'Blue Skies' Leads Cheney Out of the West

Since her husband took office in early 2001, Lynne Cheney has been the woman alongside the country's vice president. But in her new memoir, Cheney gives readers some insight into her background. In "Blue Skies, No Fences: A Memoir of Childhood and Family" she tells a coming-of-age story set in her hometown and when the country seemed more in control of its destiny.

Cheney also details her first meeting with a young man named Dick, who would become her future husband. Read an excerpt of the book below in which Cheney explains her childhood and the hopes of the western part of the country.

CHAPTER ONE

I am wrapped up, lying on a bed near a window where white curtains stir. A small boy comes into the room and picks me up. And he drops me.

I have been told that I cannot possibly remember this, but if it happened, and I believe it did, it occurred in a duplex apartment at 630 West 11th in Casper, Wyoming, where my parents brought me after I was born. My mother, the most vigilant of souls, would never under normal circumstances have left me where a child might pick me up, but about the time I turned two months old, my father, a surveyor, had a terrible accident, and I can imagine her being distracted. He fell into the canyon below Seminoe Dam, and although he caught himself on the canyon wall about twenty feet down, he was still badly injured. Rescuers lowered him with ropes and carried him two miles on a makeshift litter to an ambulance. When he arrived in Casper, doctors determined he had broken a leg, both ankles, and every bone in his right foot. My twenty-one-year-old mother was told that my twenty-five-year-old father would be "a cripple for life."

She brought him home from the hospital, took care of him as well as me, and one unseasonably warm winter day pushed his wheelchair out onto the stoop in front of our apartment, where someone took his picture. I've looked at this photograph for years, noting patches of snow on the ground and my father in his shirtsleeves squinting into the sun, and then one day not long ago, I discovered my mother, bare- armed, hiding behind his wheelchair. Apparently not wanting her picture taken, she has tried to crouch out of sight. And where am I? Could this be the moment when my contemplation of the white curtains was rudely interrupted?

The date on the photograph is December 1941. The Germans have taken most of Europe, and the Japanese may at this moment be winging their way to Pearl Harbor. A great conflagration is sweeping the world, and in Casper, Wyoming, a small boy drops an even smaller baby on the floor. He is my half-brother, Leon, who is not yet two.

My father's first wife, Tracy Schryer, died giving birth to Leon on March 6, 1940. My father's Mormon mother, Anna Vincent, a beautiful, red-haired woman of legendary will, was so determined that Tracy's Catholic relatives not raise Leon that as soon as the funeral was over, she boarded a train with him and headed for La Junta, Colorado, where she and my grandfather lived. My father, blaming Catholic teaching for Tracy's death, fully supported Anna's leaving with his son. Tracy had hemorrhaged while giving birth, and my father was convinced that her Catholic doctor, believing her soul was safe, had neglected her to focus on the baby, who had to survive and be baptized to avoid eternity in Limbo. Grieving and bitter, my father wanted every bit as much as my grandmother to keep Leon away from the Catholic church.

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