Day 12 – Favourite Horse Book

I loved reading as a child, still do in fact & I particularly enjoyed reading about horses. But I think my favourite book has to be ‘My Friend Flicka’.

My Friend Flicka is a 1941 novel by Mary O’Hara, about Ken McLaughlin, the son of a Wyoming rancher, and his horse Flicka. It was the first in a trilogy, followed by Thunderhead (1943) and Green Grass of Wyoming (1946).

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Kenneth McLaughlin is a ten year old boy living on Goose Bar Ranch, just out of Cheyenne, Wyoming, with his practical father, Rob; his mother, Nell; and his older brother, Howard.
Kenneth McLaughlin is a ten year old boy living on Goose Bar Ranch, just out of Cheyenne, Wyoming, with his practical father, Rob; his mother, Nell; and his older brother, Howard. Rob is often unsatisfied with Ken because the boy daydreams when he should be attending to practical matters; Nell, however, shares her son’s sensitive nature and is more sympathetic. Howard, the older son, who in both looks and attitude is more like Rob, was allowed to choose and train a colt from among the Goose Bar herd but, much to the jealousy of Ken. Although Ken loves horses, Rob doesn’t think his wool-gathering son deserves such a privilege yet.

The room on the Remount Ranch outside Cheyenne, Wyoming where Mary O’Hara wrote “My Friend Flicka” was added to the main house by Mary O’Hara and her husband around 1931.[1]
At the beginning of the novel, Ken has again angered his father by returning home from boarding school with failing grades, and will therefore have to repeat fifth grade, an expense Rob can ill afford. After a few mishaps in his first few days home, Nell convinces Rob to give Ken a colt, saying it will give him something to work towards and improve himself. Ken is unable to decide which of that year’s yearlings he wants until one day he sees a beautiful sorrel filly running swiftly away from him, and makes his choice.

Rob, once again, is annoyed with his son; this particular filly has a strain of mustang blood that makes her very wild – “loco”, in ranch idiom. The strain of mustang blood was given to the strain by a wild mustang called the Albino, named for his pure white coat. All the Goose Bar horses with this same strain have been fast (fast enough to be racehorses, according to Ken), beautiful, but utterly untameable, and after many years of trying to break just one of them, Rob has decided to get rid of them all. Ken persists, however, and Rob reluctantly agrees to let him have the filly. When Rob and Ken go out to capture her, she lives up to her family reputation: she tries to escape by attempting to jump an impossibly high barbed wire fence and injures herself severely.

Ken spends the rest of the summer nursing the filly. He names her Flicka – Swedish for “little girl” – and spends hours every day tending to her needs and keeping her company. Flicka comes to love and trust the boy, but her wounds from the barbed wire fence fester and cause a dangerous blood infection. She begins to waste away and grows so thin and weak that Rob decides that she must be shot to put her out of her misery, much to the grief of Ken. The night before the order is to be carried out, Flicka wades into a shallow brook, stumbles, falls, and is unable to rise. Ken sneaks from the house and spends the night with holding her head to prevent her drowning, all the while waist deep in a cold mountain stream. However, when he is found the next morning, he has developed a high fever, much to the concern of Rob and Nell. As the days pass, Ken’s fever turns to pneumonia, and his condition continues downhill. On the other hand, Flicka gains strength steadily. After almost three weeks of his illness, Ken’s condition improves, although since he believes Flicka to be dead, he has no interest in the world, which causes Rob to think, “It’s as if he’s lost heart.” Rob takes Ken for a drive and they see a stag protecting a doe. Ken realizes that like the stag’s responsibility is his doe, his is Flicka. The book ends with Ken running out to see Flicka, who has fully recovered. It ends with Ken saying, ” ‘Flicka, oh, Flicka!’…The sound the filly made was a sound she had never made before.”

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Loved this book & the other 2 in the series to the point where I had ponies called Flicka & Thunder, after Thunderhead in book two.

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About Tullavilla

A long time horse owner returning to riding after an 8 year break. Currently back competing at Riding Club level in Show Jumping & occasionally Dressage.

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