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I remember ponies calling me over to feed them handfuls of grass from the time I was four. Growing up, ponies and horses dumped me on manure piles then ran to their barns. I’ve tackled their heads to get bits in, only to be scraped off. A pony picked me up once between my shoulder blades in its defiance of being led from the pasture. Its friends the cows chased me. Most of the time I ended up having a great ride getting my teeth jarred loose.
A product of the late sixties, my childhood gave me the freedom to ride a bicycle to school. I tied string to the handlebars as reins and named it Lightening. It was my first horse. I rode every mutt pony, horse no one else would, any neglected nag in the back field and made friends with any girl who had two.
When I was in my late twenties, after some college, including Language Arts, then the USAF, marriage and babies, I managed to conquer my dream and became a horse owner.
One of them died two years ago. Sugarbabe was a Tennessee Walking Horse. She won first place in confirmation in North Carolina. She won my heart the first time I yelled, “Do you want a bath?” And she answered. Sugarbabe blew, tossed her long neck and ran to the barn. Her sister, Class, is still with me. She is twenty. I am forty-nine. Both of us, at heart, are only thirteen when we are out on the trail.
on Nov. 21, 2011 :
Oginalii is Cherokee for My Friend Like Horse is to My Heart is the longer title of Stephanie M Sellers short Young Adult novel, a prequel to her longer work, Black Purse. Exilee is a mixed-race tomboy just beginning to learn her heritage. Preferring animals to humans, she runs her own pony show with cat and terrier and three-legged buffalo called Oginalii. She doesn’t want to learn the piano. She doesn’t get on with her sister. And she still dreams her mother’s spirit might come back and talk to her.
The animals talk to Exilee, and their conversation carries the tale. The writing has an interesting cadence that soon has the reader believing Exilee can hear voices from pony and Yellow Cat. Beautifully descriptive and curiously different, the separation between Exilee and her family and her heritage feeds hauntingly into the words. The complex sentences weave an intricate blanket, and a willing reader is lulled by the curious cadences of the words, carried along into Exilee’s world and mystery and longing to learn.
A neighbor is described moving “the cows down the hill every summer when the new Gardenia leaves unfold, like a soft slow wave hello from his wife.” Exilee’s struggle to listen to human conversation is intriguingly portrayed in the descriptive “Exilee stands statuesque as she plays radar for Miss Ginger’s words.” Oddly mesmerizing, the writing pulls you in. And Exilee grows up.
The story is bracketed by loss, but what’s gained in between builds the character of Exilee. A broken three-legged heritage, like a three-legged buffalo, might prove to be something wonderful after all. But I’ll have to read Black Purse to find out what Exilee does with it.
Disclosure: I received free copies of both these novels from the author in exchange for an honest review. I apologize for taking so long to get to them, and hope to get to Black Purse soon.
(reviewed 88 days after purchase)