Friday, March 27, 2009

Friday Book Review (returns!)

You may have noticed Friday's book review experienced a hiatus last week - for those of you that cheered, sorry, it's back this week.

I started last week with good intentions, determined to finish Crazy Good the biography of Dan Patch that I've been working my way through for wa-aay too long. Well, you know how best intentions go.... So if you're a trotting horse, Standardbred fan, you'll just have to wait. (It's a good book, I just keep getting distracted.)

One of the biggest distractions was this week's featured title. You may remember a few weeks back Friday's title was a book about a man who rode 10,000 miles up through South America aiming for New York. It was a very interesting book, but I liked this one better - once started, I dived in and didn't come up for air. T was thrilled (NOT) - I kept reading him bits.

Last of the Saddle Tramps by Mesannie Wilkins with Mina Titus Sawyer
An account of Mesannie Wilkins' trek across the United States, the book is prefaced by a letter from Art Linkletter in which he writes, among other things, "This is a story that all adult Americans should read, and their children as well, for today we need more people like Messannie Wilkins."

Linkletter wrote those words in 1966: they're still true today.

Diagnosed with a lung affliction at sixty-three that left her perhaps as much as four years to live - if she lived a restful life - Mesannie Wilkins was determined not to spend one more winter in Maine. She set out with her dog Depeche Toi, and a newly-purchased, aged gelding of indeterminate parentage on a short cross-country jaunt: Maine to California by way of Kentucky, Missouri, Kansas and Idaho with a few side-trips in between. She describes it as her first vacation.

It's an incredible story, made more so by the simple, straightforward way in which it's told. This was not a woman with money (less than $40 to her name when she sets off), or even much experience with horses, but she certainly had plenty of determination and a lot of faith. I was particularly struck by her nightly prayer:
Please God, help those that need Thy help, regardless of race, creed, or color. As I'll pass this way but once, please lend me a guiding hand to help someone from out of the ditch. I will not take Thy credit to myself.
A sentiment we could all profit by following! Mesannie is completely endearing, and her adventures are told in a friendly and far less clinical style than Tschiffely's. This would be a fun book to read with kids (although there'd be lots of historical detail to explain to them!) and a map on hand to trace Mesannie's journey.
I just hope I have half the spunk she did when I'm her age - I'll have to start working on that!

Look for Mesannie's story at your local library or you can check for a used copy at Amazon or Alibris. (The used ones are a bit pricey, for my taste, so I'm holding out for a reprint edition!)


Anonymous said...

Very nice book talk. Now, of course, i have to read it. And i already have 3 books to start on. But, this one sounds too good to pass up.

SunnySD said...

It was a lot of fun to read - I think you'll enjoy it :)