Monday, December 26, 2011

Three Wild Ones (1963)

Three Wild Ones
John Reese
1963, The Westminster Press

The grey went on the alert.  He lifted his head.  His ears shot forward curiously, then were laid back flat on his head in angry defiance.  He bunched his four feet and stood trembling, ready to stroke or kick or run.

16-year-old Art Byfield runs away from his Nebraska home after another argument with his new stepfather.  Hotly resentful of his mother’s remarriage and bored with his life, Art hits the road with little more than the shirt on his back.  Eleven days later, he’s in southern California.  He’s cold, hungry, frightened by the violence and hardness of life on the road, and still not ready to go home.  He stumbles across a small horse ranch owned by cantankerous old Grover Henry “Yuma” Schoonover, and settles in as a much-bawled-out stable hand.
Up until this point, the book is hard going.  It has a violent, disturbing core that’s evident from the first paragraph:

When they pulled out of the drive-in hamburger stand at one thirty A.M., the other car emerged through thick shadows down the road to follow them.  Art Byfield felt heavy dread as well as hot anger as he glanced from the rearview mirror to the sleepy, golden-haired girl who sat between him and Piddy Kern.  No question now – those three fellows were following him, hoping to pick up somebody else’s pretty girl.
It’s a scene to make any woman’s skin crawl, being followed home after midnight by men half drunk and wholly nasty.   It’s followed quickly by more hardscrabble scenes where Ar t runs afoul of criminals, including Yuma, who immediately tells him he’s an ex-con who went to prison for manslaughter, and threatens him with a broken bottle. 

Then Art, who has only had a mild interest in horses before, becomes interested in the grey colt Hickey, a shy and wild horse Yuma has expressly told him to leave alone.  The slow, understandable work of handling horses is a comfort to the reader and to Art, after the random, chaotic world of the criminals who have until now dominated the book.  They continue to appear – Art and Yuma tangle with a killer, and Art forms a wary friendship with a local deputy – but the emphasis shifts over to horses.
Yuma’s horses are movie horses.  Sam, a big bay gelding, is a natural ham who loves the camera and who is recruited to work on a new Western series.  When Yuma is hurt, Art takes over the job of hauling the horses to the set every day, and begins to consider stunt riding and horse training as a career. 

Hickey – grey colt
Ritzy – 15-year-old bay mare
Sam – 11-year-old bay gelding
Pancho  - buckskin gelding
Daisy – 6-year-old Thoroughbred-cross mare
Lottie – 6-year-old mare
John Henry Reese (1910-1981) mostly wrote Westerns, but a few children/teen books in the 1960s, including a dog book, Big Mutt, which I reviewed on my dog blog and liked very much.

In other news.
Christmas was a beautiful and balmy 50 degrees, my year-old review of Helga Sandburg's Blueberry has been updated with a cover image, and I have finally convinced birds to use the newest feeder.

Purple finches!!!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Updated illustrations, Black Beauty, Phoebe Erickson and gardening

It would appear - how embarassing - that I did not actually post the review of Balch's book this past summer.  I wrote it and then saved it.  Ah, well.  Once I get that review off the old computer, I can reunite it with the illustrations. 

I have figured out how to update previous posts, so the reviews of Star Dream, High Hurdles and Horse Show Hurdles should now feature their covers and interior illustrations where possible.

And now, for some pictures.  First, an entry from one of those multi-book anthologies of classic children's books.  Three guesses which book this shiny black horse goes to. 

The interiors are by Phoebe Erickson, who wrote a few horse books (Black Penny, Wildwing) in addition to illustrating the books of others.

I've never been quite able to decide if I like her art or not.  Her illustrations sometimes seem to hover between warm and cartoonish. 

I like these black and white drawings, though.

And a celebration of my garden, taken by the first frost this past November.  The idle pleasures of watering have now been subsumed by thesomewhat more aerobic acitvity of raking leaves. 

Coleus, which surprised me by growing large enough to be a small bush.  A very small bush, true, but I regard any appreciable plant growth as nothing short of miraculous when it's done beneath a massive oak tree.

A plant and a toy.  Does gardening get better than making snapdragons bite?
A portulacca, one of several which revelled in this summer's brutal heat.  They did not especially enjoy the heavy rains that started in August, however, and were essentially washed away.


Monday, December 12, 2011

Catching up

I'm having a little bit of an argument with the new computer, which charmed me by uploading 900 photos in 3 minutes and then picked a fight by refusing to let me edit older posts. So here are covers from the most recently reviewed books.

Scarcely worth it, between the quality of the art and the fact they're both hard-used library bindings. But here are the cover and some interior illustration from a review from last summer, Glenn Balch's Horse Of Two Colors.

I really do think Lorence Bjorklund is one of the best, if least-known, American illustrators.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

High Hurdles (1955) (mini review)

Dria Meredith is back home in Hilton, Indianna when her glamorous, wealthy grandmother blows into town and announces she'll be paying for Dria to train with her now 4-year-old horse, Star Dream to compete in the National Horse Show in New York City. In November.

"The National Horse Show!" Mama cried. "New York with Star Dream! Winning prizes! Acclaim!"

Dria reacts as if her grandmother had shot her pony with a bazooka.

"Oh, Mama." Dria realized what this foolish, expensive venture would cost. It wasn't worth it, not even if she wanted to go to New York, which she didn't.

More importantly, it means poor Dria will have to give up her dreams of editing the school newspaper with her boyfriend. Yes, you read that right. Dria and her whipped/obsessive boyfriend Rob -

He had spent the morning pursuing Dria; and since he expected to continue the exercise for months and years to come, one day was much like another.

- were to have spent a cozy senior year snuggled up in the newspaper office at the local high school. And now she has to spend long, cold hours at the barn training for the National Horse Show!!!!!

Needless to say, Dria makes it to the Garden, where of course Star Dream is a success. Confusing matters somewhat is Dria's cousin Camilla Lou, who crashes the week-long event for the society side. Bored with the horses, she has an eye for the men of the international teams and talks her way into the official stadium boxes of the Canadian team.

"Now, how did she ever find her way in there?" Mama had to ask... "Those boxes are reserved!"
"Well, she isn't." Dria made the statement because she had been at the horse show for the better part of a week and had never thought of seating herself there.

Considering that Dria's endless self-effacement and heroic self-sacrifice are always being rewarded with horses, free trips to huge horse shows, male adoration, parental fawning, etc., etc., you'd think she could spot her cousin one measly flirtation.

More troubling for Dria, however, is that Star Dream's success in class after class has attracted attention and sale offers. And although her great-grandmother, Dream's legal owner, is perfectly in sync with Dria and has no particular wish to sell her horse, Dria's relentless selflessness makes her aware that a sale would make financial sense for the elderly woman.

This is the third in the series, after Star Dream and Summer For Seven, which I completely skipped. I will do my best to get to it, but since I really just skimmed this one, I have my doubts as to whether the review will be any more reverent. The heroine and Lambert just set my teeth on edge.

Random commentary:
Inter-library loan is an amazing thing. One of my recent requests came to my New Jersey library from Alaska. For one dollar, the public libraries of America sent an elderly children's book roughly 3,400 miles.

I love red-tailed hawks. The muscle cars of the sky, they're highly visible and unmistakable, which is nice for the lazy sort of birdwatcher who really doesn't enjoy parsing out the difference between the Carolina and the Black-Capped Chickadee. And their scream is the eagle/hawk cry of a million movies, instantly evoking images of high plains drifters, cowboys, buttes and the wilderness.