Back in the early days when Newhall land was still owned by Newhall Land there were more horses (I’m sure Leon Worden can back me up here.) turning a pretty heel than high school dance teams were. Now and then you can catch a glimpse of these majestic creatures in one of about three places in Santa Clarita. At the end of Cross Street near where the Yaks live, next to the 5 north before exiting at Lyons and, of course, about a million “hoof” it up at our very own annual 4th of July parade. I figured that was plenty for the Eve of Destruction.
On the occasional opportunity I was given to ride a horse as a youngun I was always led back to the stables by a horse that I was told, “Knew who was in charge”. Never wanting not to be in charge, horseback riding was left in my childhood. But, apparently my fear and disinterest wasn’t going to exclude me from reading about horses for too long.
My mom kept pushing me to read Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand over a year ago. I figured 350 pages about an unsalted cracker was asking too much of my time. When she suggested that I read The Horse Whisperer by Gretel Ehrlich and All the Pretty Horses by Cormac Mc Carthy I was finally swayed by her normally above par judgment.
Remembering how sexy Robert Redford looked in the otherwise forgettable film I agreed to start with The Horse Whisperer. From the initial shock of an accident where both horse and rider are disfigured I was engaged with the metaphors between man and horse. I was picking up on the human frailty that was equal to, if not lesser than, that of the hero’s, which of course was the horse. The humans were pushed into the forefront stealing scenes in the film; the book the horse seems to be given equal time. We gain and learn from the animal as the human characters finally do as well.
After that I was ready to read my second horse novel, All the Pretty Horses. (But I had never found Matt Damon nearly as attractive as Redford. Ever. Anyone?) Anyhoo, from McCarthy’s first slow, meandering sentence that felt like it lasted the entire book I was transported in time to a very darkened west that’s only illumination was that from the horses. In discussing the book with a friend she had this quote and added her comment at the end that gives a good example:
Chapter II, bottom of page 97, starts…
“They were attended by a pack of greyhound dogs and the dogs were lean and
silver in color and they flowed among the legs of the horses silent and
fluid as running mercury and the horses paid them no mind at all.”
It just transcends the moment and every word appears to hold the movements
of the animals in slow deliberate motion… a true jewel of a read.
So finally, I’ve made it to Seabiscuit. I am at the halfway mark and making it to the “finish” before this weekend’s film premiere is becoming a “longshot”. (Though I’m not a girly fan of Tobey Maguire’s either.) I am learning about horses and horse racing and jockeys and the thirties and the depression and horses and horses and…I am totally fascinated to the point of asking to borrow John Boston’s extra saddle this Sunday.
But then, putting the book down for a moment to write this column I am reminded that I like the air-conditioned environment of my own home. I like that I know that I will not have to see the film, or any film, right away because I always like the book better. But I am feeling like I got a lot of knowledge about horses than I ever thought I needed.
Anyone have any other booklists they’d like to forward to me c/o The Mighty Signal? Because if a book is well written, has interesting characters and researched no topic has to be dull. I learned that after my foray into war novels a couple of years ago that I shared with readers back then. If no one has any favorites to share with me I just learned that my mother has the second and third installments that continue the story of All the Pretty Horses. I reckon those two books will be gosh-darn good. What do y’all think?