Sunday, September 19, 2010

Smoky the Cowhorse, by Will James

This book is a reasonably lengthy one. It takes place, presumably, somewhere in the Midwest and begins with Smoky's birth. The book follows Smoky as he learns about his surroundings, how to interact with the other horses in his herd, and what signs to avoid for his own safety. Eventually the herd is corralled and branded by Rocking R Ranch. Although initially wild, Smoky is eventually tamed by a cow hand named Clint, and forms a close relationship with him. But for any other rider, Smoky remains wild, and refuses to be saddled or ridden.

Smoky does have a series of other adventures, such as being turned loose with the herd for the winter and having to be retamed again in the spring, being kid(horse?)napped, and being a rodeo horse. But in the end, he always finds his way back to Clint.

Although this is not a book I would have followed through on as a child, I can definitely understand its appeal. The language is calm and methodical, and the plot is easy to follow. Also, the book is written in a cowboy-ish dialect that would make it a fun read-aloud for the right listener. A sample:

Jeff had seen many happenings on the range between man and horse and from that figgered to always investigate anything that suspicioned of something gone wrong, and to investigate quick.--He put his horse in a high lope. Down draws, over rolling hills, and acrost dog towns he went all at the same speed, and pretty soon he comes to where there's only a small ridge between him and what he wanted to investigate.

It was then that he figgered it best to take it slow till he'd seen just what was up; if some rider had got caught in his riggin' some way as a horse fell, and that horse was wild and unbroke, riding in on a high lope would only make things worse and cause the horse to stampede.--Nobody knowed that better than Jeff did.

See what I mean?

A fun adventure novel for kids who like a bit of a thrill without the violence.

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