Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween hurricane

If it's around October twentieth and everything smoky-smelling and the sky orange and ash gray at twilight, it seems Halloween will never come in a fall of broomsticks and a soft flap of bed sheets around corners. But one strange wild dark long year, Halloween came early.
Something Wicked This Way Comes  by Ray Bradbury (1962)

Mother Nature's massive trick has gone, blasting west in a hurry after a leisurely approach.  A long, warm autumn closed suddenly in downpour and wind, uprooted trees and snapped fence posts.  That was if you were lucky.  The storm also killed dozens of people, crushed and burned and flooded homes, and simply minced the plans of millions, from the commuters struggling to reach Lower Manhattan to the workers left without a job in damaged businesses.  Not to mention the uneasily watching candidates.  A mix of powerful mythmaking and brutal destruction, the hurricane was a true Halloween story, which makes it all the more bittersweet that the affected areas have mostly postponed the traditional holiday until at least the weekend, citing the substantial cleanup of broken trees and downed wires.  No trick-or-treaters came to the door tonight; there was no town-wide festival of children in costumes, no elaborate home decorations, no hovering parents trying to take photos in the twilight.  Halloween night passed quietly, in the new cold temperatures, in darkness.**      

I wrote a post in 2010 about the barrier islands of the East Coast. This week, Sandy pelted those vulnerable sandbars with wind and rain and waves, cut them off from the mainland,  drowned their streets and smashed anything in reach of the tide. In New Jersey, where Sandy made landfall on Monday evening, oceans and back bays met in the center of Long Beach Island, long sections of the Atlantic City boardwalk were ripped off their moorings and flung blocks away, and Seaside Park lost a chunk of its amusement pier. The storm had lost its hurricane status by the time it hit the shore, but the waves its low pressure pushed onto land have swamped both the shore towns and the southern tip of Manhattan.  

He opened the door, and the old man and the boy stepped out into a terrifying seventy-five-mile-an-hour gale. The sudden pressure half-knocked Paul's breath out. The rain blew into his eyes faster than he could blink it away. He felt Grandpa thrust a strong arm through his, and linked tight together they flung themselves against the wind, floundering ankle-deep in the choppy water. Paul's heart hammered in his chest and he cried inside, "Please, God, take the sea back where it belongs. Please take it back."
Stormy, Misty's Foal (1963)

Marguerite Henry's sequel to Misty of Chincoteague chronicled the Ash Wednesday Storm, a massive nor'easter* that stalled over the East Coast for three long days in March of 1962.  Like Sandy,it came about through the actions of three colliding weather systems.  Like Sandy, it was a freak storm for the Northeast. 

Lone horsey note:

My 2010 post was about the feral equine herds that inhabit some of these islands.  The early word is that the Chincoteague ponies have likely survived.  There's no news, as far as I can find, on the Banker Ponies.

*A nor'easter is a low pressure system with a cold core that forms over the East Coast in the winter; a hurricane is a low pressure system with a warm core that forms over the Atlantic Ocean in the summer.  I think. 

** Realizing I should clarify, given the huge number of people without power.  We were lucky - no power outage, no trees fell, no damage done.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Upcoming books

So after a weekend spent dutifully stocking up on bottled water, refilling prescriptions and battening down all the outdoor flotsam, we're just waiting.  Hurricane Sandy, the largest part of what the thrilled-to-their-toes weather media has dubbed Frankenstorm, is churning steadily north and is still, the last I heard, on course to make a sharp left at New Jersey and head inland, drawn in by a low-pressure system, where it will move straight into a winter storm from the north.  At which point, I believe, we all die horribly.  I may be wrong about that, but it's the definite impression left by the news.

In the event we do not all die, there are some interesting new horse books coming out this winter.


Darcy, the 10th installment of the Horse Diaries series will be released on January 8, 2013.  This one stars a grey Connemara mare.  In other words, the childhood fantasy horse of everyone who wasn't in love with the The Black.  The last installment was Tennessee Rose.

A new edition of the Narnia ponybook installment, The Horse And His Boy, is due out December 4, with the Kindle edition released the same day.

A horsey installment of the Rainbow Street Shelter series, Stolen! A Pony Called Pebbles, is released November 13.

Another of the teen A Circuit series, Off Course, is out November 13.

A New Friend and A Special Wish, the first two books of an English series for a younger crowd, Magic Pony, are being released in the US on January 10, 2012. 

Canterwood Crest 17th installment Jealousy is due out February 19.  I've never read these books, but I kind of love the website .

New in paperback

The nonfiction Eclipse: The Horse That Changed Racing History Forever by Nicholas Clee, is out in paperback on December 24.


