“Cowgirl Days, Frybread Nights” Book review, by Antonio Graceffo

In Uncategorized on April 12, 2011 at 1:34 pm

“Cowgirl Days, Frybread Nights” a tale of courage and adventure, a glimpse into a culture few outsiders have ever seen.

Book review, by Antonio Graceffo

Freelance writer and book author


It’s about horses. It’s about medicine men. It’s about radiation poisoning. Kathy Helm’s new book, “Cowgirl Days, Frybread Nights” has something for everyone.


Have you ever wondered what it would be like to leave your stable career, move to a Navajo Indian reservation, live in a wooden hut, heated by fire, and learn to adopt your horse as both, best friend and best means of transportation?


Author Kathy Helms doesn’t need to wonder. She did it.


Children dream and wish on stars. Little girls all want a pony. But most people believe that we are meant to outgrow these childhood fantasies when we become adults. “Cowgirl Days, Frybread Nights” is the memoir of newspaper reporter Kathy Helms, a single mother, who, at an age when she should have known better, left her familiar world behind, to accept a position as a reporter on a Navajo Indian reservation.


In this lighthearted, although significant, read, Kathy shares with us the trials and tribulations of learning to ride a horse. To become “one of the guys” and be properly accepted by the tribe, she had to make long distance council rides, to attend meetings with the tribal elders. In spite of the pain and discomfort she experiences, her detailed description of riding a horse, through picturesque canyons across a landscape, few people have seen outside of a John Wayne movie, makes you wish you were there along side her.


And you are.


The book is not just a tale of saddle sores and blisters. It is also about radiation poisoning. One of the reasons Kathy was chosen for this job was that she is an expert on nuclear power related contamination and illnesses. Back in her home state of Tennessee, she had been a constant thorn in the side of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, lending her voice to the victims of radiation poisoning. The Navajo reservation where Kathy is living was once a government uranium mine. Now, years later, Ms. Helms tells us that generations of Native Americans are suffering from radiation related illnesses. Many children, she reports, are born with birth defects.


While many of the Native Americans eventually accepted Kathy, some clearly didn’t want her there. For this reason, she was often the victim of witchcraft. As surreal as the story already is, imagine finding witchcraft bundles hidden inside of your house or your truck, as Kathy did. Even if you don’t believe in the supernatural, this would probably creep you out and make you seek a cure.


Kathy tells about her relationship with the medicine man who treats both, her medical conditions, as well as witch craft attacks. When he teaches her to look into the coals of the fire as he does, she says that she no longer needs a TV.



Kathy Helms is a brave woman whose incredibly well-written and easy-to-read book is an inspiration for both following your dreams and helping those who have no one to turn to. Her book also sheds a light on the inner-workings of the Navajo tribe, helping us, outsiders, to understand a world we may never see with our own eyes.


See it through Kathy’s eyes. Pick up a copy of “Cowgirl Days, Frybread Nights” and let this tale of a white woman in Navajoland cast a spell on you.

  1. What’s up, I check your new stuff regularly. Your humoristic style is witty, keep it up!

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