Saturday, June 13, 2009

Not-quite-Friday Book Review: something from up north

Once again, I've missed Friday. But since I slacked last week, I suppose I'd better not this week.

We get Canada's weather down here in SD quite a bit, so what's more appropriate than a book from up there?

The Phantom Roan by Stephen Holt
Great old-fashioned Western-style coming of age novel. A young cowboy sets off to fulfill his dream of becoming a vet. Hitchhiking across Canada, he rescues a mangy, injured, outlaw roan with a nasty attitude. Against the advice of his new employer, he nurses the horse back to health, and befriends him. A side story covers the issue of mange management and the government-required cattle dousing that many ranchers attempted to avoid.

The main action kicks in when the outlaw roan's former owner, a rodeo livestock promoter, reclaims the horse with plans to return him to his former career as a vicious outlaw bucking horse. Very exciting stuff.
Growing up, for some reason I always thought this story was set out west somewhere like South Dakota or Montana. Which I suppose isn't so odd - there are a lot of similarities between Canada's "west" and ours. In any case, this was one of my favorite books - and after reading it I spent lots of trips scanning the ditches and creek bottoms we'd drive past for mysterious horse shapes that I could rescue.

The closest I ever came to a "road rescue" - other than returning a the down the road neighbor's escapees occasionally - was on one trip up to visit my folks. Driving along in the pitch black night, somewhere in WI I rounded a corner to see the taillights in front of me light up and something that was not a deer scampering across the road.

It was a burro. I pulled over, chased him back through the farm gate and, since it was two in the morning, closed the gate and stuck a note to it explaining why.

Of course, when I came back by a week later I discovered that the fence attached to the gate I'd shut was decorative, and only ran for about a 1/4 mile. It was open on both ends. But the burro was okay.

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