When I was eight or nine years old, my parents gave me a hardback book called A Horse for Henry. At that age, I identified with the main character, Henry, because he wanted his own horse more than anything in the whole wide world, and so did I. What my parents wanted me to take away from this story was the theme of responsibility and that certain privileges had to be earned by demonstrating responsible behaviors.
Somewhere in the process of growing up, I not only forgot about the book but, as Kris Kristofferson wrote, I lost it somewhere, somehow along the way. So, a couple of years ago, I decided to search for it. Patience and time paid off, because I located three paperback copies, which I have tucked away, hopefully to share someday with an interested grandchild.
You’ll notice the author’s name is not on the cover (or anywhere else in the book), which makes me sad. The inside cover has a little bit of information about the book. The publisher was Whitman Publishing Company in Racine, Wisconsin, and the Roman numerals translate to a 1952 copyright date. The illustrations certainly pigeonhole the book as classic 1950s and early 1960s style, but they also bring up fond reading memories since I am of the generation who learned to read with Dick, Jane, and Sally and “See Spot run”, which share the same type of illustrations.
A Horse for Henry goes like this…
What Henry wants most is a black colt named Shine, but he hasn’t shown that he’s dependable enough to take care of a horse. He leaves a saddle out in the rain. He forgets to load the salt in the chuck wagon. He leaves the corral gate open, and the horses get out. His dad tells him, “Son, when you can do a man’s work and do it right, you can have a horse.”
Just when it looks like Henry will always have to ride the family’s pet mule and never get a horse of his own, through some quick thinking on his part, he saves his little brother (and himself) from a cougar.
The next morning, Henry wakes to find Shine tied outside his window, and his dad says, “You’re a man now, Henry, and a man can’t get along very well without a horse of his own.”
From my adult’s perspective, I look back on the popularity of the traditional western novels, western television shows and movies, and perhaps even some of the country music during the era when A Horse for Henry was published, and I see this story as a post-WWII children’s slant on the Old West theme of “what makes a man a man”.
This story, and its message, has stayed with me all these years and, every time I reread it, I remember why.
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Just for fun, here I am with my first horse, a Welsh pony named Corky. In the left-hand picture, I was riding in the Howdy Days Parade in Fort Morgan, Colorado in August 1964. The right-hand picture was at the Morgan County Fair in Brush, Colorado in August 1965 (4-H).
Until next time,
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