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by Joe Leonard

396 pages
Joe Leonard, the Son of the Madam of Mustang Ranch.

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Category: Autobiography
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About the Book
WINNER: National Outdoor Book Awards - Best of 2016 Award!

Compelling, adventurous and inspirational, The Son of the Madam of Mustang Ranch, is a memoir. Guns, violence and lust; wars between two houses of prostitution, gambling rife and aplenty, and debauchery. It was a crazed and corrupt world, and Joe Leonard was born right into it.

Beyond all, this is the story of how Joe gained the courage to leave the dark realm he had inherited behind and return to the natural and untamed world of his youth, in pursuit of his better angels. His journeys carried him to Africa, Costa Rica, the Arctic, and the Indian villages of the Sierra Madre.

He kayaked the hundred-year flood of the Salmon River in Idaho, completed the first winter ascent of Mount Regan in the Sawtooth Mountains of Idaho, was blown up the face of a cliff in the embrace of a windstorm, believing all the while it would most likely be his last moment on earth, and was saved from an avalanche by the hand of God.

Joe pioneered the first back-country hut-to-hut skiing system in the United States and held the first white-water rodeos in the country. He even met Jesus Christ, in the flesh, when he came to Mustang Ranch in a Volkswagen Van to save the girls from their unholy ways.

He spent much of his life speaking, photographing and supporting environmental issues.

Joe guided and was photographed by National Geographic, SKI Magazine, Town and Country, TIME magazine and PBS Idaho.


A Journey Worth Taking by Tom Lopez

Joe Leonard 's memoir, The Son of the Madam of the Mustang Ranch, is an extraordinary book. It is more than an engaging memoir about a remarkable life. It is a book that tells how a fascinating life can be grown from bare dirt by being open to possibilities and making the most of what one has. As we have all experienced, at one time or another, life can and does throw unexpected impediments at us. How we deal with these unpredictable crises and the fear they instill is a key to what we believe and who we become. For me, the overriding theme this memoir was summarized by Mr. Leonard in the book's postscript:

"Throughout my life I have constantly been confronted by mountains, some unyielding and unforgiving, some which have been beyond recognition and understanding, and many that have seemed unconquerable, but all have been of my own creation. . . . In my mountains I have found my light shining through the darkness."

I have read many memoirs spanning history and places well beyond my experiences. I have learned something from each. I can easily say that no finer memoir has been written than The Son of the Madam of the Mustang Ranch. A memoir is more than an autobiography. A good memoir is a book that not only relates history but also puts you in the writers life and times and mind and soul. Most importantly a good memoir relates an understanding of a life that has, in the end, the effect of enriching your life by broadening your horizons. In other words, best memoirs allows the reader to experience the writers life and times, their enlightenment and hard won epiphanies living their life completely which leads you to become more self aware. This book succeeds in meeting these standards with flying colors.

The Son of the Madam of the Mustang Ranch is a book full of lessons learned the hard way. We learn through the author's experience of abandonment and finding love, through his developing a lust for life while at the same time growing a strong moral compass, through his ability to constantly confront and overcome fear head on, often in the most adverse circumstances. Joe Leonard's ability to develop innovative solutions to cope with whatever life threw at him is uplifting. As he snatched success from the jaws of potentially impending disaster, he learned to live in the present and be fully aware of the interconnectedness which we come to realize is our common destiny. If you take one lesson from this book it should be Joe's discovery that "there is no ending to personal and spiritual growth."

I must say that the summary on the back cover of the book conveys only a kernel of Joe's life. Yes, the book imparts many adventures but it is much more than a story of adventures survived. The scope of his larger than life experiences, the adversities he faced, his intellectual development, his spirituality and ever developing awareness unfold in the memoir like gifts from heaven. I do not want to give these gifts away and spoil them for future readers. Suffice it to say that there are people who jump in the river of life and float down it with no awareness of the possibilities that are available and who have no ambition beyond securing the basic requirements of surviving and there are few people, like Joe Leonard, who navigate the river to make a life as they travel down that river. It is the difference between a life and a life well lived.

This book will take you some time to fully digest because its scope is massive in both a figurative and a relative sense. From Joe's beginnings at his grandparents backcountry ranch to his early life in Boise and the Garfield elementary school, from his gambling life to his mother's Mustang Ranch, from his emersion into a climbing, skiing and kayaking life to the creation of the Robinson Bar guiding service and finally from the point when he quits guiding and moves on to advocating environmental awareness and green living, the book teaches us about living life to its fullest. It teaches, not by preaching by the author, lesson after lesson in a most organic fashion. These are lessons that will enrich the readers life and if those lessons are absorbed they will change lives. Joe walked the walk and as a result his memoir talks the talk.
- Tom Lopez



About the Author
Joe Leonard Joe Leonard grew up in the Sawtooth Mountains of Idaho. He became a wilderness guide, guiding kayaking, climbing and skiing. In 1975 he started the first backcountry skiing hut system in the United States, started the first whitewater rodeo in the country, and spent years supporting the environmental movement.



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