Many of Jean Slaughter Doty's books have just been re-issued in paperback.  Titles include The Valley Of The Ponies, If Wishes Were Horses, Can I Get There By Candlelight, and the dog story Gabriel.  It appears they stayed with the original covers.  No news about what is arguably her best and best-loved book, The Monday Horses.

(And as a little extra, here's a scifi/fantasy blog that does a short (and spoiler) review of Can I Get There By Candlelight.

Another version of Anna Sewell's Black Beauty, this time by Oxford University Press

And (sigh) ebooks

I don't own an e-reader.  They're cute, they're handy in certain circumstances, but I don't like them.  I suspect that they will, as technology tends to, eradicate their predecessor.  And since I love books, the physical reality as well as the content, that's going to annoy me.  However, it may be nice for some to hear of new ebooks.  So here are some of the more interesting ones I've come across recently.

C.W. Anderson's Billy and Blaze series went into e-editions over the summer.

Marguerite Henry is getting a mass Kindle/Nook release.  Her 1945 fictionalized bio of the foundation sire for the Morgan, Justin Morgan Had A Horse, will be released as an e-reader edition on December 11, 2012.  Misty of Chincoteague will be out in that format on December 11 also, as will King Of The Wind, Brighty, and Stormy, Misty's FoalSea Star is out December 18, as is Misty's Twilight , Black Gold, Mustang, Brown Sunshine Of Sawdust Valley, Born To Trot, San Domingo.

Pam Munoz Ryan's 2007 Paint The Wind, is due as a Kindle edition on November 1.

Books from Bonnie Bryant's Saddle Club series are also making e-reader appearances on December 19.  These include: Sea Horse, Team Play, Horse Games, Snow Ride, Ghost Rider, The Fox Hunt, Horsenapped, Racehorse Horse Trouble, Starlight Christmas, and Pack Trip.


R.A. Macavoy's 1987 fantasy novel The Grey Horse is being released as an audio book on October 21, 2012.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Old Tangle Eye (1954)

Old Tangle Eye
Ralph E. Johnston, il. William Moyers
1954, The Junior Literary Guild and Houghton Mifflin

John Merrill was an Illinois farmer bound for Colorado, where there was fair, fertile country lying at the eastern foot of the Rocky Mountains.  The grass gew tall and thick and there his plow would turn up, for the first time, the heavy black soil to the warming sunshine.

John's 12-year-old nephew, Steven, is along for the ride.  His father, George, had gone west a year earlier and written home that he now had a ranch and had even found gold.  Steven's mother died years earlier, so he and his father had lived with John and his family - wife Cynthia and daughters Mary and Margaret - and now it's natural that everyone should follow George west.

But when the family arrives in Cheyenne, the end of their train ride from Illinois, George Merrill is nowhere to be found.  They set out alone for Colorado only to be waylaid by Musgrove, who tries to strongarm them into selling the ranch for far more than it's worth.  He's driven off by Dan Curtis, a young man who lives near Merrill's ranch.  He helps them travel there, and re-establish themselves when they discover that the ranch buildings have been burned.  His friendship consoles Steven somewhat for the mysterious absence of his father.

The title comes from the name locals have for one of the few remaining buffalo in the area, a man-killer whose shaggy forelock has grown so tangled it obscures his vision.  Tangle Eye will leave a man alone if he's mounted on a horse, but will chase down and try to trample a man afoot. The pioneers tolerate him largely because his presence is good luck to the local Ute tribe. 

At any rate, Steven is given a pony, the roan mare Strawberry.

No matter how many tasks he had, Steven found time each day for a long gallop upon Strawberry.  The better he became acquainted with the gentle little mare, the more he loved her.  He brushed her until her coat glistened, he combed her mane and tail until they hung in a glossy, rippling splendor.  Strawberry returned his affection; she would come trotting up to him when he called to her from the corral fence.

In time, Musgrove is explained, as is the mystery of George Merrill's disappearance.  Written capably and with good pace, this book also has a more even treatment of female characters than many Westerns, and maintains a more realistic view of the young hero.  It's really a western with a few specific horse scenes rather than a full-out horsey book. 

About the Author
I found almost nothing about Johnston.  He appears to have written a few other Western/cowboy books, but that's it.

About the Artist
Moyers, like Steven, moved west to Colorado as a kid.  He worked at Disney, illustrated hundreds of books and ended up specializing in cowboy art.

And a photo borrowed from the US Fish and Wildlife's National Digital Library, of bison grazing under a very big sky.

Credit: Ryan Haggerty/USFWS.  From the US Fish and Wildlife National Digital Library at