March 28, 2012

Smoky the Cowhorse, by Will James

I’ve been reading the classic Smoky the Cowhorse by Will James to my five-year-olds.  They love it.  Will James actually lived up near the summer pasture of the ranch where I grew up, up in southern Montana in the Pryor Mountains.  He wrote great books for kids and illustrated them himself.  His drawings are so lifelike, very Remington/Russell.  Here’s the part that leaves my kids rolling in the aisles, and when I read it, I exaggerate, “big mountains TWO FEET HIGH” and “wide valleys SIX OR EIGHT FEET acrost” and make the hand motions.

The rest of that day was full of events for Smoky. He explored the whole country, went up big mountains two feet high, wide valleys six or eight feet acrost, and at one time was as far as twelve feet away from his mammy all by himself. He shied at a rock once; it was a dangerous-looking rock, and he kicked at it as he went past. All that action being put on at once come pretty near being too much for him and he come close to measuring his whole length on Mother Earth once again. But luck was with him, and taking it all he had a mighty good time. When the sun went to sinking over the blue ridges in the West, Smoky, he missed all the beauty of the first sunset in his life;--he was stretched out full length, of his own accord this time, and sound asleep.
The night was a mighty good rival of what the day had been. All the stars was out and showing off, and the braves was a chasing the buffalo plum around the Big Dipper, the water hole of The Happy Hunting Grounds. But all that was lost to Smoky; he was still asleep and recuperating from his first day's adventures, and most likely he'd kept on sleeping for a good long spell, only his mammy who was standing guard over him happened to get a little too close and stepped on his tail.
Smoky must of been in the middle of some bad dream. His natural instinct might of pictured some enemy to his mind, and something that looked like a wolf or a bear must of had him cornered for sure. Anyway, when he felt his tail pinched that way he figgered that when a feller begins to feel it's sure time to act, and he did. He shot up right under his mammy's chin, let out a squeal, and stood there ready to fight. He took in the country for feet and feet around and looking for the enemy that'd nipped him, and finally in his scouting around that way he run acrost the shadow of his mammy. That meant but one thing, safety; and that accounted for and put away as past left room for a craving he'd never noticed in his excitement. He was hungry, and proceeded right then and there to take on a feed of his mammy's warm, rich milk.

You can read the whole book at Project Gutenberg.


Court Merrigan said...

Awesome. I'd never heard of this before. I'll put it on the reading list. Thanks!

Tamara said...

Oh, he has some great ones! My friend Dave mentioned James's autobiography, and there's a bunch more he's written. Scorpion is another than comes to mind, also about a horse.

Enjoy, Court!

Bev said...

Thanks for the suggestion. My granddaughter (Renee's daughter) is also five, so I welcome any input that you have concerning books and literature.

Tamara said...

Thanks, Bev! Your granddaughter is the cutest! I remember her from the reunion.

Another great one to read is the Wind in the Willows. :-)