Half Broke Horses
By Jeannette Walls
Scribner Pub Publisher
Here is a fine new book by the author of The Glass Castle. That book was the true story of Jeannette’s family as they bounced through life at the mercy of their parents Rex and Rosemary. Rex was a charming dreamer, a man whose ship was always on the horizon, but somehow never made it to port.
This story is billed as fiction, although it is the story of Jeannette’s grandmother, Lily Casey Smith. It is a true telling, backed by research, but Lily died when the author was about eight, so she felt the designation of “fiction” was more honest.
Lily Casey Smith is the narrator of her story and she is a tough resourceful girl right from the get-go. The story opens with three kids, Lily, Helen and Buster bringing in the cows. The cattle are spooking for some reason and Lily, putting her ear to the ground realizes a flash flood is on its way. She’s only nine years old but she opens the gates to let the cattle stampede for the hills and she grabs her little sister and brother and heads for the big old cottonwood tree. They spend the night in the tree and wade home through the receding waters the next morning. Their parents are delighted to see them and her mother gives their “guardian angel” all the credit. Lily knows the only angel was her foresight and fast action. This is only the beginning of the dangers she faces and the fearlessness with which she tackles life.
The family ranch was in west Texas along the Pecos River. The land was dry and the animals scrawny. Lily was home-schooled by her father and passed her lessons down to her two younger siblings. She was taught to train horses at a very early age, and more importantly, how to fall off a horse. Her mother, whose family was well off, worries about Lily and Helen finding good husbands; she wants her girls to be genteel, a tough assignment in an area known as “the high lonesome.” On the Ranch they live in a rough way.
When Lily is 13 she is sent to live with “the Sisters of Loretto” in Santa Fe. Her mother thinks that she needs some “polish,” but her stay is cut short when her father has a better idea for the money. One thing she brings home with her is a fervent wish to be a teacher.
Lily’s life takes her to Chicago, and romance and heartbreak. Nothing life hands her breaks her spirit. Her father always said that you have to find your purpose in life and carry it out. Lily takes that to heart. Glass Castle readers will love this prequel.
Peggy Freeman is a freelance writer living on Red Deer.