Monday, June 1, 2009
Wild Horses Couldn't Drag Me Away
I cried when Charlotte died. I shuddered with fear as Peter Rabbit ran for his life. I ached to drive the bus with Pigeon. I looked for a home of my own with Lyle, Lyle Crocodile. But no matter how hard I tried, I could not connect to Smokey, the main character in Smokey, the Cow Horse, the 1927 Newbery Medal winner. Written by Will James, it is the epic tale of Smokey, a wild horse who is tamed by cowboy named Clint. Through a series of unfortunate events, Smokey is separated from Clint and is transformed into “The Cougar,” a real mean piece of work this side of the Mississippi, a horse no man can handle – until the miraculous reappearance of Clint. What is set up as a riveting horse story ends up becoming 200+ pages of episodic ennui. While James masterfully describes lush settings, beautiful creatures, and uses cowboy slang like a real son of a gun, he is unable to capture the reader’s attention long enough to make us actually care about Smokey’s fate. It feels more like a documentary than a fictional narrative without the melodic voice of Morgan Freeman. Unlike most Animal Stories, Smokey does not have a voice or personality and thus, it is difficult to connect to his suffering or joy. I really tried to like Smokey, honest. One of my best friends is obsessed with horses and their rugged beauty and I wanted to understand her fascination with these noble beasts. But after reading Smokey, I don’t reckon that I can learn appreciation of horses without actually setting my eyes on them. It seems to me that people in the 20s must have had more experience with horses and could truly connect to the experiences that James describes. However, for city slickers like me, the closest I get to wild horses is watching the Discovery Channel. Pass the remote, please.