University of Southern California

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Ree Drummond Class of '91

Ree Drummond Class of '91

Pioneer Woman

If you asked Ree Drummond ’91 in 1991 where she was headed in life, chances are she wouldn’t have said a ranch outside of Pawhuska, Okla. But that’s where she ended up when she met and subsequently fell in love with a cowboy.

Ranch life didn’t come naturally for Drummond. The daughter of an orthopedic surgeon, she grew up on the grounds of a country club in the corporate town of Bartlesville, Okla. After high school, Drummond, eager to broaden her horizons, left for USC, first to study journalism, and later, gerontology.

“I loved [the city] from the second I arrived,” she says. From trips to nail salons to regular sushi dinners, city life didn’t disappoint. But after several years as an Angeleno, Drummond was ready for a change. She set her sights on Chicago, where some family and friends lived.

First, though, she made a stopover in her hometown. During a night out with old friends at a bar, she met Ladd Drummond, a rugged modern-day cowboy. It wasn’t long before she was trading in her high heels and big-city plans for cowboy boots and an isolated existence 25 miles from the nearest town (that would be Pawhuska, population 3,600).

“It was jarring,” Drummond says of her adjustment to a rural lifestyle with a cattle rancher. “I’m living out in the middle of nowhere, no grocery store down the street. There were cows in my yard and mud was everywhere.”

Fast-forward to 2006. One day, on a lark, she decided to create a blog. Calling it Confessions of a Pioneer Woman (www.thepioneerwoman.com), she saw it as a way to share pictures with her mother. She first posted photos, then started writing amusing anecdotes about her pre-ranch days.

“Lo and behold, one day I noticed that I had a comment on something I had written,” she says. “I thought, ‘Mom, is that you?’ It wasn’t my mom. It was a reader who had stumbled upon the site.”

As Drummond added tales of her romance with her husband - whom she dubbed Marlboro Man - shared adventures as an unintended country gal and mother of four homeschooled children, and posted recipes with step-by-step photographs, the readership grew. Within a year, the site was named the Best-Kept Secret Weblog at the Weblog Awards - The Bloggies. Her online chronicle - a Bloggie winner for Weblog of the Year in 2009 and 2010 - now gets about 20 million pageviews a month.

Even better, the site has led Drummond to the holy grail for bloggers: books and (possibly) a movie deal. Released last fall, The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Recipes from an Accidental Country Girl spent several weeks on The New York Times best-seller list. The Pioneer Woman - Black Heels to Tractor Wheels: A Love Story, based on Drummond’s unlikely courtship and first year of marriage, will be published on Valentine’s Day 2011. A big-screen adaptation is in development at a major studio.

“This whole experience has been so fun for me, because you never could orchestrate something like this,” she says. “Everything’s been a surprise, and that has allowed me to really enjoy it.”

And the biggest surprise?

“The country has really centered me; I found myself in the country,” Drummond says. “I’m not sure if I ever really knew myself before I moved to the middle of nowhere, which is sort of the irony in the whole thing.”

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