good stories, the happy ending triumphs. The boys grew up into decent young men, Milt was the family arbitrator and sage, and Cora wrote for a magazine about their isolated and happy lives. There is a lot to do on a working ranch; sheep and cattle to feed, round up, and slaughter at the right time. Chernovski had the extra problem of transportation. Ordering provisions and home-schooling the boys created extra problems.

Of course, there were also the fabled storms of the Aleutians that sometimes last for days, medical emergencies (luckily, Cora is a nurse), and all the small crises that mark remote living.

It does seem odd that the original owners of Unalaska, the Aleuts, are never mentioned. As the ranch had been there a long time, perhaps they had moved away a long time before, but it was the Holmeses loss that they apparently knew no Native people.

A good read for those who dream of a Swiss Family Robinson existence.

D. L.

Holmes, Cora, "Dear Cora..." Reiman Publications. 178 pages, many color photographs.

Apparently Cora’s magazine articles spawned many questions from her readers. This sequel, again with many excellent color photographs, tries to answer these queries. It also goes into the many visitors from around the world who stopped by the ranch.

In fact, there are so many it’s rather hard to continue thinking of the family as leading a remote life far from civilization.

However, Cora does also bring us into her everyday life. Even though a rare disease took one of her hands, she continues to spin wool, cook for the family, enjoy the animals and pets, and generally be the wife and mother she’s always been. The sons are now grown and gone and the couple have help at the ranch, but time has dealt gently with them.

An interesting section consists of letters and pictures from military guys stationed in the Aleutians during World War II.

Overall, if you are enchanted with Cora in the first book, you will be very pleased with the second.

D. L.