Friday, June 19, 2009

Friday Book Review:

Well, how's this for timely - this week's book review will actually happen on Friday!

In honor of the fact that I've actually gotten out for at least one ride, today's book is about the a western horse's life, the people, country, and critters that he encounters. I read it for the first time as a kid, and acquired an ex-library copy. I was happy to discover that the enjoyment I remembered hadn't waned just because I'd grown up a bit, and it's still just as much a pleasure to read it again today.

Smoky the Cow Horse by Will James
To my way of thinking there's something wrong, or missing, with any person who has't got a soft spot in their heart for an animal of some kind....
Truer words? I've certainly found the sentiment James expresses in the foreword to be accurate enough. And the course of the book as well, even if the events are fictional.

Born on the open way out west, Smoky, as he's dubbed first, lives the good life with all the other little colts, encountering plenty of adventure in the form of porcupines and coyotes and life in general. Of course, eventually every childhood comes to an end, and Smoky's rounded up and saddle broke.

If not all the methods used to break Smoky to saddle are quite as common today, it's still an education. And the progress of Smoky's life from then on goes to show how quickly things can, and do, change. Told most often from the horse's point of view, Smoky nevertheless remains a horse not a human in horsehide.

If the writing is plain and the grammar might have given a few of my English teachers fits, the story at the heart doesn't falter. In fact, written in strictly newscaster English, this wouldn't have been the same story at all.

Although there are bright moments, Smoky doesn't have an easy life of it, and even though there's a happy ending, it could easily enough have ended another way. In a world were horses were transportation, entertainment and livelihood, there was slim chance of a horse spending its last days peacefully grazing, fat and happy. Lucky for Smoky, fate (and the author) intervened on his behalf.
If you happen to run across a copy, the early hardcopy editions have both black and white and color illustrations by the author, and they're as much a treat as the story itself. James wrote a variety of books, some fiction, some not, and I highly reccommend trying one or two on for size if you haven't already.

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