Saturday, January 21, 2012

Lone Hunter’s Gray Pony (1956)

Lone Hunter’s Gray Pony
Donald Worcester, il. Paige Pauley
1956, Oxford University Press
1985, A Sundance Book, Texas Christian University Press (shown)

The gray pony snorted once more, then relaxed.  His head had been held high; now it was lowered and stretched out toward Lone Hunter, so that the boy was able to stroke the broad forehead.  In a few minutes the pony was rubbing his soft, black nose against the boy’s chest while Lone Hunter scratched his black-tipped ears.

Oglala Sioux warrior Red Eagle has returned triumphant from a raiding party on the Pawnee with a mount for his son, Lone Hunter, who has been yearning to join the buffalo hunters.  Lone Hunter immediately begins training his beautiful gray pony to the tricks of being a warrior’s horse – galloping alongside running prey and leaping away to safety the moment he hears an arrow twang – even as he practices the skills of a hunter and warrior.   His great bond with Gray Pony proves to be an advantage when Lone Hunter falls in front of buffalo – and the pony doesn’t bolt to safety but waits for him. 

By the beginning of the fall buffalo hunt, boy and pony are ready and waiting for permission from Red Eagle.  Only one thing worries Lone Hunter; in a society where horse theft is a mark of great bravery and honor, the tribes always bring their valuable horses into the camp each night for safety.  Only the old, slow horses ridden by children and women are left outside.  Lone Hunter has been leaving Gray Pony outside the camp rather than face mockery or question – why should a boy’s pony be tended carefully? 

When the pony is stolen by Kiowas, Lone Hunter risks death, entering the hostile lands of that tribe to find and steal back Gray Pony.

A short, simply and well-written book which easily and effectively blends an adventure story with interesting background on the Ogala Sioux, particularly their remarkable horsemanship:

Lone Hunter took the heavy bow in his left hand.  It was beautifully made, ideal for use on horseback, and any warrior would be glad to have one as good.  He straightened his left arm and, by straining hard, pulled the sinew bowstring nearly to his ear with his right hand.

"It is yours, my son,” said Red Eagle.  “I did not know your arms were so strong.  But you must be able to draw it many times without tiring, while riding at full speed across rough ground, before you talk of hunting the buffalo.”

Lone Hunter And The Cheyennes
Lone Hunter’s First Buffalo Hunt
Lone Hunter And The Wild Horses

Texas Tech University, Southwest Collection/Special Collections Library
Texas A&M University Press Consortium
Portrait of Al Zirr at Fine Art America
Maud W. Makemson's bio at Vassar

Other edition
1961 original cover at Amazon 

About the Author
(1915- )
Donald Emmett Worcester was born in Arizona but raised largely on a farm in southern California, at the edge of the Mojave Desert.  His parents were divorced; his father wandered in and out of his children's lives, while their mother struggled as a rare female astronomist trying to make it in academia (see thoroughly interesting link above).  After serving in the Navy, was a history professor at the University of Florida and Texas Christian University.  He was president of the Western Writers of America (1973-1974).   The dust jacket of the 1985 edition says he's retired and enjoying writing and raising Arabian horses, and owns Al Zirr, a son of Cass Ole, the black Arabian who starred in the film version of The Black Stallion.

Books (nonfiction)
The Apaches: Eagles Of The Southwest
Pioneer Trails West
Brazil: From Colony To World Power
Forked Tongues And Broken Treaties
Cowboy With A Camera: Erwin E. Smith, Cowboy Photographer
The Texas Longhorn: Relic Of The Past, Asset For The Future
The Three Worlds Of Latin America
The Chisholm Trail
The Texas Cowboy
Kit Carson: Mountain Scout
John Paul Jones: Soldier Of The Sea
The Weapons Of American Indians
Early History of The Navaho Indians
The Spanish Mustang

Books (fiction)
War Pony
Brazos Scout
Man On Two Ponies
Gone To Texas
Western Horse Tales

Other writing
Apparently did a Spanish translation of Lois Lenski’s Cowboy Small.
A Visit From Father and Other Tales Of The Mojave (memoir)

About the Artist
I was unable to find anything about Paige Pauley, but I had to mention the illustrations, which enhance the book.

No comments: