Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Horses, Fairs and Wolves, Boys and Other Things...

Sunrise was at 5:51, sunset will be at 8:39. Are you experiencing the harvest feeling of afternoon heat and slanting yellow light? It's time for county fairs, sheaves of corn leaning together in tan teepees, bales of hay, dust, and the most exquisite scent of all: horse dung. Maybe it's the feeling that the dung evokes, not the smell exactly, the knowledge that if there's dung, there's gotta be a horse.

(Yes, this is a photo of horse manure, left behind during the Port Orford Jetty Jubilee parade. Empty street, parade long gone. This is a memory of horse.)

The horse barns are the thing I save for myself at the fair. Most people don't like the flies, the smell, they don't understand how someone can just look at big animals in their cubbies. I love it all-watching draft horses get their tails and manes braided, watching them being led - that female sway of hip and bone, tails switching from side to side- the sound of their hooves, hollow and sturdy.

I'm a little jealous of the camaraderie of the kids who are part of the horse club, their joking and laughing as they sit on hay bales cleaning leather and metal, mucking out the stables, watering and feeding their babies. They are like two legged herds of the equus clan, jeans clad,long-legged and awkward among the rest of their peers, biting and pushing as they head out for pop and corn dogs.

Ooh, and then there are the chicken and duck pens, and I love the grange exhibitions (although, you really have to go the first couple of days to get the full benefit of these- before things start to turn!).

Wolves, Boys, and Other Things that Might Kill Me, by Kristen Chandler, is NOT about werewolves, it's about REAL wolves. This was a really good book about the politics and history of the reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone.

KJ lives near Yellowstone National Park, her dad is a wildlife guide, she is his sidekick, learning the trade and running the little store in town. The first time KJ sees a wolf in the wild, she is immediately smitten by the beauty and strength in the animal. She watches the landscape in hopes of sighting the local packs.

When school starts, KJ and the new kid, Virgil, work together on the newspaper, writing articles about the wolves, kicking up a load of antagonism and discord among their friends, families and townsfolk, especially among the local cattle ranchers.

As KJ and Virgil begin to investigate the idea of being more than journalists together, feelings and actions among townspeople and ranchers are beginning to get violent. Guns are fired, traps are set, cattle are killed, the town is torn apart and the two of them are in the middle of it all.

How do we cope with feeding one's family and making a living when the thing that can take it away from you is protected from harm?

I really enjoyed WB&OTTMKM (what is it with all these long titles?). It's a book about a mythic animal that was hunted almost to extinction and is now plentiful in a number of places. The book is filled with wolf facts and lore, and it presents both sides of an issue that will only get more political as packs get stronger. I loved the parents of KJ and Virgil and all of their issues: Virgil's mom studies wolves, KJ's dad takes hunters out hunting, KJ's dad is a little protective, Virgil's mom believes the kids are responsible. Good stuff.

The book has a great deal of humor and will present some great talking points for use in classrooms. Even though the main character is female, boys will like it, too. The issues raised will appeal to many people. Ages 12 and up. (Viking. Available now. Hardcover, $17.99.)

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