Preserving the West’s wild history: Browns Park author receives two book awards

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Author Diana Allen Kouris displays her book, “Riding the Edge of an Era: Growing up Cowboy on the Outlaw Trail,” and the WILLA literacy award, which she recently received. The book is the author’s second and focuses on Kouris’ life on a cattle ranch in Browns Park, located in western Moffat County.

Through Diana Allen Kouris’ words, she has been able to capture what life was like in the days of Old West cattle ranching in Browns Park, she said.

“I have had many people tell me that they felt like they were right there, riding beside us, living that life and eating the meals with us, and all,” said Kouris, a Kinnear, Wyo., resident. “That is a tremendous compliment to me, for my writing, because that was my dream.”

It was for her vivid depiction of Wild West life that Kouris thinks her book, “Riding the Edge of an Era: Growing Up Cowboy on the Outlaw Trail,” was recently honored with two awards.

The book, which focuses on Kouris’ life growing up on a cattle ranch in Browns Park in western Moffat County, was a finalist for a WILLA award and won an award at a book festival in Montana.

According to a news release, the WILLA Literary Awards are for “outstanding books telling women’s stories set in the American West” and are underwritten by the Women Writing the West organization.

Books entered in the competition undergo a “rigorous screening and judging process” and are representative of some of the “best modern writing being produced in the United States today,” according to the release.

Kouris received the award Oct. 16 in the creative nonfiction category, according to the release.

The second award for Kouris’s book was in the Zonta Best Woman Writer category Oct. 8 at the High Plains Bookfest in Billings, Mont.

“It is an amazing honor,” she said. “I am just thrilled that our family’s story would be receiving such recognition.”

Kouris, 61, has penned two books about the Browns Park area. The first is a history of the people and the area.

“Riding the Edge of an Era,” her second, is a 252-page book that focuses on the life of Kouris and her sister and brother, and provides a portrait of life on a cattle ranch, she said.

“It tells what life was like in that remote county,” she said. “What was so nice about it was that it kind of had held on to the flavor of the Old West. We didn’t have electricity or running water, and so I got to really live that life.”

The book begins when Kouris was 5 and tells tales such as her first cattle drive, and follows the adventures of her and her siblings through adulthood. The book ends in 1993 with the death of Kouris’ brother.

In addition to tales of the bumps and bruises incurred from spending 12 hours a day in the saddle, the book relives how Kouris’ family was forced off their ranch when the government threatened to exercise eminent domain in the 1960s.

“I tell about the trauma that caused in the family,” she said. “It was very, very tough.”

Moreover, Kouris said her writing preserves a way of life that would have been otherwise forgotten.

“The way we ranched is pretty much faded into history,” she said. “There are (still) pockets (of it), but it was a wonderful way of life.”

Kouris’ reason for writing the two books was because of her mother, she said.

Her mother, Marie Allen, was devoted to the Browns Park area and had read several books about the area, which unfortunately contained inaccuracies, she said.

Allen hoped to write an accurate book about the area, but died before she could finish.

“I guess she chose me because it came to me very strongly after her death, that I needed to carry on with her work,” Kouris said.

The first book, “The Romantic and Notorious History of Brown’s Park,” is a regional bestseller, according to the release.

Writing the two books about life in Browns Park has been a fulfilling task, Kouris said.

“I was able to achieve her dream with the first book and this second book was fulfilling my dream because it was something I really feel blessed to have done,” she said.

Kouris said she thinks her work “touches people’s hearts.”

“I have heard that over and over again because I love that life so much and there was such beauty,” she said. “That is what I wanted to portray, and hopefully I have.”

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