Thursday, September 7, 2017

An Old Fashioned, Feel-Good Horse Opera: "Thunderhead" by Mary O'Hara






Photo by Barbara Besler:  Battle of Wills taken at Keeneland September Sales about 2 years ago.


Sometimes, I enjoy reading a book (fiction or not) that was written, say, 70 or 90 years ago, when the author and readers did not know there was to be a WW2, atom bomb, Vietnam War, Beatles, etc.
Mary O'Hara lived from 1885 to 1980, was married several times. She appears to be a little ahead of her time, but probably she was right in tune with her ability to use her education and talent. "Flicka" was published about 1941, "Thunderhead" in 1943.

"Thunderhead" is a sequel to the very popular novel, "My Friend Flicka" which I have not read, but movies and TV shows based on the story were everywhere during my childhood. Both stories focus on the "coming of age" of pre-teen Ken McLaughlin at his parents' financially troubled "Goose Bar Ranch". His iron-willed Dad is trying to breed and sell polo ponies during the time of the World Wide Depression of the 1930's; he's losing his shirt, and he is angry.

Thunderhead is the name that was eventually lived up to by Flicka's foal, a colt who is a throw-back to the mysterious, legendary Albino; that stallion terrorized the ranchers of Wyoming by stealing their broodmares. One of the McLaughlins' mares fell for the charms of this bronco, but eventually was found--with foal.  Thunderhead is pure white, like his great-grandsire, Albino; strong and willful.

There are several plots that thread through this story: the boy, the horse, the head-strong Dad and much from the point of view of the (pre-womens liberation) Mother, Nell; she can do nothing to help her husband till he decides to alter his business plan for the ranch.

Best: the author (who wrote the books to help save her own family's failing ranch) had a talent for getting into the head of the horses to help the reader think like a horse. She did a wonderful job of painting the Wyoming landscapes with words. Perhaps the book could have been 50-pages lighter.

An Old Fashioned, Feel-Good Horse Opera: "Thunderhead" by Mary O'Hara

Photo by Barbara Besler:  Battle of Wills taken at Keeneland September Sales about 2 years ago. Sometimes, I enjoy readin...